DULUTH, Minn. — Truck driver Rick Werner arrived in Duluth on Sunday with an unusual cargo chained to his Halvor Lines flatbed rig.
After obtaining permits for his oversized load, Werner left Texas on Friday bearing an 11¼-ton anchor, 12 links of massive chain and a piece of plate steel from the hull of the USS Duluth.
The artifacts were rescued from Esco Marine, a naval scrapyard in Brownsville, Texas, where the decommissioned ship is being broken down. Former crewmembers of the USS Duluth have led the charge to bring pieces of the vessel to its namesake city, and plans are taking shape to install the hefty anchor within view of the Lakewalk alongside the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial this summer.
John Werner, a Vietnam veteran and member of the St. Louis County Historical Society Board — and Rick Werner’s brother — said he considers the placement fitting, considering the amphibious ship’s extensive service in the conflict, from its deployment to the South China Sea in 1967 to the evacuation of Saigon in 1975.
The ship was decommissioned in 2005.
Halvor Lines of Superior donated its services to transport the anchor. It will go to Superior’s Fraser Shipyard, which also has agreed to lend a hand, sandblasting and preparing the oversized artifact for public outdoor display.
Don Rowe, who served aboard the USS Duluth, said he and fellow crew members aim to see not only the anchor put on display in Duluth but also other items from the ship.
St. Louis County Historical Society Executive Director Joanne Coombe said she welcomes Rowe’s efforts and those of his colleagues from the ship.
“There is growing momentum, and the society is poised to receive artifacts of a certain scale and of a certain number all related to telling the story of the USS Duluth in an exhibit window through our Veterans Memorial Hall Program,” she said.
Other items still being sought include a bell, a wheel from the bridge, a plaque, a pennant and an insignia.
Milissa Brooks-Ojibway, collections manager for the St. Louis County Historical Society, said veterans who served aboard the USS Duluth also have been amassing an assortment of personal items and mementos from their tours of duty.
Capt. William Kronzer, who grew up in Duluth and served as a navigator on the USS Duluth, also has made inquiries trying to track down a silver coffee service set that Duluth Mayor Ben Boo presented to the ship’s crew upon the commissioning of the USS Duluth in 1965. As of last word, the silver was in storage at a Navy facility in San Diego.
Paul Kronzer, William’s father, recalls seeing the coffee service as a civilian guest passenger aboard the USS Duluth, and said he asked the ship’s captain if he could polish it. His offer was refused.
The elder Kronzer, who now lives in Florida, said he still harbors hopes of shining that silver, which he believes should return to the city of its origin.
While Kronzer supports efforts to put the ship’s anchor on display, he said: “The people of Duluth didn’t give the ship an anchor. The people of Duluth gave them that coffee service, and I think it should come home now that the USS Duluth has been decommissioned.”