Volunteers cleaning World War II ship in Galveston that was damaged by vandals

February 23, 2013 8:12:16 PM PST
Four men are facing charges in connection with the vandalizing of a World War II Navy ship at Seawolf Park in Galveston last month.

But the crime may have been a blessing in disguise for the old ship, because a little new coverage caught the attention of people who wanted to help.

There are still a few traces of the damage the vandals left behind on the USS Stewart.

"It's a white powder, but it pretty much goes everywhere so we're still wiping some of that stuff up," said Jim Andrews with the Cavalla Historical Foundation.

The four men are accused of discharging fire extinguishers and wreaking other minor havoc on board the World War II vessel.

The owner of a professional cleaning company was the first to volunteer his services. And then as word spread, students at local colleges stepped up to help get the old ship ready for its annual inspection on March 1.

"We just got a ton of people interested in coming out to volunteer to help with the ship," Andrews said.

Volunteer Chris Ketay wants to join the Navy as soon as he graduates.

"It's awesome to be out here and see this kind of stuff," Ketay said.

And even though most of damage is cleaned up, there's still plenty to do on board.

"We just went through the engineering log room, and we found about 1,000 blueprints that we catalogued and they all date back -- most are 1942, 1943," volunteer Sarah Faulkner said.

Decades of old documents are still on the ship. It was commissioned in 1943 and served in the north Atlantic and Pacific during the Second World War.

Now it's history that needs preserving by volunteers born decades after the war was over.

"Very minor damage from the vandalism, but the positive effect of the volunteers has been much more than incredible," Andrews said.

"The vandalism really was kind of a blessing in disguise, for sure," Faulkner said.

The students are from Texas A&M Galveston campus, Lone Star College - North Harris County campus and the South Houston Navy Junior ROTC.

For more information about volunteering on the USS Stewart, email info@americanunderseawarfarecenter.com.

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