U.S.S. Orleck Foundation seeks Lake Charles berth - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

U.S.S. Orleck Foundation seeks Lake Charles berth

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By Theresa Schmidt

A local group headed by a Korean War veteran is working hard to sell a dream.  The dream is to bring the U.S.S. Orleck, a navy destroyer, to Lake Charles.  The Orleck is now in Orange, Texas where we received permission to come aboard.

The U.S.S. Orleck has been in Orange since losing its berth after Hurricane Rita. But a local group hopes to bring it to Lake Charles where they see opportunities from tourism to corporate meetings. Sherwood Buckalew is the vice president of the corporation that owns the vessel which he says has a rich history. "This represented the life blood of the people from Southwest Louisiana that worked here and helped build these ships. It also represented home for crews from 1945 to 1982 and when we have former crew members come back they can go to their bunk and say I spent two years right here."

 It was named after Joseph Orleck who died during World War Two in Italy. His wife was there as the vessel was christened. Explains Buckalew, ".Joseph Orleck was a lieutenant in the Navy in World War Two. He went down with his ship in the invasion of Sicily."

 And while wandering through a Navy destroyer might seem like a male attraction Connie Buckalew says women can relate. Take the galley.  "You're taking a trip back in time. They served over a 1000 meals a day out of the little small galley, and they had to carry large pots down a ladder to get to the serving line. So, it was a lot of work and it was hot work too.

The Lake Charles man spearheading the project is Ed Martin who thinks it would be a great tourist attraction. But more than that he wants the young people to remember. "The grey ghost I think they called it at one time because it sailed up and down the coast of Korea supporting the Army operations on shore and giving the North Koreans and the Chinese a double whammy of explosives when they shot at the bridges and the highways. This ship represents the past and I will say, lest we forget. We need our children to be exposed to what this country went through and what the people went through and our service men and how really obligated we are to our people that fought the wars."

The effort to bring the ship here is being pursued with private funding. They hope to put it on the Calcasieu River at the end of North Ryan Street.

Martin says the proposal poses no risk to taxpayers. He says the Orleck is paid for, debt free and that they have insurance in case it would ever need to be scrapped.

He plans to work with Lake Charles city officials to try to make his dream a reality.

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