Along the Missouri River, Freedom Park sits at 2497 Freedom Park Road. Opened in 1974, it comprises a 12-acre tract of city-owned land near the Greater Omaha Marina. On exhibit are the cold-war era submarine USS Marlin (SST-2), Douglas A-4C Skyhawk, and LTV A-7D Consair II. An anchor and propeller garden exist along with shipboard rocket launchers. The parks major feature, however, is the USS Hazard (AM-240), the only Admiral-class minesweeper in the United States.
The USS Hazard served the United States Navy during World War II. The Navy commissioned the ship that carried a 104-member crew on December 30, 1944. The minesweeper is 184 ½-feet long and 33-feet wide, weighing 950-tons. The crew’s former mess hall today is a museum where a large collection of photos with numerous weapons and munitions carried on the ship are available for public viewing. It also contains quartermaster logbooks, blueprints, and a radio room that plays 1940s music.
The minesweeper’s first mission was to perform escorts from San Diego, California to Hawaii. Later, it swept waters off the Kerama Retto Island group, fifteen miles west of Okinawa. At the war’s end, the ship cleared waters off Korea and Japan for occupation forces. The ships motto was, “Where the fleet goes, we’ve been.” The Hazard earned three battle stars for WW II service. Decommissioned by the Navy in 1946, the ship rested in Orange, Texas’ naval yard.
The ship’s logs showed that the World War II crew was disorderly. The shore patrol arrested three-crew members in Oakland, California for having the Central Bank, Oakland’s brass nameplate. The shore patrol arrested another crewmember for, “throwing and breaking glasses on the floor of the Congo Club,” in Galveston, Texas while people danced. They arrested the same man later when he tried to bring a lawn chair into the same club. Other reports show many crewmember offences of drunkenness, public urination on sidewalks, and interfering with women working as shipyard employees.
A group of Omaha and Houston business people formed the USS Hazard Corporation that negotiated USS Hazard’s sale. They outbid the Mexican and Portuguese governments for the minesweeper. They purchased the ship and paid to have it towed up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in 1974 on a barge. Three state governors agreed to open large river dams to release enough water to float the ship in river waters in 1971. It took 29 days for the ship to arrive in Omaha, making the 2,000-mile trip from Orange, Texas at a speed of 100 miles per day. Crewmembers thought the Hazard lucky because the ship never received battle damage. Most operating systems are still functional.
The Hazard’s sister ship, the USS Inaugural (AM-242), went to St. Louis, Missouri to serve as a museum, but was destroyed on August 1, 1993 by flooding that ripped the USS Inaugural from its moorings. After floating down the river, it banged into the Poplar Street Bridge. The boat was rescued and lashed to a barge south of the MacArthur Bridge. Two months later on September 23, 1993, it rolled to port and sank. The ship’s remnants emerges with the Mississippi River runs low.
The USS Hazard suffered setbacks due to flooding in 2011 when the Missouri River crested at 36 feet. Engineers feared that the vessel would shake free, float down the Missouri, and take down the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge. They anchored the minesweeper to keep it in place while floodwaters floated in. When the water receded, the ship leaned to its side. After volunteers restored the minesweeper, it reopened in 2015. Freedom Park closed again in 2019 because of flooding. Today, it remains closed.
In Freedom Park, the USS Hazard rests. The minesweeper served the Navy during World War II along with its sister ship, the USS Inaugural. After the war, the Navy decommissioned the ship. The USS Hazard Corp bought and shipped the minesweeper up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Omaha, Nebraska. After floodwaters destroyed the USS Inaugural, the USS Hazard became the only admiral class submarine in the United States. Although Freedom Park is closed, the USS Hazard is still one of the gems in Omaha.
Bob Nandell, “The Unsinkable USS Hazard” (8 August 1982), The Des Moines Register, pg. 251.
Brooke Criswell, “Shipshape After Repairs, It’s Open to Public Again” (11 October 2015), pg. 11.
“Grand Opening at Freedom Park U.S.S. Marlin” (22 August 1974), Omaha World-Herald, pg. 28.
“Decommissioned U>S. Navy Minesweeper Is Purchased” (9 April 1971), The Lincoln Star, pg. 22.
Robert McMorris, “A Jolly Crew” (12 April 1971), Omaha World-Herald, pg. 5.
“Decommissioned U>S. Navy Minesweeper Is Purchased.”
AP, “Ship Renovator Recalls Plight of USS Hazard” (21 October 1981), pg. 27.
“Minesweeper Being Towed Up Missouri” (31 May 1971), St. Joseph News-Press, St. Joseph, Missouri, pg. 15.
“World War II Mine Sweeper Tied Up Permanently at Omaha’s Riverside” (14 May 1988), pg. 7.
Tim O’Neil, “WWII Craft Rides St. Louis Levee, Sinks Like Riverboat” (25 November 2012), St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, pg. B003. https://www.newspapers.com/image/150736260/?terms=%22USS%2BInaugural%22
Connie White, “Flooding on Bluffs Side Shuts Down Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge” (15 March 2019), Omaha World-Herald, pg. 4A.
Brian Mastre, “The Future of Freedom Park” (27 October 2014), 6 News On Your Side, accessed on 16 January 2020. https://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/The-Future-of-Freedom-Park-280574192.html