HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Police in New Jersey are looking for a thief they say stole from a World War II memorial and vandalized a nearby naval submarine.

Jack Brown has been taking care of the U.S.S. Ling since before it even docked and opened for tours in Hackensack over four decades ago.

“I got off active duty the end of ’69 and moved to New York and affiliated with that unit and was assigned to that submarine,” the caretaker said. “So I have a warm spot in my heart for the Ling.”

The veteran was giving a tour on Sunday when he discovered four bronze plaques missing from the sub. Shortly after that, he noticed several open hatches along the vessel.

“The locks and everything had been cut,” he said. “They broke into the submarine and opened all the hatches.”

As a result, Brown says Saturday’s storm completely flooded the submarine. There was so much water inside that he couldn’t even begin to check if anything was stolen, and draining it all could cost millions of dollars.

“The damage is gonna be huge,” said Brown. “All the electronic equipment, it’s like flooding your living room.”

Police estimate the plaques are worth $10,000, but what’s inside the submarine is priceless.

“Some of this is not replaceable at all,” said Brown. “These are artifacts, they’re one of a kind.”

Investigators spent all Tuesday looking for fingerprints while the tide was low. Anyone who wished to tour the Ling was unfortunately turned away.

“I took my kids here when they were real tiny kids,” said Flemington resident Gary Zdan. “Kinda like a piece of history and a piece of my own history here.”

Brown says he isn’t sure what it all means for the submarine’s future.

“It’s really sad,” he said. “It’s really sad people don’t respect those people who gave so much. People are just different than they used to be.”