Navy Awards battleship U.S.S. IOWA To Los Angeles Group
Shawn J. Dake
All photos by Shawn J. Dake, c.2009
The last American World War II battleship without a home now has one. On September 6, 2011, the United State Navy announced that the U.S.S. IOWA has been awarded to The Pacific Battleship Center which will bring the 887 foot long vessel to the Port Of Los Angeles. The non-profit group had been working for over a year to secure title to the retired ship. A competing bid from the Historic Ships Memorial At Pacific Square, a Vallejo, California based group that has worked since March, 2007 to bring the ship to the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard, lost out at the conclusion of an eight month review process by the Navy. Officials for the Navy said the Pacific Battleship Center submitted the only application meeting its requirements for ship donation.
The IOWA (BB-61) was commissioned February 22, 1943. Construction actually began in June, 1940 on what would be the lead ship of the final class of battleships to ever be built for the United States. The builder was the New York Naval Shipyard. Three additional IOWA-Class battleships joined the U.S. fleet, the U.S.S. NEW JERSEY (BB-62), U.S.S. MISSOURI (BB-63) and U.S.S. WISCONSIN (BB-64). Two additional IOWA-Class ships were planned, but only partially completed; the ILLINOIS and KENTUCKY. The U.S.S. IOWA served in both the Atlantic and Pacific War zones. Nicknamed “The Big Stick” it was specially equipped to carry President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the TeranConference in 1943 for his meetings with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and General Chiang Kai-Shek. A custom-built bathtub was provided for the paralyzed President Roosevelt, which remains a unique feature of the ship to this day. The IOWA went on to serve as Admiral Halsey’s flagship during the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay while the actual ceremony took place on her sistership the U.S.S. MISSOURI. The ship also saw action during the Korean War before being decommissioned for the first time in 1958. Under President Reagan, the ship was reactivated in 1984 and modernized. A tragic explosion in the number two gun turret took the lives of 47 sailors in 1989 and hastened the end for the old battleship. It was decommissioned for the final time in 1990. After serving in a stationary role at the Naval Education and Training Center in Newport, the ship was towed to the West Coast where it arrived on April 20, 2001 and was placed in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet near the city of Benicia, California. On March 17, 2006, the IOWA along with the WISCONSIN were stricken from the Naval Vessel Register.
External refurbishment work will most likely take place in Northern California before the tow from the Bay Area south to Los Angeles. It is expected that the IOWA will be removed from the reserve fleet as early as October for that initial phase of refurbishment and could arrive in Los Angeles by January, 2012. Initially it would go to a temporary berth in the outer harbor at Los Angeles before moving to a permanent berth at Pier 87 adjacent to the Los Angeles World Cruise Terminal. The battleship is expected to be a major tourist attraction along the revitalized waterfront at San Pedro.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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