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USS Iowa Now Open to the Public

The historic Navy ship is berthed in San Pedro and has been restored.

The retired battleship USS Iowa, known as the Battleship of Presidents, opened Saturday as a permanent floating museum at the Port of Los Angeles.

The Iowa, known as the "The Big Stick" during its heyday in the Pacific during World War II, was towed from the Navy's mothballed fleet in Northern California's Suisun Bay in May -- the Navy would not allow the gunship to be moved under its own power -- had its 889-foot hull scraped clean at a San Pedro Bay anchorage and was finally docked at its new home -- Berth 87 -- on the waterfront next to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

The nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center raised about $9 million to move and restore the ship, including $3 million from the state of Iowa. The group took out another $5 million in loans and raised the rest through donations and pro bono work.

Though the steel-hulled ship is relatively modern in its armament -- its 16-inch guns could hurl 2,700-pound projectiles more than 20 miles -- its teak weather deck harkens back to the days of wooden warships. Continually repairing and replacing the decking is one of dozens of maintenance jobs budgeted by the museum.

The Pacific Battleship Center will operate the ship. Museum memberships are available at www.pacificbattleship.com.

A general admission ticket will run $18. Retired members of the military and seniors will get in for $15, and youths ages 6-17 will get in for $10.

The museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Built at the New York Naval Yard over two years, starting in 1940, the Iowa was the first in its class of four fast battleships to be built. The sleek, powerful design was capable of about 38 mph, and the ship was specially outfitted with a bathtub for Roosevelt, who had been paralyzed since 1921.

One of its first missions was ferrying Roosevelt and military brass to Casablanca in 1943 for the Tehran Conference, a crucial meeting with Russia's Joseph Stalin and Great Britain's Winston Churchill.

The Iowa would later serve in the Pacific Fleet, shelling beachheads in the Marshall Islands. The ship was at the battle of Okinawa and was among the first to enter Tokyo Bay after Japan's surrender.

In 1989, during a training mission off Puerto Rico, the 16-inch gun in Turret No. 2 exploded, killing 47 sailors, and the ship was decommissioned the next year.

A host of dignitaries attended the Fourth of July dedication aboard the ship, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad; Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin; Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro; Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; and Julianna Roosevelt, the great-granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for whom a bathtub was installed. Hundreds of veterans, including former members of the USS Iowa's crew, were there as well.

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