The USS Iowa — the last surviving World War II battleship without a home — will head to the Port of Los Angeles to stand as a permanent museum and memorial to battleships, the Navy said Sept. 6.
According to the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, the donation of the USS Iowa to the Pacific Battleship Center, under the Navy’s ship donation program, is the culmination of years of work by many dedicated volunteers. The USS Iowa is the only Iowa‐class battleship that has not been saved and turned into a permanent museum, and was the last battleship available for donation.
“We want to thank the Secretary of the Navy, and the entire United States Navy, for the donation of the USS Iowa to the Pacific Battleship Center,” stated Robert Kent, the president of the nonprofit. “With this award, the USS Iowa will become a permanent museum, memorial and educational center. We can now move forward with the work necessary to restore the ship and to bring her to the Port of Los Angeles.”
The Pacific Battleship Center acknowledged the support and thousands of hours volunteers have contributed to this project. “Without the support of our volunteers, the people of the Los Angeles area and the people of the State of Iowa, this dream would not have become a reality,”stated Kent.
President Franklin Roosevelt traveled home aboard the USS Iowa after the 1943 Tehran conference of allied leaders, where he met with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to plan war strategies against Nazi Germany.
The 45,000-ton ship, which towers 15 stories above the water line, engaged in battles in the Pacific theater during World War II and entered Tokyo Bay with the occupation forces in 1945 where it served as Admiral William F. Halsey’s flagship for the surrender ceremony. The battleship later served off Korea’s eastern shores during that conflict.
In 1989, the USS Iowa suffered one of the nation’s deadliest military accidents after 47 sailors were killed in an explosion during a training exercise. Before being decommissioned in 1990, it served as an escort for oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
The Iowa was towed to San Francisco from Rhode Island in 2001, after Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California helped secure $3 million to bring it to San Francisco in hopes of making it a tourist attraction at Fisherman’s Wharf. Four years later, Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, called the city’s supervisors’ 8-3 vote against the idea a “very petty decision.”
The Iowa’s sister boats are already serving as museums: The USS Missouri is docked at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the USS Wisconsin is docked in Norfolk, Virginia, and the USS New Jersey is docked in the state it is named for.
The Iowa and the Wisconsin will be maintained to avoid rust and other mechanical problems in the unlikely event the ships are ever needed in war, Kent said.
As the Pacific Battleship Center moves forward with the restoration and relocation of the USS Iowa, there are still numerous opportunities to be part of this historic project. You may contact the USS Iowa’s new caretakers at www.pacificbattleship.com.
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