RICHMOND, Calif. – The USS IOWA, one of the most powerful battleships of all time, embarked on its final voyage May 26. The last remaining World War II battleship left the Port of Richmond, crossed San Francisco Bay and then passed under the historic Golden Gate Bridge amid a festive celebration of the bridge’s 75th birthday.
The USS IOWA was scheduled to leave Richmond on May 20 and head for the Port of Los Angeles, where it will become an interactive naval museum. The departure was temporarily postponed due to an approaching weather system that exceeded the parameters of the approved tow plan.
On May 26, Crowley Maritime Corporation’s 7,200-HP tugboat Warrior, connected to the USS IOWA in a series of towlines and chains, guided the vessel across the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco’s fire boat Phoenix led the way for the battleship and created a splash by shooting water through its fire-fighting hoses. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sockeye provided an official escort for the battleship. As the historic ship passed the Saint Francis Yacht Club, club members honored it with a farewell gun salute and a signal flag message – “Farewell My Dear Friend.”
The U.S. Navy recently transferred ownership of the USS IOWA to the nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center, which has been renovating the vessel in preparation for operating it as an interactive floating museum in the Port of Los Angeles.
The USS IOWA is more than 15 stories high, 887 feet long and weighs more than 45,000 tons. It’s known as the Battleship of Presidents because it hosted Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“This is the final journey for the USS IOWA on open water,” says Robert Kent, president of the Pacific Battleship Center. “We thank the citizens of the San Francisco Bay area, and Richmond in particular, for their interest and support of the preservation of the Battleship of Presidents.
“Upon arrival at Los Angeles Harbor, the USS IOWA will be just days away from opening as an interactive museum experience that honors and illustrates the contributions of this battleship and its Navy and Marine crew at critical moments in American history.”
The crossing of the bay marked the beginning of a four-day tow to Los Angeles, where the battleship will undergo routine hull cleaning offshore before moving to the Outer Harbor. Travelers, a leader in ocean marine insurance coverage, worked closely with the Pacific Battleship Center and Placer Insurance Agency to analyze potential risks and provide insurance coverage to support the safe transit of the USS IOWA while under tow.
On June 9, the ship will travel by tow down the main channel to its permanent home at Berth 87 in the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, Calif. There, the ship will host a reunion of USS IOWA veterans July 2-6, then celebrate its public grand opening on July 7.
“The Veterans Association of the USS IOWA is extremely pleased and proud that our ship is being returned to her original beauty and glory as a museum/memorial,” says President Gerald Gneckow. “Many of our members who served aboard during WWII and Korea are now quite elderly. For them, the opportunity to set foot aboard their ship once again is the answer to a prayer.”
Public ticket sales for the July 7 grand opening and beyond began this week. To purchase tickets online, visit www.pacificbattleship.com and click on the Visit USS IOWA photo link.
General admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for both youth (ages 6-17) and retired military personnel with valid ID. Admission is free to active military personnel, including reservists, with valid ID, children under 5 and residents of the state of Iowa with valid ID.
The museum, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, will highlight the contributions of the battleship and its crew during World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War. Educational programs at the museum will offer lessons in history, leadership, team-building, character development and community service.
For more information about the USS IOWA, visit www.pacificbattleship.com.
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