Battleship to become L.A.'s newest museum
USS Iowa served from WW II to 1990s
The USS Iowa, one of the last battleships ever built, will open July 7 as a museum in Los Angeles Harbor. Advance tickets are on sale for tours of the ship, which served on and off from World War II to 1990.
The 900-foot battleship with 16-inch guns was towed recently from Vallejo, on San Francisco Bay, to Los Angeles. It is the last of the four Iowa-class battleships to find a permanent home after years as part of "the mothball fleet."
The Iowa will be operated by the nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center, which will begin offering tours July 7 even as the ship is being renovated. Such work may continue for years to make more of the ship available to tour groups.
The Iowa's new home will offer 41/2 acres of parking space in North America's busiest seaport, adjacent to the World Cruise Center, where cruise ships dock and flocks of tourists could tour the Iowa.
"Our focus for our museum will be on the history of the battleships, not only the Iowa being the ultimate in design, but we'll be focusing from the very beginnings" of the massive vessels, Kent told the Associated Press.
President Franklin Roosevelt traveled home aboard the USS Iowa after the 1943 Tehran conference of Allied leaders, where he met with Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to plan war strategies against Nazi Germany.
The 45,000-ton ship, which rises 15 stories above the waterline, served in the late stages of the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. It was Adm. William "Bull" Halsey's flagship during the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay, though the ceremonies were held on its sister ship, the USS Missouri.
After serving in the Korean War, the ship was decommissioned, only to be reactivated as part of President Ronald Reagan's late Cold War plan to build a 600-ship Navy. The Iowa-class battleships were renovated to become cruise missile launch platforms, as well as offering coverage of operations with their famous 16-inch guns, the largest caliber in the world at the time.
The Iowa never made it back into combat operations. In 1989, 47 sailors were killed in an explosion in a 16-inch gun turret during a training exercise. The ship was decommissioned again the following year.
The Iowa was towed to San Francisco from Rhode Island in 2001, after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pushed for $3 million in federal funds to turn the ship into a tourist attraction to be berthed not far from Fisherman's Wharf.
But local activists lobbied against the plan, decrying the Iraq war and the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" position at the time regarding gays in the military (which has since been reversed).
Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, called the city's supervisors' 8-3 vote against the idea of the Iowa staying in San Francisco a "very petty decision." The Navy then turned to Los Angeles as a home for the ship.
The Iowa was the last of its class to find a home. The USS Missouri is a museum at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the USS Wisconsin is a museum at Norfolk, Va., and the USS New Jersey is docked in New Jersey on the Delaware River near Philadelphia.
As part of the deals with the Navy, 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.
The Associated Press
contributed to this report