On October 27, after resting for a decade in Suisun Bay with the rest of the Mothball Fleet, the USS Iowa left for a permanent home as a museum in Los Angeles. The 45,000 ton, 887 foot long battleship was towed to Richmond for a temporary stop, where it will undergo extensive rehabilitation, including scraping and painting. It will then be towed to Southern California and put into dual service as a museum and memorial in the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro.
The departure was observed by people gathered along Benicia’s waterfront, on the Benicia and Carquinez Bridges and from the many boats in the Suisun Bay. The Iowa has a long and interesting history. It was commissioned in 1943 and served in World War II and the Korean War. During World War II, she was known as the Big Stick, owing to her size, speed and powerful guns. The ship conveyed President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic to a meeting with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin. Decommissioned after the Korean War, the ship was reactivated in 1984 in response to the expansion of the Soviet navy.
Final decommissioning occurred in 1990, and the Iowa took her place in Suisun Bay with the rest of the Mothball Fleet. The Pacific Battleship Center won the bid for the Iowa, and has raised $5 million towards the museum effort, $3 million of which was contributed by the State of Iowa. (Vallejo and Stockton also submitted applications for the ship but were unsuccessful.) The sate of Iowa donated the money as a point of historic pride—it will not receive a financial gain for the investment.
Three other battleships have become museums—the Missouri at Pearl Harbor, the Wisconsin in Norfolk, VA, and the New Jersey in Camden, NJ. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2006 requires that the battleships be kept and maintained in a state of readiness should they be needed in the event of a national emergency. For more information about the USS Iowa, visit www.pacificbattleship.com.