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Welcome Home “Big Stick”

In LA, we’re pretty jaded when it comes to celebrity. After all, on any given day you can stumble across crews filming everything from “Transformers” to “CSI Miami” to the next hot commercial you can’t get out of your head. Dare to get out of your car and you could end up face-to-face with Tom Selleck or Tom Petty or Tom Brady. It takes a lot to get and hold our attention.

Full 16-in IOWA broadside in 1984. She could bring it ...

Today, however, we welcome a special new celebrity who’ll be making her home in Los Angeles . The USS Iowa, among the last of a long line of proud American battlewagons, arrived this morning off LA Harbor after a 4-day tow from the Bay Area. She’s spent the last decade or so in the mothball fleet in the back bays up there, waiting for either a new home or a date with the scrap yard. I for one am thrilled that the former has come true, and even more so that the aforementioned new home will be in my back yard.

I’ve been a huge Navy fan all my life, particularly of the World War II era. While other kids were reading Sports Illustrated, I was reading Samuel Eliot Morison’s sixteen-volume “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II“. When I was old enough to afford it, I bought my own set – and still own them. A decade ago, when she was being prepped for decommission and museum duty in Pearl Harbor, I was lucky enough to spend time offshore near the Missouri – sistership to the Iowa – as she was stripped of ammunition off Seal Beach. Just two months ago, I spent an hour walking the decks of the battleship Texas – a pre-WWI dreadnought and the oldest remaining battleship – during a visit to Houston. I can’t wait to do the same when they open the Iowa up for tours in July.

IOWA sits at anchor off Seal Beach

The Iowa has had a proud and at times controversial career. The lead ship of a 4-ship class of battleships, she was launched during World War II and saw service in the Marianas and Leyte Gulf campaigns. She pounded the beaches of North Korea before spending nearly a quarter century in mothballs. Reinstated during the Reagan era and retrofitted with modern weaponry such as cruise missiles and Phalanx guns, the Iowa saw her career cut short when a 1989 explosion in the #2 main turret killed 47 sailors. The investigation of the accident, which included rumors of homosexual affairs and suicide by sabotage – all of which was ultimately shown to be untrue – was not the Navy’s finest moment, and marked the end of the road for Iowa. While her sisters Missouri and Wisconsin were firing Tomahawk missiles at Iraq in Operation Desert Storm, Iowa was back in the mothball fleet awaiting her fate.

For now, though, it appears that fate will be a bright one. Like her three sisters, IOWA will soon take up her final duty station as a museum piece. She currently sits anchored several miles outside of LA Harbor, where in the next few days a team of divers will scrub her hull of all the nasty things that collected during her decade in San Francisco Bay. After that, it’s a short tow to Berth 87 where she’ll be on display alongside the Maritime Museum on the main channel. Shortly after the 4th of July weekend, she’ll be opened to tours – and I
already have my ticket … 😉

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