USS Iowa Museum, Port of Los Angeles, California, United States

The Battleship USS Iowa Museum is a maritime museum located at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, United States. The museum’s main artifact is the USS Iowa (BB-61), lead ship of the Iowa class of battleships. USS Iowa (BB-61) is a retired battleship, the lead ship of her class, and the fourth in the United States Navy to be named after the state of Iowa.

USS Iowa (BB-61) was the lead ship of the last class of U.S. Navy battleships to be built by the United States. The battleship was originally commissioned in 1943, and served during World War II, the Korean War, and through the Cold War. Iowa earned 11 battle stars during her career and hosted three U.S. Presidents. Iowa was awarded to the Pacific Battleship Center on September 6, 2011 for display at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California – home to the United States Battle Fleet from 1919 to 1940.

Iowa was decommissioned for the last time in October 1990. On October 27, 2011, the battleship was relocated from Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet to the Port of Richmond, California for painting and refurbishment. On May 27, 2012, Iowa was towed underneath the Golden Gate Bridge on her 75th anniversary for final placement at the Los Angeles Waterfront.

In 2011 Iowa was donated to the Los Angeles–based non-profit Pacific Battleship Center and was permanently in 2012, where she was opened to the public as the USS Iowa Museum. The Battleship IOWA Museum is located at Port of Los Angeles Berth 87, adjacent to the World Cruise Terminal. The Battleship IOWA Museum is the first pearl in the string of pearls to bring alive the LA Waterfront as a travel destination. The Port of Los Angeles has invested over $200 million in revitalizing the waterfront in recent years.

The USS Iowa Museum offers daily tours, group programs, education visits, special events, filming, military ceremonies, and is in the process of starting an overnight program. Daily tours include visits to see the largest ship turret (16″/50 caliber) on a U.S. Navy ship, officers ward room, President Roosevelt’s cabin, armored bridge, missile decks, enlisted berthing, mess decks, helicopter deck, and other areas. The ship is located at the Los Angeles World Cruise Center and has over 2,100 parking spaces available.

Iowa has played various roles in films and television series including NCIS: Los Angeles, American Warships, Bermuda Tentacles, and Dark Rising. Iowa is home to annual American-focused events including the City of Los Angeles Veterans Appreciation, a Memorial Day Celebration, and September 11 remembrance.

Battleship USS Iowa began its service during WWII after being built at New York Navy Ship Yard. Namesake of the last class of Battleships, she went on to serve during three different eras. Today, she serves as a symbol of American freedom and a community platform for education, veterans, and community.

During World War II, she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic to Mers El Kébir, Algeria, en route to a conference of vital importance in 1943 in Tehran with Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom and Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union. When transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1944, Iowa shelled beachheads at Kwajalein and Eniwetok in advance of Allied amphibious landings and screened aircraft carriers operating in the Marshall Islands. She also served as the Third Fleet flagship, flying Admiral William F. Halsey’s flag at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

During the Korean War, Iowa was involved in raids on the North Korean coast, after which she was decommissioned into the United States Navy reserve fleets, better known as the “mothball fleet.” She was reactivated in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan and operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets to counter the recently expanded Soviet Navy. In April 1989, an explosion of undetermined origin wrecked her No. 2 gun turret, killing 47 sailors.

Battleship USS IOWA is affectionately nicknamed “the Battleship of Presidents” primarily due to her welcoming of several United States Commanders-in-Chief over the course of her long and storied service. In 1943 a bathtub was installed for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to use during his voyage to the Tehran Conference. Subsequent years saw the ship host numerous dignitaries, including the South Korean President in the 1950s, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980s.

Ordered in July 1939, USS Iowa was laid down at New York Naval Shipyard in June 1940. She was launched on 27 August 1942, sponsored by Ilo Wallace (wife of Vice President Henry Wallace), and commissioned on 22 February 1943 with Captain John L. McCrea in command.

USS Iowa’s main battery consisted of nine 16 in (406 mm)/50 caliber Mark 7 guns, which could fire 2,700 lb (1,200 kg) armor-piercing shells 20 nmi (23 mi; 37 km). Her secondary battery consisted of twenty 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal guns in twin mounts, which could fire at targets up to 12 nmi (14 mi; 22 km) away.

With the advent of air power and the need to gain and maintain air superiority came a need to protect the growing fleet of Allied aircraft carriers; to this end, Iowa was fitted with an array of Oerlikon 20 mm and Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns to defend Allied carriers from enemy airstrikes.

World War II (1943–1945)
On 24 February 1943, Iowa put to sea for a shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast. She got underway on 27 August for Argentia, Newfoundland, to counter the threat of the German battleship Tirpitz which was reportedly operating in Norwegian waters, before returning to the United States on 25 October for two weeks of maintenance at the Norfolk Navy Yard.

When Iowa was selected to ferry President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Cairo and Tehran Conferences, she was outfitted with a bathtub for Roosevelt’s convenience. Roosevelt, who had been paralyzed in 1921, would have been unable to make effective use of a shower facility. Iowa completed her presidential escort mission on 16 December by returning the President to the United States.

As flagship of Battleship Division 7 (BatDiv 7), Iowa departed the United States on 2 January 1944 for the Pacific Ocean. In many important battles of the Pacific Campaign, the Iowa served as the air defense mission of the aircraft carrier group and provided heavy fire support during the landing operations.

During the operations in the Philippine Islands, the excellent air defense firepower of the Iowa defeated the Japanese air force’s attacks many times. The extremely long range of the artillery made the Iowa repeatedly hit important Japanese military installations on the island with precision. The Iowa had no casualties in the battle, but because its parts were destroyed by the typhoon, it had to return for repairs in 1945.

From 24 April, Iowa supported carrier operations against Japan mainland, which aimed to establish and maintain air superiority for ground forces during their struggle for the island. The Iowa bombarded Japan’s major military cities for several months until Japan announced its unconditional surrender.

On 27 August, Iowa and her sister ship Missouri entered Sagami Bay to oversee the surrender of the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal. Two days later, she entered Tokyo Bay with the occupation forces. Here, a number of sailors from Missouri were temporarily stationed on Iowa for the duration of the surrender ceremony which took place aboard Missouri. After serving as Admiral Halsey’s flagship for the surrender ceremony on 2 September, Iowa remained in the bay as part of the occupying force. During the entire Second World War, the Iowa received navy star awards for nine time.

Korean War (1951–52)
After the outbreak of the Korean War, the United Nations army intervened in the fighting. As part of the naval mobilization, Iowa sailed for Korean waters in March 1952. The heavy firepower provided by the Iowa successfully destroyed railways, bridges and supply lines in this operation, and shelled some military strongholds.

However, the battle progressed to the stalemate stage, the role played by the U.S. Navy became less. The reason was that the North Korean army was full of mines in the main waters. It is extremely embarrassing that although the U.S. Navy has the most advanced fleet, it is equipped with only a handful of minesweeper ships. The threat of mines successfully suspended the new landing operations of the Marine Corps. In one operation, the Iowa was hit by hostile artillery fire, forcing the Navy to retreat to safer waters, and has since served as the place for some training activity.

Cold War (1982–1990)
As part of President Ronald Reagan’s and Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman’s effort to create an expanded 600-ship Navy, Iowa was reactivated in 1982 and moved under tow to Avondale Shipyard near New Orleans, Louisiana, for refitting and equipment modernization in advance of her planned recommissioning. During the refit, Iowa had all of her remaining Oerlikon 20 mm and Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns removed, due to their ineffectiveness against modern fighter jets and anti-ship missiles. Additionally, the two 5 in (127 mm) gun mounts located at mid-ship and in the aft on the port and starboard sides of the battleship were removed.

Iowa was then towed to Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi, where over the next several months the battleship was upgraded with the most advanced weaponry available. Among the new weapons systems installed were four MK 141 quad cell launchers for 16 AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, eight Armored Box Launcher mounts for 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles, and a quartet of Phalanx Close-in weapon system Gatling guns for defense against enemy anti-ship missiles and enemy aircraft.

Sometime after June 1986, Iowa was the first battleship to receive the RQ-2 Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). She could carry up to eight of the remotely controlled drones, which replaced the helicopters (although helicopters were not carried by battleships) previously used to spot for her nine 16 inch (410 mm)/50 cal Mark 7 guns. Also included in her modernization were upgrades to radar and fire-control systems for her guns and missiles, and improved electronic warfare capabilities. Armed as such, Iowa was formally recommissioned on 28 April 1984, ahead of schedule.

During the Cold War, the relaunched Iowa took part in many global cruises and some live-fire exercises, and served in many places for peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance tasks. During this period, the various functions of the warship gradually showed signs of aging, which were gradually exposed during some routine inspections. Due to the tensions of the Cold War, the Navy did not want to lose an important flagship, and the problems with the Iowa were considered can be overcome after repairs.

During a gunnery exercise, at 0955 on 19 April 1989, an explosion ripped through the Number Two 16-inch (406 mm) gun turret, killing 47 crewmen. In the investigation of the cause of the accident, the Navy quickly classified the incident as the result of the crew’s wrong operation. However, follow-up investigation revealed that the accident may have been caused by the wrong storage of expired gunpowder. The incident remains one of the surface Navy’s worst losses of life during peacetime operations. In any case, the Iowa has been deemed no longer suitable for use as an active ship.

Reserve Fleet and museum ship (1990–present)
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the lack of a perceived threat against the United States came drastic cuts to the defense budget and the battleships were deemed uneconomical. As a result, Iowa was decommissioned for the last time on 26 October 1990, after a total of 19 years of commissioned service.

On 18 November 2010, the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners voted unanimously on a resolution to support Berth 87 as the future home of USS Iowa. On 6 September 2011, USS Iowa was awarded to Pacific Battleship Center for placement at the Port of Los Angeles. After rehabilitation at the Port of Richmond, California (beginning in October 2011), she was towed to and eventually berthed in the Port of Los Angeles.

Starting in December 2011, USS Iowa was open for weekend tours. The Battleship Expo at the Port of Richmond included shipboard access and other exhibits such as 16-inch shells, a short film about the battleship, and other exhibits. On 30 April 2012, USS Iowa was officially donated to the Pacific Battleship Center in Los Angeles by the United States Navy.

Iowa began her journey to the Port of Los Angeles on 26 May 2012 under tow by four Crowley Maritime tugboats. After being anchored off the Southern California coast to have her hull scrubbed to remove any invasive species or contaminants, on 9 June 2012 she was permanently docked in San Pedro at Berth 87, along the Main Channel, directly south of the World Cruise Center. The museum opened to the public on 7 July, under the direction and control of Pacific Battleship Center.

The museum
Battleship USS Iowa Museum Los Angeles collects relevant artifacts to help tell the story of the ship and the Surface Navy to a broad audience. The Battleship IOWA Museum tells the stories of historically significant, but relatively unknown vessels.

Entering service more than 75 years ago, the USS Iowa deployed to the South Pacific in the early years of World War II. The iconic battleship served with distinction in that war, and later during the Korean War. In the 1990s, as the Berlin Wall crumbled, the IOWA concluded her active duty. Battleship USS Iowa now serves as a 501c3 non-profit historic naval ship museum and is supported solely by earned revenues, individual donations, corporate foundations, and philanthropic organizations. Forged in war and a guardian of peace, the proud ship is the sentinel of the Los Angeles Waterfront.

IOWA’s teak decks and steel bulkheads echo the words and deeds of history, having carried upon them three U.S. Presidents, six of the nine American five-star military leaders, countless foreign dignitaries, and thousands of her own heroic IOWA sailors. Visitors are awed by the IOWA’s proud legacy as one of the fastest and most powerful ships to ever sail the world’s oceans. Battleship IOWA Museum will become the National Museum of the Surface Navy by 2025.

The story focuses on a single ship within one class of ships—battleships. The public’s interest has evolved to include a broader story, now exploring America’s modern surface fleet. IOWA is certainly an iconic artifact in this chronicle but it represents only a portion of the larger narrative.

IOWA museum allows the Surface Navy to tell its story as an official United States Navy museum. Repurposing certain of IOWA’s spaces achieves for the Surface Navy what the National Naval Aviation Museum, the Submarine Force Library & Museum, and the USS Nautilus achieve for Naval aviation and submarines. IOWA’s museum displays the Navy’s remarkable collection of artifacts, provides a hugely effective recruiting tool, and reminds visitors of the Navy’s various roles worldwide.