FAMOUS BATTLESHIP RETURNS,
ONE LAST TIME
By C. MacDonald
On the Ocean, Six Miles Off the Coast of Long Beach--We recently were lucky to take a Harbor Breeze Cruise out to see the famous USS Iowa, a 58,000-ton battleship that served in World War II, the Korean War and even escorted tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. In recent times, the warrior for more than 50 years, had been in a mothball fleet near San Francisco. But now the vessel which earned 11 Battle Stars has been given a new lease on life and is on its journey to the Port of Los Angeles, Berth 87 in San Pedro. In July, it will become an interactive museum and memorial to battleships, thanks to the non-profit, Pacific Battleship Center.
We saw the proud Iowa, resting on the choppy sea, where its hull was being cleaned before proceeding on to its final destination. This was one of the last times, people could see it out in the ocean, where it was tethered to the Crowley Tugboat Warrior, which had helped ease it south.
Seeing the heavy-armoured ship from over 100 yards away was indeed an impressive sight. The 887-foot battle-honored veteran, sometimes called, "the Big Stick," still showed why it got respect with his mighty 16-inch guns. "The Battleship of Presidents," once carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic to Casablanca enroute to a 1943 Tehran meeting with Churchill and Stalin. In 1986, Ronald Reagan boarded it for the celebration of Liberty Weekend, the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and an International Naval Review, and President George H.W. Bush re-commissioned it in 1984, when he was vice president. In 1989, President Bush joined the crew and their families at a memorial ceremony for Iowa sailors who had died. During his speech, Bush, who had been a Navy pilot in WWII, said, "For those of us serving on carriers in Halsey's Third Fleet, having the Iowa nearby really built our confidence."
But this majestic ship, built in 1940 and originally commissioned in 1943, used its might many times in World War II, including in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and in supporting the landing of occupation forces in Tokyo Bay (where it later served as flagship at the Japanese surrender).
Before it's final decommissioning in 1990, it had fired 11,834, 16-inch rounds in its career. In 2011, the Iowa was donated to the LA-based non-profit Pacific Battleship Center (pacificbattleship.com; 877-446-9261). When plans were announced to move it south, many San Pedroans were ecstatic.
"We've needed that one sparkplug that will draw people to San Pedro," said longtime resident, teacher and politician Luis Dominguez, who was riding on a Harbor Breeze boat out to view the Iowa. "It will be a world class destination for everyone, including the 13 1/2 million people who live within driving distance. The Iowa will bring much-needed revenue to the area from food, lodging, shopping and entertainment."
"The ship is just absolutely beautiful. Just look at the lines on it; look at the curves of the bow," said the man, who is also a Naval historian as well as an Army Vietnam Veteran,
T. L. Malloy, who served in the Navy during the Korean War, watched with tears as we approached the Iowa at sea. "The last time I saw her was when she was helping us during raids on North Korea while at war. She looks just great. I'm so happy the Iowa will be preserved and appreciated forever."
Ironically, the Iowa was in the same ocean off Long Beach in 1946, when it was involved in Navy drills and maneuvers. I guess you could say, she's come home, at least for a couple days before heading to San Pedro.
Allowing us to re-live history was Danny Salas, owner of Harbor Breeze Yacht Charters and Cruises. His company offers wonderful narrated tours of Long Beach and Los Angeles Harbors, as well as whale watching trips. Many of the tours depart and return daily from 100 Aquarium Way, Dock 2, Rainbow Harbor, next to the Aquarium of the Pacific. They often offer some of the most reasonable rates around. Check them out in person or visit longbeachcruises.com or harbor-cruises.com You can call them at 562-432-4900. Their courteous, friendly and knowledgeable personnel and captains will make the trip memorable. "We also love to do weddings and corporate events," said Amber Boyle, Harbor Breeze Vice President. "We strive to exceed customer expectations and really look forward to creating an event you'll never forget!"