USS Iowa Battleship at the Port of Los Angeles

Jocelyn Murray July 16, 2012 No Comments

USS Iowa Battleship Firing

An impressive aerial view of the USS Iowa firing a full broadside during target exercises in 1984 near Puerto Rico (photo by Phan J. Alan Elliott)

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” This certainly applies to the USS Iowa, the battleship hailed as the “World’s Greatest Naval Ship,” serving our country for over 50 years, from World War II, to the Korean Conflict, during the Cold War, and the post-Cold War Era.

This “Battleship of Presidents” has hosted Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush during its five decades of distinctive service, at one time transporting President Roosevelt to and from the Tehran Conference during World War II where he met with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and subsequently decided to open a second front against Nazi Germany.


The Big Stick

USS Iowa Battleship demonstration

Another awesome demonstration of this formidable battleship (photo by Jeff Hilton)

With its fast speed of 33 knots, large caliber guns, heavy armor and survivability, it is no wonder the USS Iowa battleship was also known as the “Big Stick.” At 887 feet, this sleek warship stretches close to three football fields long, with a thickness of about 12 inches at its sides, and a maximum conning tower thickness of about 17 inches.

The battleship’s guns are at least as impressive as its armor. It boasts three 16″/50 triple main gun turrets with a total of 9 guns whose barrels are about 66 feet long. There are 16 secondary 5″/38 twin gun mounts and four Phalanx 20mm close-in weapons systems as well. Additionally, it has eight Tomahawk Armored Box launchers (32 long-range cruise missiles), and sixteen Harpoon launchers (16 anti-ship missiles).


Turret Explosion

USS Iowa Memorial Plaque

Memorial Plaque

In 1989, an accidental powder explosion within Turret Two killed 47 crew members aboard the ship during a gunnery exercise. The quick action taken by another crewman to flood the #2 powder magazine prevented what could have been a far greater disaster.

Although this was the USS Iowa’s only loss of life ever experienced in the battleship’s history, it is one of the worst incurred during the Navy’s peacetime operations, and a reminder of the fragility of life.

A memorial plaque dedicated to those crewmen who lost their lives in the explosion remains on the ship today.



Floating Memorial & Museum

USS Iowa guns

The sheer power of the battleship commands respect

In July 2012, the USS Iowa was opened to the public at the Port of Los Angeles. The self-guided tours of this impressive battleship are a wonderful opportunity for people of all ages to learn about our country’s naval history up close. Roam the expansive teak wood decks with commanding views of the port; visit the officers’ wardroom where they would enjoy some leisurely time; see the gun battery Turrets 1 and 2 on the main deck of the bows of the ship; view the captain’s wardroom where the only bathtub on a U.S. Navy warship was installed for President Franklin D. Roosevelt; walk through the crew’s mess and galley on the second deck, and more.

USS Iowa world voyages

This map shows guests where the battleship has traveled

Many informative displays feature interesting facts, photographs, and statistics about the ship, its commissions and service, where it has been, and the prominent figures and dignitaries who have graced its decks. Several short complimentary videos also provide fascinating insight on the history of the USS Iowa. One could almost imagine the crew in action during wartime commissions, climbing the steep narrow staircases and running through the decks in an atmosphere charged with adrenaline.

The tour comes to an end by the crew’s mess and galley where a large gift shop on the battleship sells souvenirs, books, videos, toys, collectibles, clothing, snacks and more. Guests leave the ship by way of the helicopter landing deck, and exit on the starboard gangway.




USS Iowa's Old Glory

Our flag proudly waving aboard the USS Iowa

The USS IOWA is located at Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles at 250 South Harbor Boulevard in San Pedro, California.

A war veteran itself, the USS Iowa makes an impressive sight where it finally rests after five decades of unwavering service. And as the eye sweeps over its awesome form, its steel-grey hull gleaming, it comes to rest on Old Glory, waving proudly from the stern under a brilliant Southern California sun.


avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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