Get out the camera, and the binoculars. Before her new career as a floating museum begins, the storied Battleship the USS Iowa will spend some of her final free-floating days off the coast of Seal Beach.
The long-anticipated USS Iowa will make it’s way into the Port of Los Angeles this morning before July 7 grand opening as museum by the nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center.
But before that can happen she will sit roughly three miles off the coast of Seal Beach while underwater divers scrape her hull clean.
The long-mothballed USS Iowa, once capable plying the sea at nearly 40 mph under its own power, was being tugged south from the Bay Area since Saturday.
The 887-foot battleship passed under the Golden Gate Bridge under escort by the U.S. Coast Guard as part of the span's 75th anniversary celebration, as well-wishers cheered it on from shore.
The 45,000-ton ship, nicknamed ``The Big Stick'' because of its long,
slender hull, will take up permanent residence at Berth 87. The tugboat being used to get the behemoth to San Pedro produces about 7,200 horsepower. Construction of the ship, which took about two years, began in 1940, and the Iowa was the first of four in its class completed. Once commissioned, the Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top military advisers to Casablanca en route to the 1943 Tehran Conference.
The Iowa would later serve in the Pacific Fleet, shelling beachheads in the Marshall Islands. The ship was at the battle of Okinawa and was the among the first to enter Tokyo Bay after Japan's surrender.
In 1989, during a training mission off Puerto Rico, the 16-inch gun in Turret No. 2 exploded, killing 47 sailors, and the ship was decommissioned the next year. The nonprofit Pacifica Battleship Center raised about $9 million to move and restore the ship, including $3 million from the state of Iowa. The group took out another $5 million in loans and raised the rest through donations and pro bono work.
The ship museum plans to offer overnight stays and at least five tours, including tours focusing on life at sea, engineering and armor, and tours of the ship's weapons.
Navy veterans who served on the World War II-era battleship are scheduled to hold a reunion in San Pedro over the Fourth of July holiday in conjunction with the grand opening of the ship's reincarnation as a floating museum.
``As America's leading port, Los Angeles is the ideal home for the leading ship of her class,'' said Robert Kent, director of the Pacific Battleship Center, which will operate the museum. ``This national gateway for global trade will be the new base from which this great ship will begin a new era of public service.''
Since 2001, the Iowa has been part of the Navy's ``Mothball Fleet'' in Suisun Bay, northeast of Oakland. All three of its sister ships are also now museums.
- City News Service