The USS Iowa Through the Years
by Patrick Boberg
Launched in 1942, the USS Iowa BB-61 has a storied history across several wars and stands today as the centerpiece of the National Museum of the Surface Navy. Take a look at this battleship from its original build to where it stands today, and tune in to the premiere of the USS Iowa documentary March 1 at 6:30 p.m.
USS Iowa Build
Launched in 1942, USS Iowa BB-61 was built in response to the dissolution of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty by Japan. Signed in 1922, the treaty held England, France, Italy, Japan, and the United States from building capital warships, such as battleships greater than 35,000 tons. Once Japan formally broke the treaty in 1934, the United States Navy decided to build the fastest, most technologically advanced battleship on the planet - the Iowa class of battleships. The 16-inch guns on the Iowa class were the largest guns ever placed on a US warship.
World War II and Korean War
USS Iowa BB-61 was the lead ship of the Iowa class of battleships, secretly transporting President Roosevelt to Africa to finalize plans for the D-Day invasion of France. It was the only battleship of the class to serve in the Atlantic during World War II and was routinely the flagship of the Navy throughout its time in the Pacific theater. During the Korean War, Iowa was only in service for seven months of combat and yet fired more 16-inch and 5-inch rounds in that period than its entire two-plus years of service in World War II. Her service with President Roosevelt earned her the nickname the "Battleship of Presidents."
In the 1980s, the USS Iowa BB-61 didn't engage in combat but was instead used for training, naval show of force, humanitarian aid, and as a symbol of US power and peaceful efforts. When she was recommissioned, modern Harpoon and Cruise missiles were added to her armament as well as Phalanx automatic gatling guns. In 1986 President Reagan, along with First Lady Nancy Reagan, boarded USS Iowa for an international celebration of the refurbished State of Liberty, making her once more the Battleship of Presidents. Infamously, the 1980s ended tragically for the USS Iowa and her crew when on April 19, 1989 an open breach explosion occurred inside turret two. Forty-seven USS Iowa sailors lost their lives in the incident for which the Navy was never able to find a cause.
Battleship USS Iowa Museum
Since 2012, the USS Iowa has been permanently berthed in San Pedro, California as the Battleship USS Iowa Museum. Iowans who visit the ship and show a valid Iowa driver's license can board the ship free of charge. The ship is continually evolving, opening new sections of the ship for tour. As of 2019, USS Iowa has become the centerpiece of the National Museum of the Surface Navy.