Last weekend Super-Spouse and I visited the USS Iowa Battleship as she sat in the docks of Richmond, California, being prepared to be towed south towards her new home in the Port of Los Angeles as a floating museum. I say the “last battleship”, because of all the battleships to have ever been built (that are not resting at the bottom of the sea), the Iowa is the last functional “Big Stick”, and is just now emerging from the Naval Reserve Fleet to be donated as a museum. Her sister ships USS Wisconsin (BB64), USS Missouri (BB63), and USS New Jersey (BB62) have already opened to the public as attractions in Norfolk VA, Pearl Harbor HI and Camden NJ respectively. This isn’t really the end of her official career however, as congress has ordered that the Iowa be maintained in such a way that if needed in a national emergency, the ship can be returned to active duty. That’s right, the old battleship is still technically able to be called back into action and scare the living bejesus out of whomever she trains her guns on. A sleeping giant if there ever was one. Our trip was brief and limited to the forward decks, as much of the ship is being renovated and is still closed for safety reasons. It was officially the last weekend she would be open to the public in Northern California, which lost its chance to host her permanently in San Fransisco after the SF Board of Supervisors inexplicably threw the baby out with the bathwater, and told the Navy to piss-off with their battleship in a political protest. A sad state of affairs for a city with such a long and rich naval and military history, akin to cutting your nose off despite your face. But I digress… The Port of Los Angeles meanwhile eagerly awaits the arrival of their proud old American warrior that helped defeat some of the meanest and darkest powers of modern history, and had a career that spanned nearly 50 years. They may have to wait just a bit longer however, because although last weekend was supposed to be the “last day”, they aren’t quite ready yet! There is a LOT of grunt work that still needs to be done. They are looking for volunteers, most especially if you have prior Navy and/or battleship experience, or skills they might find useful. Even if that skill just means helping man the parking lot booths or kiosks. For most ex-sailors that might mean becoming reaquainted with your old friends paint-chipper, grinder and paint-brush. On our visit, they were actively stripping off all the old Red Fir and Teak planking, most of which was in pretty terrible shape. The salvageable stuff will be reused, and pieces of the discarded teak are being sold as mementos to help fund the museum. Some old Iowa sailors were on board as hosts, and one of them pointed out a divot on turret two, where the Iowa had taken a hit from a 5″ Japanese gun. Amazing.
She even still retains her “President’s Bathtub” installed for Franklin D. Roosevelt during WWII, although it wasn’t available for viewing.
Next door they had an exibit with interesting WWII and even Gulf War era displays, and nice pier-side catering for burgers and dogs.
If you are on the west coast and have some free time this weekend, take a trip out to the Iowa to show your support and check out this mighty old warship. It is an experience you won’t soon forget, and well worth the $10 a person donation. She’s located at 1411 Harbour Way South, Richmond, CA 94804, although I’d call ahead to make sure they are still taking visitors. She tentatively leaves Norcal on 20 may, 2012, which is subject to change due to a million variables. For more information or to volunteer, visit http://pacificbattleship.com