Built in 1940 and called the “Battleship for the Presidents,” the USS Iowa on Saturday made her grand entrance to her new home, Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles.
Small boats surrounded the big ship and thousands of onlookers watched and cheered as the battleship was towed the three miles from her temporary berth to her new home in San Pedro.
A group of early financial supporters, donors, elected officials, media and veterans were invited to be aboard the ship as it made the 6-hour long celebratory journey to its new life as an interactive and educational Naval museum.
Designated the “World’s Greatest Naval Ship” due to her big guns, heavy armor, fast speed, and longevity, the USS Iowa was modernized to keep pace with technology during her more than 50 years in active service. As a museum, visitors will be able to take a close up look at the inner workings of the battleship, and learn about its history during times of war and peace.
Congresswoman Janice Hahn and her brother, former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, were among the guests taking part in Saturday’s voyage. The Hahns’ father, also named James, was a long time L.A. County Supervisor. Acknowledging her father’s service in the Navy, the congresswoman said she pushed to bring the ship to Los Angeles.
“This is a ship I fought for. As soon as I heard it was available I went straight to the Secretary of State and requested for the ship to come to San Pedro,” she said.
“This is a great opportunity for the port of San Pedro and the people of Los Angeles, the children will also have a great opportunity to learn and be educated about a great ship that has so much history,” said James Hahn, adding he’s proud of his sister’s part in bringing the battleship to L.A., and sure his father would be just as proud if he were still alive.
Also on board were Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Long Beach Chief of Police Jim McDonnell, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, local city council members, sailors, volunteers and family members.
Sailors, dressed in white, lined the ship’s rail.
“This is an extraordinary ship, I would have stayed on there all night, it’s a great opportunity for Southern California and a good opportunity for the economy of San Pedro to grow,” said Navy Captain Andrew Scott.
Others on the ship echoed the sentiment.
“Absolutely phenomenal,” “this is amazing,” “what a great experience,” could be heard over and over again during the journey that ended in early evening.
Navy veteran Ellsworth Knutson served on the USS Iowa 66 years ago. On Saturday, he and his wife of 67 years, Jeanne, marveled at all the changes made to the battleship since it was first commissioned for duty. Jeanne recalled how she had sent Ellsworth a birthday card the first year he was on the ship: “The technology has come a long way, Ellsworth did not receive the card for a full year,” she said.
John Wolinbarger served on the ship from 1944 to 1945, and told EGP he has great memories of the camaraderie shared by sailors on the USS Iowa. Wolinbarger says he was fortunate enough to be involved in the ship’s restoration, which he worked on for three years as a volunteer.
“I kept track of the ship for many years, I wanted to see the Iowa saved not only because of what it means to me and other veterans,’ he said, “but for what it will mean for future generations.”
The USS Iowa will open to the public on July 4, and will provide an interactive museum that honors and illustrates the positive contributions of the battleship and its crew at critical moments in American history. The educational programs will offer lessons in history, leadership, character development and community service.