Historic battleship ready for final sendoff

May 19, 2012 2:41:24 PM PDT
Marking the end of an era in local maritime history, the USS Iowa will be towed out of San Francisco Bay on Sunday and taken to San Pedro in Southern California, where the World War II battleship will be turned into a museum later this year.

The historic vessel, which was launched in 1942 and served in the U.S. Navy until 1990, will not be leaving without a proper goodbye and send-off, however, as several special cruises and events are planned for Sunday afternoon.

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien, one of only two fully functioning World War II Liberty Ships left in the world, will be hosting "A Champagne Toast to the Iowa," an event that will feature a cruise where the ship will meet up with the Iowa in San Francisco Bay once the battleship departs its mooring at Richmond, scheduled to happen at around 2:30 p.m.

"We will escort her to the Golden Gate, when we get there we'll do a champagne salute and the blow the whistle for her, and see her off to her new home port of Los Angeles," said Capt. Patrick Buttner, 77, who will be at the helm of the Jeremiah O'Brien.

The Iowa will also be escorted by the USS Potomac, which was President Roosevelt's yacht during World War II, and is expected to pass underneath the Golden Gate Bridge around 3:30 p.m.

Among the many notable historical events that Iowa took part in over its storied tenure was the transportation of Roosevelt to the Tehran Conference in 1943, and the ship was present in Tokyo Harbor when Japan surrendered to the U.S. in 1945.

"You can't honor a ship like that enough-I am flattered in being involved in saluting her, in anyway that I can. It's a salute to the people that helped win World War II," said Buttner, a San Rafael resident who spent 40 years working in the maritime industry.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity-even if you're not a military buff, it is so unique to see a ship like that underway."

The "Champagne Toast to the Iowa" cruise is scheduled to take place 1-5 p.m., with boarding beginning at noon on Sunday aboard the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, located at Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf. Tickets are $85.


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