Bon voyage for WWII-era battleship USS Iowa

May 26, 2012 5:00:59 PM PDT
The historic battleship USS Iowa has left San Francisco Bay and is headed to its new home in Southern California.

Crowds gathered Saturday to watch the Iowa slip under the Golden Gate Bridge for the last time. Some who served aboard the ship were sad to see her go, but said they appreciate the ship's new mission at the Port of Los Angeles.

"I'm kind of glad to see it go down there because it's going to be a museum. It's going to be a memorial to the 47 men we lost in Turret 2," said George Hillenbrand, a former Iowa crew member.

The World War II-era ship's size is just as awesome now as it was back when John Hogan first laid eyes on it in Tokyo Bay in 1945.

Hogan, now retired from the Navy, was serving on a destroyer at the time. He said the Iowa made the ship he was serving on "look like a canoe."

The Iowa is one of the last dreadnaughts built for the U.S. Navy fleet. Watching it cruise through San Francisco Bay, it's clear why the ship was a showstopper of military might in World War II.

"Iowa carried Roosevelt, and all of his top military to Casablanca then on to Tehran to meet with Stalin and Churchill," said Bob Rogers of the Pacific Battleship Center.

In the 1980s, an accident in Turret Number 2 caused an explosion that killed 47 sailors. But the Iowa remained in service until 1990, when it sailed into Suisun Bay to be part of the mothball fleet.

For the last five months, a crew of volunteers has painstakingly brought the battleship back to showcase condition.

A group of Bay Area residents had pushed for the Iowa to be a floating museum docked at the Port of San Francisco, but that plan was killed in 2005 for political reasons.

It will take four days for the massive battleship to be towed to San Pedro where it will open as a museum in July.


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