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Visit the Battleship USS Iowa (BB 61) at the Port of Los Angeles

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Visit the Battleship USS Iowa (BB 61) at the Port of Los Angeles

Bridge and Superstructure, USS Iowa

Photo © Old Line Photography. Licensed to About.com.

Battleships are powerful, fast and impressive. Designed to lob 2,000-pound shells 20 miles and travel at a speed of over 30 knots, the Iowa-class battleships still thrill visitors. USS Iowa, the lead ship in the Iowa class, is now open to visitors at Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles, California.

History of the Battleship USS Iowa

USS Iowa, the first of the Iowa-class battleships, was built at the New York Naval Yard and commissioned in 1943. She saw service in the northern Atlantic Ocean, A few months after the ship's commissioning, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt traveled on USS Iowa to Tehran to meet with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. In early 1944, USS Iowa moved to the Pacific Ocean and played an important role in several key naval battles, using her 16-inch guns to provide protection to US forces. Alongside her sister ship, USS Missouri, USS Iowa sailed into Tokyo Bay in August 1945 to support the landing of occupying forces.

Decommissioned in 1949, USS Iowa was refitted and reactivated in 1951 and saw service in the Korean War. Decommissioned for a second time in 1958, USS Iowa stayed in the Navy's reserve fleet until 1984, when she was commissioned for the third and final time. USS Iowa participated in operations near Central and South America, the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Oman and Europe.

Tragedy struck the battleship in April 1989 when Turret Two exploded, killing 47 sailors. After a controversial initial investigation and a second, independent investigation, the explosion was determined to have been an accident caused by improper storage of powder.

USS Iowa was decommissioned for the last time in 1990. During her three service periods, the battleship earned a total of 11 battle stars.

After spending time in the Navy reserve fleet, the battleship was donated to the Pacific Battleship Center in 2011. The state of Iowa helped raise the funds needed to rehabilitate the battleship and tow it to the Port of Los Angeles. Under the Pacific Battleship Center's management, USS Iowa opened for daily tours in July 2012.

Touring the Battleship USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles

The Pacific Battleship Center operates USS Iowa as a museum. As of this writing, Tour Alpha is the only available tour, but additional tours, including an accessible tour, engineering tour, gunnery tour and virtual battle experience, will be added in the future.

Tour Alpha, which is self-guided, takes you from the main deck and officers' wardroom up five levels. You'll see something interesting on each level of this newly-restored ship.

For example, on the main deck you can stand in front of Turrets One and Two and get a close look at six of the ship's nine 16-inch guns. The next deck up, the 01 level, features the Captain's Cabin, where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stayed when he traveled to the Tehran Conference. This cabin includes the only bathtub found on a Navy ship. On the 02 through 05 levels, you can see the USS Iowa's 5-inch guns, Phalanx 20-millimeter close-in weapons system (CIWS) and Tomahawk and Harpoon missile launchers. Don't miss the armored bridge and wheelhouse; the ship's captain and his helmsman were protected from attack by almost 18 inches of solid steel.

On the second deck (one deck below the main deck), you can view films about USS Iowa's history and renovation, see museum exhibits, tour the crew's mess deck (eating area) and purchase souvenirs in the gift shop.

Signs explain the sights on each level, and docents are available to answer questions and tell you about the history and weaponry of USS Iowa. You'll leave with a true sense of the battleship's power and historical significance.

Tips for Visiting the USS Iowa

  • USS Iowa is located at Berth 87 in San Pedro, California, at the Port of Los Angeles. You can reach the ship via Interstate 110 (the Harbor Freeway) or Highway 47 and the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Signs point the way to the ship.

  • There is a large parking lot adjacent to the battleship. Parking costs $1 per hour and handicapped parking is available.

  • While USS Iowa is not yet wheelchair accessible, plans are in place to create a combination tour that will allow wheelchair access to the main deck and one other deck via elevator. A virtual tour of the other decks will round out the accessible tour experience. The Pacific Battleship Center hopes to have this tour ready some time in 2013.

  • The only way to get to the upper decks of USS Iowa is by ship's ladder (steep, narrow stairs with hand rails and/or chain rails). Visitors who use mobility aids may not be able to climb and descend the ladders and should consider visiting the ship when the accessible tour becomes available. (Tip: Ask if you can access the main deck via the gangway, see the interior spaces on this deck, and then see the aft end of the main deck via the exit gangway.)

  • Much of the teak-covered main deck has been overlaid in plywood to provide an even walking surface, but there are places where the decks are uneven.

  • Currently, there are no restrooms onboard USS Iowa. Restrooms are available near the ticket office, and there are a few porta-potties in the parking lot.

  • No food is available onboard, except for candy, sodas and water, which you can purchase in the gift shop.

  • Senior and military discounts are available. Residents of Iowa who show a valid state driver's license may tour the ship for free.

Battleship USS Iowa Address and Contact Information

250 South Harbor Blvd.

Berth 87

San Pedro, CA 90731

Telephone: 877-4-IOWA-61 (877-446-9261)

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