Byline: Taylor Hill
SAN PEDRO — The Los Angeles Harbor Commission voted unanimously May 17 to create a new home for the historic battleship USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles’ Berth 87, along Los Angeles Harbor’s main channel.
After 11 years in Northern California, spending most of that time resting alongside other warship relics in Suisun Bay’s “Ghost Fleet,” the 887-foot-long battleship will leave the Port of Richmond docks and be towed out under the Golden Gate Bridge. Soon, the ship will be anchored outside Los Angeles Harbor, as more repair and cleanup of the vessel is needed before the vessel can be moved into its new home.
At the May 17 meeting, the Harbor Commission also approved the lease agreement and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) necessary to bring the World War II icon to the San Pedro waterfront, where it will be converted to an interactive naval museum and living memorial. The floating museum is scheduled to open to the public July 7.
“Los Angeles is thrilled to welcome a national treasure that has served our nation so faithfully, for so long,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “It is with great pride that our city, our port and our community say ‘Welcome Home’ to USS Iowa.”
After being towed to Richmond — where repainting and restoration work began — USS Iowa was scheduled to arrive in San Pedro Bay May 24, but an extended period of strong winds off the central California coast had delayed the tow. With gale-force winds forecast through the week, USS Iowa is most likely to make the trip after Memorial Day weekend.
Plans were made for the vessel to receive a warm welcome to include a rendezvous with S.S. Lane Victory, a ship from the same era also berthed at the Port of Los Angeles.
Initially, USS Iowa will be anchored outside the harbor breakwater for hull cleaning, for two to four days. Following the cleaning, the ship will be towed to a temporary berth in the outer harbor before it is towed to Berth 87, where it will be moored year-round.
The Harbor Commission’s actions allow USS Iowa to berth at the port for the next decade, and the agreement includes two five-year renewal options.
“As America’s leading port, Los Angeles is the ideal home for the leading ship of her class,” said Robert Kent, director of Pacific Battleship Center. The center was awarded the ship over the Vallejo-based Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square, which had also sought the historic battleship. “This national gateway for global trade will be the new base from which this great ship will begin a new era of public service.”
Tasked with operating the ship as a museum, Pacific Battleship Center will offer guided tours and educational programs expected to include overnight stays and youth camps. Future plans for USS Iowa’s Berth 87 include a two-story landside visitors’ center with additional museum space and expanded educational offerings.
“Today’s action breathes new life into a battleship that protected our nation for half a century,” said Harbor Commission president Cindy Miscikowski. “It marks the new chapter in our ongoing efforts to build a world-class port by supporting another important Southern California industry — international tourism — while providing a significant bonus of showcasing pride in our nation’s history.”
Commissioned in 1943, the namesake of the Iowa class of battleships took part in every major military conflict from World War II until the post-Cold War period, when it was decommissioned in 1990. Nicknamed “The Big Stick,” the 887-foot vessel was once the greatest naval ship of its era, thanks to its big guns, heavy armor, fast speed, longevity and modern technology.
Over the course of its many tours, USS Iowa was host to more U.S. presidents than any other battleship. Its operations included taking President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Tehran in 1943 for a secret meeting with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. More than four decades later, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan boarded the ship to celebrate the restoration and centenary of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor July 4, 1986.
“I’m excited to join San Pedro and all of Los Angeles in welcoming USS Iowa to her new home,” said Congresswoman Janice Hahn. “Iowa will become an educational tool and attraction for people all over the country, igniting another fuse of job creation and economic opportunity in the South Bay.”