Battleship Iowa to Become First National Museum of the Surface Navy? USS Iowa (BB-61) was the lead vessel of the United States Navy’s final class of battleships to be constructed. She served with distinction during the Second World War and after undergoing a significant modernization in the 1980s was back in service at the tail end of the Cold War. It is thus fitting that the warship – one of four of the largest and most powerful battleships to be built for the U.S. Navy – could be the future home of the first National Museum of the Surface Navy.
Last week significant progress was made when the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution designating the battleship as the first and only museum in the nation dedicated to the men and women who have served in the surface forces of the United States Navy. The legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-Calif.) and in the United States Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Now that it has passed the house, it will next head to the senate, where it is expected to be approved by the end of the month. Then it will go to President Joe Biden for signature.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has previously voted to support the museum proposal in 2020.
USS Iowa: Honoring the Surface Navy
The future museum, which will still be based around the historic battle wagon, seeks to honor and pay tribute to all those who traveled on the ocean’s surface to defend the country since its founding. A fundraising campaign has been ongoing for the museum, which is necessary as the costs are expected to be in excess of $60 million.
The current plan is to open the museum on October 13, 2025 – the 250th birthday of the U.S. Navy.
Included in the overall plan is to move the historic battleship from its current location on the San Pedro waterfront – where it has been since 2012– south to the Southern Pacific Slip. This will enable the warship and museum to be closer to the new waterfront development, dubbed West Harbor, which set to open in 2023.
“This legislation honors the men and women who have served — and continue to serve — in the surface forces of the United States,” Rep. Barragan told reporters last week, “by designating this museum as a monument to their sacrifice.”
History of the USS Iowa
Planning for the Iowa-class actually began prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Seeing the clouds of war on the horizon, the U.S. Navy called for a “fast battleship” that could take on the increasing power projected by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Laid down on June 6, 1940, she was completed on February 22, 1943, and just two days later was put to sea for a shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay and then along the Atlantic coast.
Commissioned in 1943, BB-61 was considered the most powerful American warship of its time. She served in the Pacific during World War II, transporting President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the first transatlantic leg of his journey to the 1943 Tehran Conference with other Allied leaders.
USS Iowa spent the rest of the Second World War in the Pacific, where she took part in the Marshal and Mariana Islands Campaigns, the Okinawa Campaign and in the summer of 1945 even took part in strikes on the Japanese home islands. She joined her sister ship, USS Missouri (BB-63) during the September 2 surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay, and BB-61 then remained in the bay as part of the occupying force.
She was decommissioned after the Second World War but returned to duty twice. USS Iowa was decommissioned a final time in October 1990, and since 2012 she has been preserved as a museum ship. Now she could honor not only those who served on her during war and peacetime, but also will preserve the history of all those who sailed the oceans of the world as part of the U.S. Navy’s surface force for the past two and a half centuries.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Suciu is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes Magazine.