Battleship Iowa CEO Has Received U.S. Navy’s Most Prestigious Civilian Award: Since 2012, the USS Iowa (BB-61), the lead ship of the United States Navy’s final and largest class of battleships, has been preserved as a maritime museum in the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. During her lengthy service, the battleship earned 11 battle stars and hosted three U.S. presidents, which earned her the nickname “Battleship of Presidents.”
A new honor has recently been bestowed – not on the famous battleship, but rather to Jonathan Williams, president and CEO of the Pacific Battleship Center and president of the LA Fleet Week Foundation. The Department of the Navy awarded Mr. Williams the Distinguished Public Service Award, the U.S. Navy’s highest award for non-military civilians. It was presented to Williams by Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro, during the Surface Navy Association’s 34th National Symposium in Arlington, Virginia, earlier this month.
“Since bringing USS Iowa to the Los Angeles waterfront in 2012, Jonathan has transformed the historic ship into a world-class museum that brings history to life and has made it a community platform that provides programming that gives back to the public through education, veteran and community programs,” said Rear Admiral Mike Shatynski, U.S. Navy (Retired), chairman of the board of the National Museum of the Surface Navy. “He was key in bringing LA Fleet Week to the Port of Los Angeles and establishing the first and only national museum dedicated to the Surface Navy aboard Battleship USS Iowa. Jonathan’s leadership and achievements have provided immense benefits to the Navy and those who have served and he is most deserving of this award.”
Williams was recognized for his exceptional contributions to the Navy from July 2008 to July 2021 through the leadership and vision he provided for the Battleship Iowa Museum, Los Angeles Fleet Week, and the National Museum of the Surface Navy, which is scheduled to formally open on Oct. 13, 2025 on the 250th birthday of America’s Surface Navy.
Among the many of Williams’ accomplishments include the establishment of the USS Iowa as a Navy-licensed national museum that provides direct and indirect support to the Navy. Since arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, the battleship has also become a “top five” tourist attraction and museum in the city.
“I am deeply humbled to receive this award in recognition of my ongoing commitment to our Navy and those who serve,” said Williams. “This award was made possible by the support of my family and friends, and the incredible commitment of our crew and supporters. Each of these individuals are owed a tremendous debt of gratitude and I accept this award on the behalf of each of them.”
Williams is in good company. Past recipients of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award have included actor Tom Hanks for his work in films including 2020’s Greyhound, Sybil Stockdale for her support of prisoners of war (POWs) and their families during the Vietnam War, and Joe Rosenthal for his iconic photo of United States Marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima in World War II.
Peter Suciu, a Forbes Magazine Contributing Writer, is a Michigan-based journalist 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.