A Seabee stows away on a battleship: touring the USS Iowa (BB-61)

They’ll let anybody on this here ship – literally

I first saw her picture on in a book about WWII as a kid. It was love at first sight.

Commissioned in 1943, the USS Iowa was the flagship of her class of battleships that included the USS New Jersey (BB-62), USS Missouri (BB-63, where the Japanese surrender papers were signed in Tokyo Bay), the USS Wisconsin (BB-64), and two other ships which were cancelled after partial completion, the USS Illinois (BB-65), and the USS Kentucky (BB-66). All the commissioned ships exist today as museums, like the USS Iowa.

The USS Iowa Museum is in San Pedro, California today, after Iowa was towed there from San Francisco last May, an event I followed online, thinking maybe I had a chance to see her “underway”, even if from a distance. It wasn’t to be, she was too far out to sea to see, you see.

I got my first glimpse of her while driving and craning my neck, but the first photo I could safely take was this one:

Up above the armored bridge, I had the best view forward of the big 16″ forward main battery:


The 16″ guns have to be seen up close to appreciate:

Yeah, that’s plywood protecting her teak wood deck slats from traffic.

A solemn moment, when I came to Turret 2, which was the site of a deadly turret explosion in the late 1980s that killed 47 men:

If you remember the incident from back when it happened, all kinds of rumors flew around about potential causes for the blast, but basically it boils down to this: “…despite all efforts no certain answer regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found”.

I found something I could more easily relate to as a former Boiler Technician beneath the forward stack, the boiler uptakes:

The tan area is where hot exhaust gasses from the boiler firebox rise up and out the stack, while cooler air is sucked in through the grates and pre-heated on it’s way down to the forced-draft blowers that feed air to the beast. Noisy place to stand while underway, but the cool air being sucked down past you as you lean on the grate feels pretty good.

There are more areas opening up someday soon. One crewman I spoke with told be the main engineering spaces and turret areas will open as soon as they are allowed to connect to shore power. I don’t know what the deal is with that, if it’s a political thing or what, but currently the Iowa museum has to run what lights it can off a CAT diesel generator set on the pier, which needless to say costs them a lot of money. I have the feeling if it was a cruise ship tied to that same dock, plugging in to shore power wouldn’t be a problem. Maybe someone with some lungs down there will shout a bit and get some action?

Another thing needing action – the USS Iowa would like to decorate for Christmas, but they have no lights to decorate with.

They put out the call of their Facebook site for assistance:

Ladies & Gentleman. We need your help. Christmas is around the corner & we, as a non-profit organization are in need of Christmas Lights to decorate our Nations Battleship. We do not have any. When the Battleship IOWA was an active Navy Ship she won the award for best dressed Ship during the Hoildays every year when in port. We are looking for anyone that can donate lights to the Pacific Battleship Center. It is for a worthy cause & something you can say you did for your Country’s last remaining Battleship to be saved & best performing Naval Vessel ever to sail. Please send us a private message here on Facebook with information if you are interested. Thank you very much & God Bless America.

I’m thinking rather than mass mailings of lights, if someone has a contact at Target or Home Depot, or a lighting store, maybe they could help them out? If you have some to drop off, their address is Pacific Battleship Center, 250 S Harbor Blvd, San Pedro, CA 90731.

Their Facebook site is here, go “Like” them and if you’re in the Long Beach area any time in the near future, go check out the USS Iowa Museum.

It was weird, this is kind of an afterthought, but the moment I stepped aboard, all the smells and feelings from the ship I was stationed on came flooding back. It felt like…home I guess.


About Erick Brockway

Living in Camarillo, CA, about 45 miles North of LA. I have a son, and two daughters. Working two jobs (welcome to California life), plus a (now retired) reservist in the US Navy Seabees so life is busy!
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2 Responses to A Seabee stows away on a battleship: touring the USS Iowa (BB-61)

  1. Mustang.Koji says:

    I have been neglect in visiting this proud lady. She is but 20 minutes from me (notwithstanding traffic) but plan to visit her soon… I am glad you were able to walk on her deck and thank you for your service…and Seabees have the reputation for being naughty – like stowing on board!

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