The USS Iowa — the last surviving World War II battleship without a home — will head to the Port of Los Angeles to stand as a permanent museum and memorial to battleships, the Navy said Tuesday.
The nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center, which has been working to bring the ship to Los Angeles, beat out the San Francisco Bay area city of Vallejo. The Navy's decision also comes six years after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted against making a public display of the ship in that city, citing local opposition to the Iraq war and the military's stance on gays, among other things.
The nearly 900-foot battleship must be rehabilitated in San Francisco Bay before it can be towed down the California coast, Pacific Battleship Center president Robert Kent said. That should happen in late October, when unusually high tides are expected in the bay, he said.
The Iowa's new home will offer 4 1/2 acres of parking space in North America's busiest seaport, adjacent to the World Cruise Center, where cruise ships dock and flocks of tourists could tour the Iowa.
"Our focus for our museum will be on the history of the battleships, not only the Iowa being the ultimate in design, but we'll be focusing from the very beginnings" of the massive vessels, Kent said.
President Franklin Roosevelt traveled home aboard the USS Iowa after the 1943 Tehran conference of allied leaders, where he met with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to plan war strategies against Nazi Germany.
The 45,000-ton ship, which towers 15 stories above the water line, engaged in battles in the Pacific theater during World War II and entered Tokyo Bay with the occupation forces in 1945 where it served as Admiral William F. Halsey's flagship for the surrender ceremony. The battleship later served off Korea's eastern shores during that conflict.
In 1989, the USS Iowa suffered one of the nation's deadliest military accidents after 47 sailors were killed in an explosion during a training exercise. Before being decommissioned in 1990, it served as an escort for oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
The Iowa was towed to San Francisco from Rhode Island in 2001, after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., helped secure $3 million to bring it to San Francisco in hopes of making it a tourist attraction at Fisherman's Wharf. Four years later, Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, called the city's supervisors' 8-3 vote against the idea a "very petty decision."
The Iowa's sister boats are already serving as museums: The USS Missouri is docked at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the USS Wisconsin is docked in Norfolk, Va., and the USS New Jersey is docked in the state it is named for.
The Iowa and the Wisconsin will be maintained to avoid rust and other mechanical problems in the unlikely event the ships are ever needed in war, Kent said.