USS Iowa BB 61


"Iowa III

(BB-61: dp. 45,000 t.; l. 887'3"; b. 108'2"; dr. 37'9"; s. 33 k.; cpl. 2,800; a. 9 16", 20 5"; cl. Iowa)

The third Iowa (BB-61) was laid down at the New York Navy Yard on 27 June 1940, launched on 27 August 1942, sponsored by Mrs. Henry A. Wallace, wife of Vice President Wallace, and commissioned on 22 February 1943, with Captain John L. McCrea in command.

On 24 February, Iowa put to sea for shakedown in Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast. She got underway on 27 August for Argentia, Newfoundland to neutralize the threat of the German Battleship Tirpitz, which was reportedly operating in Norwegian waters.

In the fall, Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Casablanca, French Morocco, on the first leg of his journey to the Tehran Conference in November. After the conference, she returned the President to the United States.

As Flagship of Battleship Division 7, Iowa departed the United States on 2 January 1944 for the Pacific Theatre and her combat debut in the campaign for the Marshall Islands. From 29 January to 3 February, she supported carrier air strikes made by Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman's task group against Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls in the Marshall Islands. Her next assignment was to support air strikes against the Japanese Naval base at Truk, Caroline Islands. Iowa, in company with other ships, was detached from the support group on 16 February 1944 to conduct an anti-shipping sweep around Truk to destroy enemy naval vessels escaping to the north. On 21 February, she was underway with the Fast Carrier Task Force 58 while it conducted the first strikes against Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam in the Marianas.

On 18 March, Iowa, flying the flag of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, Commander Battleships, Pacific, joined in the bombardment of Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Although struck by two Japanese 4.7'' projectiles during the action, Iowa suffered negligible damage. She then rejoined Task Force 58 on 30 March and supported air strikes against the Palau Islands and Woleai in the Carolines, which continued for several days.

From 22 to 28 April 1944, Iowa supported air raids on Hollandia, Aitape, and Wakde Islands to support Army forces on Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humboldt Bay in New Guinea. She then joined the Task Force's second strike on Truk, 29-30 April, and bombarded Japanese facilities on Ponape in the Carolines on 1 May.

In the opening phases of the Marianas campaign, Iowa protected the carriers during air strikes on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan on 12 June. Iowa was then detached to bombard enemy installations on Saipan and Tinian on 13-14 June. On 19 June, in an engagement known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Iowa, as part of the battle line of Fast Carrier Task Force 58, helped repel four massive air raids launched by the Japanese Middle Fleet, resulting in the almost complete destruction of Japanese carrier-based aircraft. Iowa then joined in the pursuit of the fleeing enemy Fleet, shooting down one torpedo plane and assisting in splashing another.

Throughout July, Iowa remained off the Marianas supporting air strikes on the Palaus and landings on Guam. After a month's rest, Iowa sortied from Eniwetok as part of the 3rd Fleet and helped support the landings on Peleliu on 17 September. She then protected the carriers during air strikes against the Central Philippines to neutralize enemy air power for the long-awaited invasion of the Philippines. On 10 October, Iowa arrived off Okinawa for a series of air strikes on the Ryukyus and Formosa. She then supported air strikes against Luzon on 15 October and continued this vital duty during General MacArthur's landing on Leyte on 20 October.

In a last-ditch attempt to halt the United States campaign to recapture the Philippines, the Japanese Navy struck back with a three-pronged attack aimed at the destruction of American amphibious forces in Leyte Gulf. Iowa accompanied TF 38 during attacks against the Japanese Central Force as it steamed through the Sibuyan Sea toward San Bernardino Strait. The reported results of these attacks and the apparent retreat of the Japanese Central Force led Admiral Halsey to believe that this force had been ruined as an effective fighting group. Iowa, with Task Force 38, steamed after the Japanese Northern Force off Cape Engaño, Luzon. On 25 October 1944, when the ships of the Northern Force were almost within range of Iowa's guns, word arrived that the Japanese Central Force was attacking a group of American escort carriers off Samar. This threat to the American beachheads forced her to reverse course and steam to support the vulnerable "baby carriers." However, the valiant fight put up by the escort carriers and their screen had already caused the Japanese to retreat, and Iowa was denied a surface action. Following the Battle for Leyte Gulf, Iowa remained in the waters off the Philippines, screening carriers during strikes against Luzon and Formosa. She sailed for the West Coast late in December 1944.

Iowa arrived in San Francisco on 15 January 1945 for overhaul. She sailed on 19 March 1945 for Okinawa, arriving on 15 April 1945. Commencing 24 April 1945, Iowa supported carrier operations which assured American troops vital air superiority during their struggle for that bitterly contested island. She then supported air strikes off southern Kyushu from 25 May to 13 June 1945. Iowa participated in strikes on the Japanese homeland on 14-15 July and bombarded Muroran, Hokkaido, destroying steel mills and other targets. The city of Hitachi on Honshu was given the same treatment on the night of 17-18 July 1945. Iowa continued to support fast carrier strikes until the cessation of hostilities on 15 August 1945.

Iowa entered Tokyo Bay with the occupation forces on 29 August 1945. After serving as Admiral William F. Halsey's flagship for the surrender ceremony on 2 September 1945, Iowa departed Tokyo Bay on 20 September 1945 for the United States.

Arriving in Seattle, Wash., on 15 October 1945, Iowa returned to Japanese waters in January 1946 and became the flagship of the 5th Fleet. She continued this role until she sailed for the United States on 25 March 1946. From that time until September 1948, Iowa operated from West Coast ports, engaging in Naval Reserve and at-sea training, as well as drills and maneuvers with the Fleet. Iowa decommissioned on 24 March 1949. After Communist aggression in Korea necessitated an expansion of the active fleet, Iowa was recommissioned on 25 August 1951, with Captain William R. Smedberg III in command. She operated off the West Coast until March 1952, when she sailed for the Far East. On 1 April 1952, Iowa became the flagship of Vice Admiral Robert T. Briscoe, Commander, 7th Fleet, and departed Yokosuka, Japan, to support United Nations Forces in Korea. From 8 April to 16 October 1952, Iowa was involved in combat operations off the East Coast of Korea. Her primary mission was to aid ground troops by bombarding enemy targets at Songjin, Hungnam, and Kojo, North Korea. During this time, Admiral Briscoe was relieved as Commander, 7th Fleet, by Vice Admiral J. J. Clark, who continued to use Iowa as his flagship until 17 October 1952. Iowa departed Yokosuka, Japan, on 19 October 1952 for overhaul at Norfolk and training operations in the Caribbean Sea.

Iowa embarked midshipmen for at-sea training to Northern Europe in July 1953, and immediately afterward took part in Operation "Mariner," a major NATO exercise, serving as the flagship of Vice Admiral E. T. Woolfidge, commanding the 2nd Fleet. Upon completion of this exercise, until the fall of 1954, Iowa operated in the Virginia Capes area. In September 1954, she became the flagship of Rear Admiral R. E. Libby, Commander, Battleship-Cruiser Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

From January to April 1955, Iowa made an extended cruise to the Mediterranean as the first battleship regularly assigned to the Commander, 6th Fleet. Iowa departed on a midshipman training cruise on 1 June 1955 and upon her return, she entered Norfolk for a 4-month overhaul. Following refit, Iowa continued intermittent training cruises and operational exercises until 4 January 1957, when she departed Norfolk for duty with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. Upon completion of this deployment, Iowa embarked midshipmen for a South American training cruise and joined in the International Naval Review off Hampton Roads, Va., on 13 June 1957.

On 3 September 1957, Iowa sailed for Scotland for NATO Operation "Strikeback." She returned to Norfolk on 28 September 1957 and departed Hampton Roads for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 22 October 1957. She decommissioned on 24 February 1958 and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia.

In the 1980s, reflecting a shift in U.S. naval policy under President Reagan’s administration, the USS Iowa was reactivated and underwent substantial modernization. This included the addition of contemporary weapon systems, such as Tomahawk missiles and Phalanx close-in weapon systems, which drastically enhanced her combat capabilities.

During her reactivated service, the USS Iowa was involved in several notable incidents. In 1984, she was deployed to the Lebanese Civil War, where she conducted bombardments against Druze and Syrian positions in the Beqaa Valley east of Beirut. This operation was a significant example of naval gunfire support during the post-World War II era.

A tragic event marked the USS Iowa's history on April 19, 1989, when an explosion in one of her 16-inch gun turrets killed 47 crew members. This incident brought about intensive investigations and led to changes in ship safety and munitions handling procedures.

The USS Iowa was decommissioned on October 26, 1990, as the Cold War drew to a close and the strategic need for such large battleships decreased. This marked the end of an era for the battleships that had been central to naval warfare in the first half of the 20th century.

In her post-service life, the USS Iowa found a new role as a museum ship. She was donated to the Pacific Battleship Center and is now permanently moored at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California. As a museum, the USS Iowa serves as a living exhibit, preserving the history of American naval power and the evolution of naval warfare.