All Aboard the USS IOWA

by Dennis Richardson
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Southern California anchors a unique, historical museum located within the charming coastal city of San Pedro. Beyond the glitter of the entertainment industry, San Pedro is home to a perfect combination of land meets the ocean while education and discovery are synonymous with fun. Locals consider the area, home to the Port of Los Angeles, one of the world’s largest harbors, a California ideal for businesses, history, and tourism. Here’s what visitors can look forward to when they book a visit to the USS Iowa in this beautiful coastal city.

USS Iowa: A History Lesson

The battleship Iowa is possibly one of the best-kept secrets in Southern California and is an experience unlike any other. Visitors can expect to spend about 2 hours or more at the battleship, depending on their tickets and tour type. Daily tours include visits to see the massive guns on the U.S. Navy ship, the officer’s wardroom, President Roosevelt’s cabin, the armored bridge, mess decks, helicopter deck, missile decks, and other areas. With six tours to choose from, each visitor experience caters to age and accessibility, desired pace, group size, and exclusive access to usually unavailable parts of the battleship.

With a length of over 800 feet, the USS Iowa, also known as “The Big Stick” in 1952, and “The Grey Ghost” during the Korean War, is the last lead ship of any class of United States battleships, and was the only ship of her class to have served in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. To experience the USS Iowa is a walk into a virtual time capsule. As if frozen in time, various interior and exterior fixtures, weapons, designs, tools, and technology from 1940 and later lie throughout the ship, setting a stage for the significant role that the USS Iowa played in our U.S. and world history.

Though it served during World War II, the Korean War, and through the Cold War, the USS Iowa has stood the test of time, receiving occasional renovations, refurbishments, upgrades, and repairs. She earned 11 battle stars during her career and even hosted three U.S. Presidents — Franklin, Reagan, and H.W. Bush. Though it may not seem like it today with the fantasy of movies and special effects, the USS Iowa is the largest and most powerful ship of its time and ever built.

What to Expect

The USS Iowa opened in Los Angeles, (her final placement) on July 4, 2012, to a crowd of over 1,500 supporters and veterans at Port of Los Angeles Berth 87. The USS Iowa Museum offers daily tours, group programs, education visits, special events, filming, military ceremonies, and is in the process of starting an overnight program. Today, dozens of veterans volunteer in guided tours, and assist in the daily operations, like cleaning, maintenance and upkeep.

The battleship is an enormous floating vertical and horizontal labyrinth of steel corridors on the inside. The exteriors showcase an intimidating vessel marked by the scars of past wars. Standing on any part of the deck will boast incredible panoramic views of the San Pedro Harbor. It’s difficult to imagine living onboard an armed ship in the peaks of various wars; It was no easy task for anyone aboard the ship. With tight quarters, halls, and passages throughout, the amount of human effort, coordination, agility, and caution necessary to keep the USS Iowa seafaring is unimaginable. It’s important to consider that this is a vessel that while sailing the oceans protectively, housed thousands of men. Space was insufficient, and everyone had a required duty to fulfill. Even more important is that in the height of the war, even the ship had no safety zone. In fact, the most dangerous places to be during storms, and when the ship’s guns were in use was in the open and on deck.

Undoubtedly an educational experience that is not only fun but incredibly immersive, the USS Iowa is a destination that brings the lifestyles of on-duty United States members of the armed forces from early last century into clear perspective. It is an opportunity that may be overlooked by many who visit Battleship Iowa today but those touring gain insight as well as an appreciation for many aspects of history and the wartime experience including how far our we have advanced in technologically in a short time.

John, a helpful volunteer tour guide.

Dave and Doug, two other volunteer tour guides.

Once considered to be the United States’ premier “state of the art” battleship, has now become a legendary and well-respected piece of our history. We encourage exploring the USS Iowa with family and friends understanding first-hand why the “Battleship of The Presidents” maintains it’s unique place in American history.

Parking, Location, and Admission

The Museum is located at Berth 87 at the Los Angeles World Cruise Port Terminal at the LA Waterfront / Port of Los Angeles. The Battleship Iowa Museum shares the parking lot with the World Cruise Terminal.

Parking is accessible from 1st Street & Harbor Boulevard.

The first hour of parking is free, and each additional hour is $2 with a maximum of $18 per day.

Battleship Iowa Museum
250 South Harbor Blvd.
San Pedro, CA 90731

Tours Available:

Full Steam Ahead: Visitors are allowed exclusive access to areas of the ship not viewed by the general public, such as the Engine Room.

Self-Guided: Download Battleship Iowa’s award-winning mobile app for Google Play or Itunes. Guests explore areas permitted for public access by the USS Iowa Museum at their own pace by using today’s technology.

Group: Discounted admission rates for groups larger than 10.

Senior Group:  We provide a guided tour experience through history with areas that are easily accessible.

Curator’s Tour: A VIP experience allowing guests to tour the USS Iowa Battleship and Museum while accompanied by a member of the ship’s crew.

After a day of exploration aboard the USS Iowa, consider visiting Pappy’s Seafood in along downtown San Pedro’s charming Sixth Street. It’s lively and delicious dining experience — only five minutes away!

Site developed by Wicked Code, Inc. and funded by The Edward E. & Marie L. Matthews Foundation •  Photos by Rick Stipa Photography
Other photos - US Navy Archives and National Archives

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