CEO Update February 1, 2021

Surface Navy Museum and IOWA Family:

I am happy to say that L.A. is beginning to recover slowly from the most recent shutdown. Local restaurants have reopened outdoor dining and our weekend attendance was better than expected, but still a long way from normal. We haven’t seen the final numbers from January yet, but suspect that it may have been one of our most challenging months financially since the beginning of the pandemic. As mentioned earlier in January, it was important to lighten up on the number of donation appeals early in the year, but there is no doubt this decision has had an effect on us.

We still need your support, so we are hoping that our new silent auction will be a refreshing break from the regular requests we send for contributions. We are blessed to have numerous experiences that have been donated for the silent auction and we hope that you choose to bid on one or more of them. Thank you to the donors of these items and kudos to the team that helped assemble the online auction.

Big Stick Silent Auction


Registration to watch or bid on an item is easy. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to our BiddingOwl site.
  2. In the upper right hand corner of the page, you will see “Please Login / Register.” Click on that link to create a bidder account and you’re ready to go! (Note: You will NOT be required to provide a credit card number at this time.)
  3. Once you have successfully set up an account you will receive an email from BiddingOwl requesting that you “Activate your account.”
  4. Click on the activation link in the email from BiddingOwl and you’re all set!
  5. Be sure to write down your login information (email address and password) and bookmark our silent auction website page for future bidding and item monitoring. When you return to the site you will simply click on “Login” and enter your information.

If you have any questions or encounter any difficulty please feel free to email us for support.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be presenting ideas and concepts on the Freedom of the Seas community park. The team has assembled some great ideas and received conceptual drawings created by a generous architect. We are reaching out to supporters and the public to gauge reactions to this concept, as we prepare a major grant to fund this community-oriented project. Stay tuned for an email with the date and time when you can join us to review these plans and provide input.

Speaking of Freedom of the Seas, we will be hosting our first annual Freedom of the Seas Awards in 2021. After receiving feedback, we decided to finally nail down the date on October 22 and 23, 2021 in honor of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. This engagement was the largest Surface Navy action during WWII and quite possibly the largest naval battle in world history. Our crew will remember fellow crew member Bob Despain and his stories about Leyte Gulf. Bob served aboard the USS Hoel and experienced the first hand effects of this intense battle. We are proud to be able to honor the Battle of Leyte Gulf with the Freedom of the Seas awards.

Thank you to those of you that joined us last Thursday for a virtual session in which host Simon Conway interviewed RADM Mike Shatynski and me. We have heard that it was enjoyable, entertaining, and educational. We plan to do more sessions like this one in the coming months, as well as include other interviewees in the conversation.



I have been asked a few questions over the past couple of weeks by some folks seeking clarification on our transition to become the National Museum of the Surface Navy. I suspect there are others with these questions, so I will answer them here as well.

Q. What is the best way to keep people updated on the National Museum of the Surface Navy and what’s happening?
A. Our tech team has worked hard to streamline our processes to unify multiple platforms that we utilize. The best way to stay up-to-date is to simply sign up to be a Plank Owner (for free or as a donor). This designation will add you to our email lists and register you for the benefits that come with being a Plank Owner. In 2021, we will begin Haze Gray for Plank Owners, which will somewhat mirror what is commonly known as a membership or points based program.

Q. We are concerned that the IOWA will lose its identity during the National Museum of the Surface Navy transition. How will you prevent this from happening?
A. Our roots are with the Battleship IOWA, which is why we have named the museum the National Museum of the Surface Navy at the Battleship IOWA. We will never lose this identity and instead see the IOWA as one of the iconic ships that represents the Surface Navy. The IOWA is artifact #1 and it is a real world representation of the Surface Navy, as well as an in-situ environment we don’t need to recreate in a building. Secondarily, by constructing the museum on board the IOWA, we can ensure that the ship receives the level of attention it requires versus investing in a building and neglecting the ship. In our opinion, it is a win-win.

Q. When do you think things will return to normal for visitation at the IOWA?
A.  As much as I wish it was now, that is simply not the case. Tourism to Los Angeles is highly dependent on in-bound traffic from out of the area.  I believe that we will see significant changes when indoor museums are permitted to reopen, followed by the reopening of Disneyland.  Unfortunately I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect it is going to be late spring to summer before we see Disneyland reopen.  We have several months to go and will continue to need your support to weather it.

Drop us a note and let us know what questions you may have. We will do our best to answer them.

My best wishes for a safe and enjoyable week!

Jonathan Williams
President and CEO

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