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Cool Off on a Hot Battleship: The Battleship Iowa in Long Beach

Franklin D. Roosevelt's flagship for trip to Tehran to meet Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin in 1943


Alyssa Ganezer

Volunteer shows a visitor how to hold a hundred-pound bag of gunpowder . The USS Iowa boasts special quarters created for Franklin D. Roosevelt for his trip to Tehran to meet with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in 1943

Battleships, once thought to be the ultimate weapon, are now a relic of the past. For a chance to visit this past - and enjoy 360-degree breeze-swept views of Los Angeles Harbor, the USS Iowa at Berth 87, is a great place to go.

A self-guided tour takes one in and out of sailors' quarters, mess halls and up and down ladders leading to almost all levels of the ship's significant superstructure and winding around the impressive armaments. It's easy to get distracted by views of yachts sailing in and out of the channel and the work of the giant cranes unloading ships from China.

The USS Iowa, Battleship 61, was constructed beginning in 1939 and completed in 1942. She's the only battleship of her class to have served in the Atlantic during World War II. Her biggest claim to fame is possibly the special quarters created for Franklin D. Roosevelt for his trip to Tehran to meet with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in 1943. A bathtub - the only one in the entire navy - was installed in his quarters as well as an elevator to transport him between decks. Roosevelt had suffered polio and was paralyzed from the waist down.

Upon her transfer to the Pacific Fleet in 1944, the Iowa participated in shelling of beachheads in the Marshall Islands and was present at the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay. After some service during the Korean War, the Iowa was mothballed until 1984, with Ronald Reagan sought to beef up the navy's fleet. Following a tragic accident in 1989 in which 47 sailors were killed by a mysterious explosion in her No. 2 gun turret, the Iowa was decommissioned for the final time.

Alyssa Ganezer

View of the famous 16-inch guns on the foredeck, USS Iowa Battleship, Long Beach.

In other words, there's a lot to see here, especially if you're at all interested in World War II, the navy, or armaments.

Parking is easy, right next to the ship in her permanent home. A ramp onto the ship shifts in steepness according to the tide, but they'll get you onboard if you're in a wheelchair, no matter the time of the month or day. Prices are discounted for military, seniors, and children. They're not cheap, but this tub receives no government money and relies entirely on admission and donations.

Often, you run into a few of the tens of thousands of men who served aboard the USS Iowa during her more than 50 year tour of duty. Some of them are volunteer docents. Talking to them is in itself, worth the drive to Long Beach.

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