Iowa’s Battleship Legacy
USS Iowa BB-61 was one of four battleships in the Iowa Class, the finest class of battleship ever built. The Iowa class battleships had an unmatched combination of firepower, armor and speed.
The USS Iowa BB-61 was built in the New York Shipyards. The ship was christened by Vice President (and Iowa native) Henry A. Wallace’s wife, Ilo Browne Wallace, when she popped a bottle of champagne on the ship’s bow on February 22 1943.The ship officially entered service in August 1943, part of Operation Tirpitz Watch. The crew was charged with watching the German Battleship, Tirpitz. Tirpitz posed a threat against Allied Forces and Supply Convoys traveling the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.
In November 1943, the USS Iowa carried President Roosevelt and select members of his staff to the secret Tehran Conference, where he met with Stalin and Churchill. Before boarding the ship, architects had a special bathtub installed in the Presidential Suite to accommodate President Roosevelt’s polio.
Less than a year later, the USS Iowa BB-61 was moved to the Pacific Coast of the United States. As a member of the Pacific Fleet Task Force 58, USS Iowa BB-61 supported carrier strikes against the Japanese in the Philippine Sea in throughout 1944, until the Japanese surrender.
On September 2, 1945, the Japanese surrendered on the USS Missouri BB-63, an Iowa Class Battleship. The USS Iowa BB-61 was just miles away serving communication needs of the US Navy.
In 1958 the USS Iowa BB-61 was decommissioned. It was recommissioned in 1982 after being refitted for modern combat. USS Iowa BB-61 was used in the Korean War.
Throughout its service, USS Iowa BB-61 was home to one of many Navy service dogs: Victory. Regularly called ‘Vicky,’ the pup was tasked with keeping the crew’s morale high. She is commonly considered the most traveled dog in the US Navy.
After a 1989 explosion of the 16-inch turrets aboard the ship, USS Iowa BB-61 was finally decommissioned. Along with the three other Iowa Class Battleships, the USS Iowa BB- 61 had become too expensive to maintain. Due to defense budget cuts and a lack of Soviet threat after the fall of the USSR, the ship was decommissioned for the last time in the 1990s.
After decommissioning, the USS Iowa BB-61 was reconditioned and moved to a permanent home at the Pacific Battleship Center in Los Angles. Today, the ship is open as the only battleship museum on the West Coast, commemorating its service to the United States.
Sarah Grant and her talented team of designers and artists created interpretive panels, telling the story of the USS Iowa BB-61. Awaiting transportation to the battleship, they can be found on display in the atrium of the State Historical Building of Iowa. Additionally, the State Historical Museum of Iowa has original silver from the USS Iowa BB-61 on display in an exhibit on the second-floor of the building.