U.S.S. Iowa Sails Out of Bay on "Last Mission" (Photos)
It's a somewhat poignant moment in a long and strange journey for the 887-foot onetime pride of the U.S. fleet. The Iowa was the fastest American battleship in the World War II era, and was docked in Tokyo bay on the final day of the war. Decommissioned in 1990, it was towed to the Bay Area a decade ago to ostensibly serve out its days as a tourist moneymaker floating off San Francisco.
It was not to be. The Board of Supervisors blocked the docking of a war machine associated with a homophobic entity here, leaving the Iowa to rust in Suisun Bay for the better part of a decade while various groups undertook the seemingly quixotic task of raising funds to rehabilitate the aging "Big Stick" and tow it to competing California docks.
SF Weekly documented the yearslong struggle to find a decent home for the derelict battleship with several stories. Antiwar sentiment, internal bickering, and local politicians' disgust with the Navy's policy on homosexuality doomed San Francisco's hopes to host the Iowa. And, while other municipalities desired it, not many thought enough tourists to make a difference would head to spots like Vallejo or Stockton to see an old battleship. San Francisco -- that might have worked. The ship is currently being towed to Los Angeles to serve as a floating museum there.
|Headed to Richmond, then Los Angeles|
Considering the decrepit condition of the battleship and the iffy proposition of turning it into a revenue-generator, losing it could be a blessing in disguise. And, this way, the erstwhile pride of the Navy avoids a fate as an artificial coral reef or massive target for current naval forces.
The photos accompanying this story were snapped by Gabor Gardonyi, SF Weekly's favorite floating photographer. The hulking ship passed by Gardonyi's tugboat with the aid of three other tugs -- the Goliath, Delta Cathryn, and Marshall Foss.
"For those of us who saw her while she was still sailing, it was a touching moment," writes Gardonyi. "Think fondly of those who proudly served on her and imagine the sound those guns made."
|Mothball fleet escapee|