U.S.S. Iowa Sails Out of Bay on "Last Mission" (Photos)

Categories: Local News
Iowa 01.jpg
Gabor Gardonyi
Anchors aweigh...
Just over an hour ago, the mighty U.S.S Iowa sailed beneath the Carquinez Bridge and past Mare Island, soon to leave the bay forever on the last voyage of the "last battleship."

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.

Iowa 02.jpg
Gabor Gardonyi
Headed to Richmond, then Los Angeles
It seems there is nothing Northern California can possess that Southern California cannot take away (first our water, then our ships!). This loss comes with silver linings, however.

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."

Iowa 03.jpg
Gabor Gardonyi
Mothball fleet escapee
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q
q

Some great comments here, love the positive stuff. It's time past for all the negativity. The LA group played fair, has its act together, has financial backing, and I believe they will succeed in making the battleship much more than the rusting cast-off it had become.

I watched her pass by Crockett, too, and what an amazing sight that was! I got chills! Iwent down to Richmond to watch her pull in. Now, before she leaves for LA next year, anyone can go aboard her for 10 bucks, kids 5. They are very informative and friendly folks. Most of them are volunteers! I've been following on facebook www.facebook.com/pacificbattle....The tour info is online, too, www.pacificbattleship.com/blog .

When you stand on her deck up by the 16-inch guns, you can try to imagine them firing shells weighing more than 2,000 pounds -- and over 20 miles away! 

Jack Fox
Jack Fox

Don't you just love out pouring of Patriotism for the USS Iowa here.  This ship is actually in very good condition! This ship represents a time in history before political correctness started dictating so much of daily life. News Flash for San Franciscans....NOT EVERYBODY AGREES WITH YOUR CITIES HOMOSEXUAL STANCE!  

The USS Iowa spent thirty years in mothballs prior to being updated in the 1980s. She actually looked worse leaving Philapdeliphia in 1983 than she does now!  Like most all vessels in the process of being donated for museum status....a few months of polishing, teak work, and a coat of paint, and she'll look showroom new.

These ships were meant to fight wars and they were designed from the outset for the rigors of the open oceans. Its not likely that ten years at an anchorage is going to much more than create a few stains. Again, San Francisco and its BS Politics. 

J FoxUSAF Veteran

BB61
BB61

I was born and raised in the State of Iowa and had the opportunity to see our ship BB61 on a boat tour in late March of 2010 to the mothball fleet.  Talked to people on that same tour that live in San Francisco County and heard the stories.  What a pity for that area.  I knew for certain then that the Iowa had no future there despite the noble efforts of the local organization to perserve her.  We got amazing late March pictures of the "Big Stick" on that clear day.  Look forward to our LA trip to walk on her deck.  Buy the way, if FDR had lived to the end of the war,  BB61 would be in Pearl and BB63 would have been searching for a home all these years.  Check it out. 

Marine Corps veteran
Marine Corps veteran

Joe, it is a shame that you disrespected so many with your article. First, you should report the news and not comment on it. Second, you should consider a new line of work because journalism just isn't the right fit for you. Perhaps you should join the military and you may learn a few things like honor and respect.

A Veteran
A Veteran

Joe Eskenazi is an idiot for writing this article. He knows nothing about the pride of this ship and this event in the lives and hearts of veterans whom this symbolizes.  The attitude of him to snub his nose at  the history of the U.S. Military and those who have fought and died for the very freedom that he takes for granted. He wakes up every day like many others living in the bubble of the Bay Area unaware of the sacrifice that volunteered American citizens have made (straight and gay) to protect his freedom of speech to treat this prideful event as some communistic warmongering state.  He is also unaware of the rich military history of the Bay Area and how the millions of Americans whom lived and worked here, before he was ever born, have helped preserve those very rights that he takes for granted.  I was there that day, and I talked to many whom were there for the same reason I was there: Love, Honor, Duty, Remembrance.  Perhaps Joe Eskenazi should write like a real reporter and just tell the news of the day to the readers and not venture his personal opinion. By the way Joe, the gay veterans also think you are  disrespectful for writing this article.

Markkatzman
Markkatzman

BS....all of the garbage of homophobic entity is sickening. Shame on S Francisco.

tbm3fan
tbm3fan

Lived in San Francisco the whole 90's and the Board of Supervisors were morons then and they are still morons today. All one has to do is look at the USS Midway in San Diego to see what the Iowa would have done in an international destination like San Francisco. The Iowa would have outdrawn the Midway which does a pretty good job in just a national destination. Oh well, at least the people getting her in San Pedro are the best qualified to care for her. Many did the plans and actual work on the Iowa Class when they were recommissioned in the 80's.

Jack Fox
Jack Fox

Now this guy has the correct approach!

Jim Eddy
Jim Eddy

Gabor, thanks for such great photos. I was at the same location and time. Your photos are way better  than mine. Beautiful day on the bay to photograph the USS Iowa.

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