[restrict] Four mighty, Iowa-class battleships were built during World War II. First authorized in 1938 through the Second Vinson Act passed by Congress, the USS Iowa, USS Missouri, USS New Jersey, and the USS Wisconsin were built from 1940-1943, the last four battleships constructed for the U.S. Navy. All four ships are living history museums today.
To touch history, visitors can stand on the deck of the USS Missouri where Japan formally surrendered to the Allies on Sept. 2, 1945.
And visitors can see the bathtub built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) on the USS Iowa. He used it during his voyage to the Tehran Conference in November 1943 where Allied leaders (Stalin, FDR and Churchill) agreed on the D-Day invasion the following spring.
In 2019, Student News Net toured both battleships. The USS Missouri is docked near the sunken USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The USS Iowa is docked in San Pedro, California near Long Beach.
Today’s focus will be on the USS Iowa, an important part of Arsenal of Democracy and D-Day history.
The massive, almost 900-foot long battleship was built in the Brooklyn Naval Yards in Brooklyn, New York. Her keel was laid down on June 27, 1940. Iowa was the first in the new class of battleships that were built to be large, agile and fast. As a battleship, it had many types of powerful guns that served two purposes. First, the guns were a powerful weapon in battle. Second, the guns served as a deterrent to enemies thinking about taking aggressive steps against the United States or its Allies.
During World War II, 2,800 sailors called the Iowa home. When she deployed, the ship had enough food for six months. That’s a lot of meat and potatoes! One meal of beef stew for the crew required more than 600 pounds of meat.
She was commissioned on Feb. 22, 1943 and left two days later for her “shakedown” cruise along the Atlantic coast. Amazingly, the USS Iowa was built in about two years. The battleship is a floating city with miles of wiring, steel reinforced floors with teak decks, and fuel tanks that stored 2.5 million gallons.
Don’t forget she was built in the 1940s when architects and engineers calculated everything by hand or mechanical calculators. Slide rules were everywhere. Computers were nowhere. The ship was a high tech engineering marvel.
She was part of the “arsenal of democracy” for which FDR advocated in 1940 to defeat German and Japanese aggression against sovereign countries.
During Student News Net’s tour, Craig Post, USS Iowa tour manager, said when the ship was brought back to active service in the 1980s and 1990s, her systems for firing guns were accurate. They decided not to computerize them.
FDR on board USS Iowa in 1943
One of Iowa’s most famous missions was her November 1943 journey to take FDR to the Tehran Conference in Iran. There he met with Allied leaders – Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England, and Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union (USSR).
The war was in its fourth year. Stalin had been encouraging the United States and Britain to open up another front along the French coast. The leaders decided to meet from Nov. 28 – Dec. 1 in Iran.
For FDR’s trip to Tehran on the USS Iowa, a bathtub was installed because the president suffered from polio. He had very limited ability to stand. Visitors touring the battleship today can see the bathtub. It’s adjacent to the room where FDR and his war cabinet discussed the invasion, called Operation Overlord (D-Day), on the way to Tehran.
According to the U.S. Department of State, the Tehran Conference accomplished the following:
1) The Allied leaders agreed to an invasion along the French coast by May 1944. Stalin agreed to open up another front to the east of Germany to divert German military assets away from the French coast during the D-Day invasion.
2) Following an Allied victory over Germany, Stalin agreed the Soviet Union would declare war on Japan.
3) The Allied leaders discussed postwar Germany in regards to boundaries and splitting Germany into sections the Allies would administer although final details were not worked out at this conference.
4) The leaders outlined the need for an international body to prevent another world war. The “four policemen” for the world would be the United States, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. This discussion evolved to become the United Nations, established in 1946 after the war ended.
Past meets the present
As visitors tour the USS Iowa, it’s inevitable to see large container ships coming in and out of Long Beach Harbor. Long Beach is a major port for global shipping. It’s the perfect visual to explain why the U.S. Navy is so important as naval ships deploy around the world to keep international shipping lanes open. That has been the U.S. Navy mission since it was formed by Congress in 1798.
Where are the other two Iowa-class battleships? The USS Wisconsin is a museum in Norfolk, Virginia and the USS New Jersey is a museum and memorial in Camden, New Jersey near Philadelphia. [/restrict]