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USS Iowa (BB-61)

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Laid down: 27 June 1940
Launched:27 August 1942
Commissioned:22 February 1943
Fate:Decommissioned 26 October 1990, in reserve
General Characteristics
Displacement:45,000 tons
Length:887 ft. 3 in. (270.4m)
Beam:108 ft. 2 in. (32.9m)
Draft:37 ft. 2 in. (11.3m)
Speed:33 knots
Complement:151 officers, 2637 enlisted
1943 9 16 in./50 cal. Mark 7 guns
  20 5 in./38 cal. Mark 12 guns
  80 40mm/56 cal. Anti-Aircraft guns
  49 20mm/70 cal. Anti-Aircraft guns
1968 9 16 in./50 cal. Mark 7 guns
  20 5 in./38 cal. Mark 12 guns
1983 9 16 in./50 cal. Mark 7 guns
  12 5 in./38 cal. Mark 12 guns
  32 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles
  16 RGM-84 Harpoon Anti-Ship missiles
  4 20mm/76 cal. CIWS

USS Iowa (BB-61), the lead ship of her class of dreadnought battleship, was the fourth ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the 29th state.

Her keel was laid down on 27 June 1940 at the New York Navy Yard. She was launched on 27 August 1942 sponsored by Ilo Wallace (wife of Vice President Henry Wallace), and commissioned on 22 February 1943 with Captain John L. McCrea in command.

On 24 February, Iowa put to sea for shakedown in Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast. She got underway on 27 August for Argentia, Newfoundland to neutralize the threat of German battleship Tirpitz which was reportedly operating in Norwegian waters.

In the fall, Iowa carried President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt to Casablanca, French Morocco on the first leg of the journey to the Teheran Conference in November. After the conference she returned the President to the United States.

As flagship of Battleship Division 7, Iowa departed the United States 2 January 1944 for the Pacific Theatre and her combat debut in the campaign for the Marshall Islands. From 29 January to 3 February, she supported carrier air strikes made by Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman's task group against Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls. Her next assignment was to support air strikes against the Japanese Naval base at Truk, Caroline Islands. Iowa, in company with other ships was detached from the support group 16 February, 1944 to conduct an anti-shipping sweep around Truk to destroy enemy naval vessels escaping to the north. On 21 February, she was underway with Fast Carrier Task Force 58 while it conducted the first strikes against Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam in the Mariana Islands.

On 18 March, Iowa, flying the flag of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, Commander Battleships, Pacific, joined in the bombardment of Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Although struck by two Japanese 4.7-inch projectiles during the action, Iowa suffered negligible damage. She then rejoined Task Force 58 on 30 March, and supported air strikes against the Palau Islands and Woleai of the Carolines which continued for several days.

From 22 April to 28 April 1944, Iowa supported air raids on Hollandia, Aitape, and Wakde Islands to support Army forces on Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humbolt Bay in New Guinea. She then joined the Task Force's second strike on Truk, 29 April and 30 April, and bombarded Japanese facilities on Ponape in the Carolines on 1 May.

In the opening phases of the Marianas campaign, Iowa protected the flattops during air strikes on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan on 12 June. Iowa was then detached to bombard enemy installations on Saipan and Tinian on 13 June and 14 June. On 19 June, in an engagement known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Iowa, as part of the battle line of Fast Carrier Task Force 58, helped repel four massive air raids launched by the Japanese Middle Fleet. This resulted in the almost complete destruction of Japanese carrier-based aircraft. Iowa then joined in the pursuit of the fleeing enemy Fleet, shooting down one torpedo plane and assisting in splashing another.

Throughout July, Iowa remained off the Marianas supporting air strikes on the Palaus and landings on Guam. After a month's rest, Iowa sortied from Eniwetok as part of the Third Fleet, and helped support the landings on Peleliu on 17 September. She then protected the carriers during air strikes against the Central Philippines to neutralize enemy air power for the long awaited invasion of the Philippines. On 10 October, Iowa arrived off Okinawa for a series of air strikes on the Ryukyu Islands and Formosa. She then supported air strikes against Luzon on 18 October and continued this vital duty during General MacArthur's landing on Leyte on 20 October.

In a last ditch attempt to halt the United States campaign to recapture the Philippines, the Japanese Navy struck back with a three-pronged attack aimed at the destruction of American amphibious forces in Leyte Gulf. Iowa accompanied TF-38 during attacks against the Japanese Central Force as it steamed through the Sibuyan Sea toward San Bernardino Strait. The reported results of these attacks and the apparent retreat of the Japanese Central Force led Admiral "Bull" Halsey to believe that this force had been ruined as an effective fighting group. Iowa, with Task Force 38, steamed after the Japanese Northern Force off Cape Engano, Luzon. On 25 October 1944, when the ships of the Northern Force were almost within range of Iowa's guns, word arrived that the Japanese Central Force was attacking a group of American escort carriers off Samar. This threat to the American beachheads forced her to reverse course and steam to support the vulnerable "baby carriers." However, the valiant fight put up by the escort carriers and their screen had already caused the Japanese to retire and Iowa was denied a surface action. Following the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Iowa remained in the waters off the Philippines screening carriers during strikes against Luzon and Formosa. She sailed for the West Coast late in December 1944.

Iowa arrived San Francisco, California, on 15 January 1945, for overhaul. She sailed 19 March for Okinawa, arriving 15 April. Commencing 24 April, Iowa supported carrier operations which assured American troops vital air superiority during their struggle for that bitterly contested Island. She then supported air strikes off southern Kyushu from 25 May to 13 June. Iowa participated in strikes on the Japanese homeland 14 July and 15 July and bombarded Muroian, Hokkaido, destroying steel mills and other targets. The city of Hitachi on Honshu was given the same treatment on the night of 17 July to 18 July. Iowa continued to support fast carrier strikes until the cessation of hostilities on 15 August.

Iowa entered Tokyo Bay with the occupation forces on 29 August. After serving as Admiral Halsey's flagship for the surrender ceremony on 2 September, Iowa departed Tokyo Bay 20 September for the United States.

Arriving Seattle, Washington on 15 October, Iowa returned to Japanese waters in January 1946 and became flagship of the Fifth Fleet. She continued this role until she sailed for the United States on 25 March 1946. From that time on, until September 1948, Iowa operated from West Coast ports, on Naval Reserve and at sea training and drills and maneuvers with the Fleet. Iowa decommissioned 24 March 1949.

When the Korean War necessitated an expansion of the active fleet, Iowa recommissioned 25 August 1951 with Captain William R. Smedberg III in command. She operated off the West Coast until March 1952, when she sailed for the Far East. On 1 April 1952, Iowa became the flagship of Vice Admiral Robert T. Briscoe, Commander, Seventh Fleet, and departed Yokosuka, Japan to support United Nations Forces in Korea. From 8 April to 16 October 1952, Iowa was involved in combat operations off the East Coast of Korea. Her primary mission was to aid ground troops, by bombarding enemy targets at Songjin, Hungnam, and Kojo, North Korea. During this time, Admiral Briscoe was relieved as Commander, Seventh Fleet. Vice Admiral J.J. Clark, the new commander, continued to use Iowa as his flagship until 17 October 1952. Iowa departed Yokosuka, Japan on 19 October 1952 for overhaul at Norfolk, Virginia, and training operations in the Caribbean Sea.

Iowa embarked midshipmen for at sea training to Northern Europe, July 1953, and immediately after took part in Operation "Mariner," a major NATO exercise, serving as flagship of Vice Admiral E. T. Woolfidge, commanding the Second Fleet. Upon completion of this exercise, until the fall of 1954, Iowa operated in the Virginia Capes area. In September 1954, she became the flagship of Rear Admiral R. E. Libby, Commander, Battleship Cruiser Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet.

From January to April 1955, Iowa made an extended cruise to the Mediterranean Sea as the first battleship regularly assigned to Commander, Sixth Fleet. Iowa departed on a midshipman training cruise 1 June 1955 and upon her return, she entered Norfolk for a four-mouth overhaul. Following refit, Iowa continued intermittent training cruises and operational exercises, until 4 January 1957 when she departed Norfolk for duty with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. Upon completion of this deployment, Iowa embarked midshipmen for a South American training cruise and joined in the International Naval Review off Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 13 June 1957.

On 3 September 1957, Iowa sailed for Scotland for NATO Operation "Strikeback." She returned to Norfolk, 28 September 1957 and departed Hampton Roads for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 22 October 1957. She decommissioned 24 February 1958 and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia.

After a quarter-century in mothballs, Iowa was modernized as part of the 1980s defense buildup and recommissioned 28 April 1984. She went to European waters in 1985, 1986 and 1987 through 1988, with the latter cruise continuing into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

On 19 April 1989, an explosion ripped through her Number Two 16-inch gun turret, killing 47 crewmen; the cause was never determined. Iowa was still able to deploy to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea in mid-year. Turret Two remained unrepaired when she decommissioned in Norfolk for the last time, 26 October 1990.

Iowa, as part of the Reserve Fleet, was berthed at the Naval Education and Training Center in Newport, from 24 September 1998 to 8 March 2001 when she began her journey, under tow, to San Francisco. She arrived in Suisun Bay, San Francisco, on 21 April 2001 and is part of the Reserve Fleet there.

Iowa earned nine battle stars for World War II service and two for Korean War service.

See USS Iowa for other Navy ships of the same name.

Related topics

This article includes information collected from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.