A Piece Of Naval History Leaves San Francisco Bay



(SAN FRANCISCO)  One of my favorite parts of being a reporter in San Francisco is the opportunity to witness historic moments.

I’m also a bit of a kid when it comes to ships, cars, airplanes, buildings and bridges.  So when I was assigned to covering the departure of the USS Iowa from the Port of Richmond and the San Francisco Bay, I was more than happy.  Actually, I was downright giddy!

America’s Battleship fleet is just about the most powerful ship to ship combat group ever built.  But their era of warfare has just about passed (though with piracy in the waters off the North African coast, small ship assaults are still happening often).

The USS Iowa represents the final advancement of American Battleship technology.  Which is to say, that modern warships are no longer designed specifically to obliterate other ships at sea.  War ships in the current US Naval fleet have combined roles that include some ship to ship fighting.  But their roles are mostly as platforms to launch missiles and planes on ground targets.

The Iowa is the first of four Battleships of their design (USS Iowa, USS New Jersey, USS Missouri, USS Wisconsin).  And in World War II, their role was to seek and destroy Japanese and German Naval crafts, escort carrier groups, and soften shores for troop landings.  With nine massive guns, each was able to launch destructive fire power at targets more than twenty miles away from the the ship!

Talking to people who spent the last five months bringing USS Iowa to presentable condition – it’s clear those volunteers had mixed feelings about seeing her off on a sunny Saturday morning.  Some gave their weekends to scrape peeling paint from her decks.  They spent countless hours to stop up leaks she’s suffered from sitting for years in the damp, salty environs of Suisun Bay.  And, they scurried through her darkened hallways, which very recently seemed like a horror movie setting rather that a ship that once shuttled President Franklin Roosevelt to Casablanca in World War II.

By the time I laid eyes on USS Iowa to report on it’s departure from San Francisco Bay, the battle wagon looked like it was ready to push out for another mission.  But for those who worked diligently to bring USS Iowa out of mothball purgatory, some had a misty eyed haze in their eyes.  It was like watching parents see their children off to college.  They were proud of their accomplishments, but near tears to separate from a deep love.

USS Iowa is gone.

She no longer sits at the Port of Richmond, or Suisun Bay.  She has departed for Southern California to host guests interesting in her history.  And for those who pushed to keep her anchored at the Port Of San Francisco a few years ago, it was no doubt difficult to see the USS Iowa slip under the Golden Gate Bridge for the last time.

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