LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The battleship USS Iowa, a storied vessel that served during World War Two and the Cold War, made a brief final voyage on Saturday to its permanent berth at the Port of Los Angeles, where it will open as a naval museum next month.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S. Navy veterans who served on the 175-foot-tall (53-metre) ship, which was decommissioned in 1990, were among the hundreds of invited celebrants along for the ride.
The USS Iowa was commissioned in 1943. It carried President Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic to a meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin during World War Two.
Later in the war, the Iowa pounded beachheads in the Pacific with its 16-inch guns ahead of Allied landings and took part in the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945. During the Korean War in the 1950s, it conducted gun strikes and bombardments.
After being decommissioned in 1958, it returned to service in 1984 during the latter years of the Cold War.
On Saturday, it was towed from a temporary anchorage in the outer harbor through the port’s main channel.
As onlookers cheered and a high school band played, the ship arrived at its permanent spot at Berth 87. It will open as a naval museum on July 7.
“The USS Iowa, ‘The Battleship of Presidents,’ is a symbol of American ingenuity and common purpose,” Villaraigosa said onboard the ship shortly after it docked.
“We are honored to welcome the USS Iowa to its new home in Los Angeles,” he said. “What a great thing to the men and women of the U.S. Navy. She’s a ship unlike any other.”
The 887-foot-long (270-metre) battleship had previously been moored in the Northern California city of Richmond, where volunteers refurbished it for months until the Los Angeles Harbor Commission voted in May to create a permanent home for it.
Tugboats pulled the ship under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on May 26 and took it south to Los Angeles, where in recent days it underwent final preparations.
Bob Dedic, an 86-year-old Navy veteran, served on the USS Iowa during World War Two. He was an electrician and said that he and his fellow crewmates during battle were often not told their location. But ice cream cones sold for 5 cents.
“It was a great experience in my life. Too bad there was a war going on,” Dedic said with a laugh.
The distance between the two points in the Los Angeles harbor that the ship covered on Saturday was roughly 1 1/2 miles (2.4 km). But the ship stretched out its last journey by first passing Pier 87 and traveling under a huge suspension bridge farther up the channel, before circling back to dock at its destination.
Additional reporting by Steve Gorman, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney