The Battleship of Presidents’ final sail


The time-honored tradition of adding coins to the mast of a ship for good luck took place in April as two Iowans stood atop a 205-foot-tall platform and dropped Iowa state quarters into the mast of the USS Iowa as it hung from a barge crane.

Two former Iowa legislators — Jeff Lamberti and Becky Beach — released a handful of coins into the mast shortly before eight welders reattached it to the historic battleship. Lamberti and Beach have played key roles in the effort to save the Iowa and transform the historic ship into an interactive naval museum.

The 50-foot-tall, 52,000-pound mast had to be reattached because the Navy had removed it more than 10 years ago so the ship would fit under bridges along its tow route. The Pacific Battleship Center, the nonprofit group bringing the USS Iowa back to life, refurbished the ship in preparation for its move to the Port of Los Angeles. This process included the re-stepping of the original mast, a time-honored ritual in the maritime world that is thought to have originated in ancient Rome.

One of the most powerful battleships of all time, the Iowa, embarked on its final voyage on 26 May 2012. The last remaining WWII battleship left California’s Port of Richmond, crossed San Francisco Bay and then passed under the historic Golden Gate Bridge amid a festive celebration of the bridge’s 75th birthday.

The tugboat Warrior, connected to Iowa in a series of towlines and chains, guided the vessel across the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco’s fireboat Phoenix led the way for the battleship and created a splash by shooting water through its fire-fighting hoses. The USCG Cutter Sockeye provided an official escort for the battleship. As the historic ship passed the Saint Francis Yacht Club, club members honored it with a farewell gun salute and a signal flag message: “Farewell My Dear Friend.”

At over 15 stories high, 887 feet long and weighing more than 45,000 tons, the Iowa is known as the Battleship of Presidents because it hosted Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The Iowa served for more than 60 years, including WWII, the Korean War and the Cold War. On 6 Sep 11, the U.S. Navy awarded the Iowa to the Pacific Battleship Center. She is the last battleship in the world to be saved and turned into a permanent museum.

The ship’s permanent home will be at Berth 87 in the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, CA. There, the ship will host a reunion of Iowa veterans before its public grand opening on 7 July.

For more information about the USS Iowa, or to purchase tickets, visit www.pacificbattleship.com. General admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for both youth (ages 6-17) and retired military personnel with valid ID. Admission is free to active military personnel, including reservists, with valid ID, children under 5 and residents of the state of Iowa with valid ID. The museum, which will be open from 9-5 daily, will highlight the contributions of the battleship and its crew during WWII, the Korean War and the Cold War.