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Battleship Iowa heads to permanent home on San Pedro waterfront

Members of the Cabrillo Beach Boosters wave as the USS Iowa entered through Angels Gate into Los Angeles harbor on June 2

Just after 3 p.m. Saturday, the battleship Iowa got underway on its final 3.4-nautical-mile journey through Los Angeles Harbor on its way to becoming a floating museum.

With Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on board, along with seamen who served on the ship during World War II, the vessel began heading into the Main Channel of the L.A. Harbor, pulled by brightly painted tugboats as fire boats shot plumes of water into the air and pelicans soared overhead.

"This is my first time aboard since 1946," said Bob Dedic, who served  from 1944 to 1946 and sported a cap he had bought at the ship's store more than six decades ago. He  recalled wild storms, including one typhoon in which he feared the ship would capsize.  He also remembered calmer days, when sailors would jump into the ocean for a swim, while  back on deck other sailors would shoot at sharks to keep them away from those frolicking in the water.

Every day that he was on board, Dedic recalled, "I wrote my sweetheart." He married her too, and Eleanor Dedic, his wife of 66 years, was with him Saturday, along with their two daughters and a granddaughter who had flown in from New York for the occasion.

The ship has been docked temporarily at Berths 51-52 since arriving from San Francisco but will make its permanent home at Berth 87 on the San Pedro waterfront. The biggest U.S. battleship ever built, the 45,000-ton warship is known as the "battleship of presidents."

In November 1943, the Iowa carried President Franklin Roosevelt to a crucial meeting with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek in Tehran. The bathtub with rails that was installed for FDR’s use will be on display.

President Reagan boarded the Iowa on July 4, 1986, for Liberty Weekend, the celebration of the restoration and centenary of the Statue of Liberty in New York City. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush joined the crew and families of the Iowa at a memorial service for 47 crew members killed in the ship’s greatest tragedy, a gun turret explosion in the Caribbean.

"A lot of people worked very hard" to get the Iowa to Los Angeles, said Rep. Janice Hahn, who represents the area. She said that on her first day in Congress last year she marched into the office of the Secretary of the Navy and told him: "I expect the Iowa to be in Los Angeles." 

She said she hopes the ship's presence will boost San Pedro's waterfront as a tourist attraction and improve its economy.

Others on board were lost in their own memories. Joseph Aguilar, 85, of East Los Angeles showed off a still-crooked finger, the result, he said, of an accident on board in 1946. He also remembered how he spent his first night on board: "in the stern, feeding the fish. I was so sick. This thing pitches and rolls."

The Pacific Battleship Center plans to recommission the ship July 4 and hold the first public tours three days later. For ticketing information, see the Pacific Battleship Center website.

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--Martha Groves

 
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