The Battleship USS Iowa was commissioned in 1943 from New York Navy Yard. That fall she carried President Franklin Roosevelt to Casablanca on the first leg of his journey to the Teheran Conference in November. At the conclusion of the conference, she returned the President to the US.
In January 1944, she joined the attack on the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Action continued in that area for several months. In March she was struck by two enemy torpedoes but was damaged only minimally. That summer she was part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea and helped to repel a massive enemy air strike against the fleet. Most of the Japanese carrier-based resources were destroyed. She remained in the area for the remainder of the year providing protection for other vessels.
In 1945, Iowa returned to San Francisco for overhaul. In March she sailed for Japan and participated in the attacks on Okinawa and the rest of the Japanese homeland. She bombarded several cities and succeeded in destroying steel works and other valuable targets. During the surrender ceremonies on September 2, 1945, the Iowa served as Admiral William Halsey’s flagship.
After the war’s end, Iowa became flagship for the 5th Fleet in Japanese waters. In 1949 she was brought home and decommissioned. She received nine battle stars for her WW II service.
She was recommissioned in August 1951, after communist aggression in Korea made it necessary to enlarge the active naval fleet. In 1952 she was involved in bombarding the East Coast of Korea in support of ground attacks there. She was awarded two battle stars for her efforts in Korea. Throughout most of the 1950’s she participated in NATO activities and training operations until she was decommissioned a second time in 1958.
After more than twenty years “off duty” she was refurbished and recommissioned in 1984. For the next few years she patrolled European waters and the Indian and Arabian Seas. In 1989 an explosion aboard the Iowa killed 47 men. The cause of the accident was never determined. She continued in service until she was decommissioned for the last time in 1990.
During her long life of service to the US, the Iowa performed admirably, as did her crew. Unfortunately, the men who worked aboard her were exposed to a danger they were probably unaware of at the time. Asbestos was used in the construction of the Iowa, mainly as an insulator of pipes and electrical systems. We now understand that people working near asbestos are vulnerable to many respiratory problems including mesothelioma cancer. If you have reason to believe you may have been exposed to asbestos on the Iowa or in any other workplace, you should see a doctor for evaluation.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.