The USS Iowa


The USS Iowa

If you like history and you love battleships this is the tour for you. Even if you don’t like either of those things, this is still the tour for you.  Why?, because it is reasonably priced and super interesting.

Just admiring the ship from the shore, you can tell that before you is the epitome of a battleship with its impressive array of guns perched high on the deck.  You will stand in astonishment at the cannons, high speed machine guns, and rocket launchers.

The USS Iowa is moored at the LA Waterfront area in one of the busiest ports in Southern California, Port of Los Angeles.  Nearby, the booming business of commerce can be seen with its cargo ships and cranes, while the USS Iowa sits gallantly alone.  This distinct battle ship is from a time long ago and has seen the battles of World War II, The Cold War, as well as the Korean War.


Across the bay, LA’s busy port of commerce can be seen.

Commissioned in 1943, it has hosted U.S. presidents while also earning 11 battle stars before it was finally decommissioned and sent to Suisan Bay, California.  Suisan Bay was once known as the home of the mothball fleet, where all old battleships go to rest.

Luckily it was saved from that graveyard and sent off to get a refurbishment at the nearby Port of Richmond, California. Once it was freshly painted, it made its voyage to Los Angeles in 2012 and has remained there ever since.

I have driven by it many times but finally made the decision to stop to take the tour and I am glad I did.

The Tour
There are daily tours for fewer than twenty dollars that allow you to wonder around guideless while following easy instructions on where to go.  You can stay on deck as long as you want or go below to visit the inner workings of the ship.

We chose to stroll around the deck first as the huge and mighty guns were something we just had to see.

The barrels of the enormous 16”/50 calibers were enough to make you stand in awe. Bygone footage of the huge guns being fired could be seen in videos placed about on TV screens.

You could only imagine the how loud they must have been when they were fired.  My brother said that in Vietnam, battleships like this shot their huge caliber guns and the ammo would soar above his smaller destroyer.  Just from that alone, he said it would violently shake his whole ship

Besides the TV’s, there was written information provided on all of the other missile launchers and machine guns scattered about the ship.

As we stood looking at the machine guns, a passerby gave us some information on how it could shoot off 1,000 rounds in one minute, wow… that is quite impressive.

Everywhere you looked there was a gun, cannon, or rocket launcher and in every size imaginable. Yes, this was truly an impressive battle ship.


The huge chains for the anchors

More Strolling around the ship.
The self guided tour is relaxing and allows you to go where you want while staying on the well marked paths.

Actually, I don’t know if relaxing is the word to use as there is quite a bit of climbing ladders and stairways. Some are pretty steep which is no problem going up, it is coming down that is a tad more difficult.   I chose to climb down facing in, like you would a normal ladder. Others, I noticed descended facing out.

Regardless, of your body position, it was pretty cool and gave you the experience of what it might have been like.  I could picture back in the day an alarm going off with the crew moving frantically up and down these steps on their way to their stations.

In fact, another snippet of information my brother told me was that most of the sailors on his ship could fly down the ladders at a super high speed.  He said most never hit the steps and skid down with their feet as if on a kids playground slide.

As I’m descending one of the ladders, carefully making sure each foot hits the step, I giggled on how slow I was.  If they depended on someone like me, the ship would be doomed!

Please note that ship is not wheelchair accessible for the whole tour.  I believe you can go on deck but I would check first.   There is uneven decking, low doorways,  and of course steep stairs.


Row after row of doors. Could you imagine being in a hurry?

Below Deck
Below deck, we visited the living spaces where cots were stacked three high to accommodate the thousands if men on the ship.  Sleeping in small cramped spaces, I could only imagine what it was like.    Luckily, each bed had a tie down to keep them from falling out during rough seas.

On one of the TV screens a video showed an older Naval office telling about how these new ships have it easy as his older vessel had cots stacked six high.  He felt these new whippersnappers had it easy.   Can you imagine being on the top bunk of six high?

Some of the officers received their own private rooms with the size dependent on their rank. None were as impressive as the captains, where he had his own mattress bed, bathroom,  shower, and a large sitting area.   All were on display for you to view.



Captains sitting area andpart of bedroom.

We saw the mess hall where a recording made sounds of dishes clanking as if it was in the middle of lunch service. We visited the laundry area, the radio

On board they also have a museum and a gift shop as well as a few interactive exhibits.

It is just a super interesting tour that takes about two hours, maybe three if you descend the ladders as slow as I did.

The videos along the way add interesting facts making this educational as well.

The USS Iowa is truly an impressive ship and well worth the money for the tour.

Bring your imagination, comfortable shoes, and take back some history.

Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell

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