U.S. Navy Battleships - USS Iowa (BB 61)
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Displacement: 45,000 tons
Speed: 33 knots
Armament: Nine 16" guns; twenty 5" guns
Text from The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships published by the Naval Historical Center
The third Iowa (BB-61) was laid down at New York Navy Yard, 27
June 1940; launched 27 August 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Henry A.
Wallace, wife of Vice President Wallace, and commissioned 22
February 1943, Capt. John L. McCrea in command.
On 24 February, Iowa put to sea for shakedown In Chesapeake Bay
and along the Atlantic coast. She got underway, 27 August for
Argentia. Newfoundland to neutralize the threat of German
battleship Tirpitz which was reportedly operating In Norwegian
In the fall, Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to
Casablanca, French Morocco, on the first leg of his journey to
the Teheran Conference in November. After the conference she
returned the President to the United States. As flagship of
Battleship Division 7, Iowa departed the United States 2 January
1944 for the Pacific Theater and her combat debut in the
campaign for the Marshalls. From 29 January to 3 February, she
supported carrier air strikes made by Rear Admiral Frederick C.
Sherman's task group against Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls in
the Marshall Islands.
Her next assignment was to support air strikes against the
Japanese Naval base at Truk, Caroline Islands. Iowa, in company
with other ships was detached from the support group 16
February 1944 to conduct an anti-shipping sweep around Truk to
destroy enemy naval vessels escaping to the north. On 21
February, she was underway with Fast Carrier Task Force 58 while
it conducted the first strikes against Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and
Guam in the Marianas.
On 18 March, Iowa, flying the flag of Vice Admiral Willis A.
Lee, Commander Battleships, Pacific, joined in the bombardment
of Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Although struck by two
Japanese 4.7" projectiles during the action, Iowa suffered
negligible damage. She then rejoined Task Force 58, 30 March,
and supported air strikes which continued for several days
against the Palau Islands and Woleai of the Carolines.
From 22 to 28 April 1944, Iowa supported air raids on Hollandia,
Aitape, and Wake Islands to support Army forces on Aitape,
Tanahmerah Bay, and Humboldt Bay in New Guinea. She then joined
the Task Force's second strike on Truk, 29-30 April, and
bombarded Japanese facilities on Ponape in the Carolines, 1 May.
In the opening phases of the Marianas campaign, Iowa protected
the flattops during air strikes on the islands of Saipan,
Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan, 12 June. Iowa was then detached
to bombard enemy installations on Saipan and Tinian, 13-14 June.
On 19 June, in an engagement known as the Battle of the
Philippine Sea, Iowa, as part of the battle line of Fast Carrier
Task Force 58, helped repel four massive air raids launched by
the Japanese Middle Fleet. This resulted in the almost complete
destruction of Japanese carrier-based aircraft. Iowa then joined
in the pursuit of the fleeing enemy fleet, shooting down one
torpedo plane and assisting in splashing another.
Throughout July, Iowa remained off the Marianas supporting air
strikes on the Palaus and landings on Guam. After a month's
rest, Iowa sortied from Eniwetok as part of the 3d Fleet, and
helped support the landings on Peleliu, 17 September. She then
protected the carriers during air strikes against the Central
Philippines to neutralize enemy air power for the long awaited
invasion of the Philippines. On 10 October, Iowa arrived off
Okinawa for a series of air strikes on the Ryukyus and Formosa.
She then supported air strikes against Luzon, 18 October and
continued this vital duty during General MacArthur's landing on
Leyte 20 October.
In a last ditch attempt to halt the United States campaign to
recapture the Philippines, the Japanese Navy struck back with a
three-pronged attack aimed at the destruction of American amphibious forces In Leyte Gulf. Iowa accompanied TF-38 during
attacks against the Japanese Central Force as it steamed through
the Sibuyan Sea toward San Bernardino Strait. The reported
results of these attacks and the apparent retreat of the
Japanese Central Force led Admiral Halsey to believe that this
force had been ruined as an effective fighting group. Iowa, with
Task Force 38 steamed after the Japanese Northern Force off Cape
On 25 October 1944, when the ships of the Northern Force were
almost within range of Iowa's guns, word arrived that the
Japanese Central Force was attacking a group of American escort
carriers off Samar. This threat to the American beachheads
forced her to reverse course and steam to support the vulnerable
"baby carriers." However, the valiant fight put up by the escort
carriers and their screen had already caused the Japanese to
retire and Iowa was denied a surface action. Following the
Battle for Leyte Gulf, Iowa remained in the waters off the
Philippines screening carriers during strikes against Luzon and
Formosa. She sailed for the West Coast late in December
Iowa arrived San Francisco, 15 January 1945, for overhaul. She
sailed 19 March 1945 for Okinawa, arriving 15 April 1945.
Commencing 24 April 1945, Iowa supported carrier operations
which assured American troops vital air superiority during their
struggle for that bitterly contested Island. She then supported
air strikes off southern Kyushu from 25 May to 13 June 1945.
Iowa participated in strikes on the Japanese homeland 14-15 July
and bombarded Muroran, Hokkaido, destroying steel mills and
other targets. The city of Hitachi on Honshu was given the same
treatment on the night of 17-18 July 1945. Iowa continued to
support fast carrier strikes until the cessation of hostilities,
13 August 1945.
Iowa entered Tokyo Bay with the occupation forces, 29 August
1945. After serving as Admiral William F. Halsey's flagship for
the surrender ceremony, 2 September 1945, Iowa departed Tokyo
Bay 20 September 1945 for the United States.
Arriving Seattle, Wash., 15 October 1945, Iowa returned to
Japanese waters in January 1946 and became flagship of the 5th
Fleet. She continued this role until she sailed for the United
States 25 March 1946. From that time on, until September 1948,
Iowa operated from West Coast ports, on Naval Reserve and at sea
training and drills and maneuvers with the Fleet. Iowa
decommissioned 24 March 1949.
After Communist aggression in Korea necessitated an expansion of
the active fleet, Iowa recommissioned 25 August 1951, Captain
William R. Smedberg III in command. She operated off the West
Coast until March 1952, when she sailed for the Far East. On 1
April 1952, Iowa became the flagship of Vice Admiral Robert T.
Briscoe, Commander, 7th fleet, and departed Yokosuka, Japan, to
support United Nations Forces in Korea. From 8 April to 16
October 1952, Iowa was involved in combat operations off the
East Coast of Korea. Her primary mission was to aid ground
troops, by bombarding enemy targets at Songjin, Hunguam, and
Kojo, North Korea. During this time, Admiral Briscoe was
relieved as Commander, 7th Fleet. Vice Admiral J. J. Clark, the
new commander, continued to use Iowa as his flagship until 17
October 1952. Iowa departed Yokosuka, Japan 19 October 1952 for
overhaul at Norfolk and training operations in the Caribbean
Iowa embarked midshipmen for at sea training to Northern Europe,
July 1953, and immediately after took part in Operation
Mariner, a major NATO exercise, serving as flagship of Vice
Admiral E. T. Woolfidge, commanding the 2d Fleet. Upon
completion of this exercise, until the fall of 1954, Iowa
operated in the Virginia Capes area. In September 1954, she
became the flagship of Rear Admiral R. E. Libby, Commander,
Battleship-Cruiser Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
From January to April 1955, Iowa made an extended cruise to the
Mediterranean as the first battleship regularly assigned to
Commander, 6th Fleet. Iowa departed on a midshipman training
cruise 1 June 1955 and upon her return, she entered Norfolk for
a four-month overhaul. Following refit, Iowa continued
intermittent training cruises and operational exercises, until 4
January 1957 when she departed Norfolk for duty with the 6th
Fleet in the Mediterranean. Upon completion of this deployment,
Iowa embarked midshipmen for a South American training cruise
and joined in the International Naval Review off Hampton Roads,
Va., 13 June 1957.
On 3 September 1957, Iowa sailed for Scotland for NATO Operation
Strikeback . She returned to Norfolk, 28 September 1957 and
departed Hampton Roads for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, 22
October 1957. She decommissioned a second time on 24 February 1958.
After two and a half decades in "mothballs", Iowa was modernized under the 1980s defense buildup and recommissioned 28 April 1984. She went to European waters in 1985, 1986 and 1987 through 1988, with the latter cruise continuing into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.
On 19 April 1989, an explosion of undetermined cause ripped through her Number Two sixteen-inch gun turret killing 47 crewmen. Iowa was still able to deploy to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea in mid-year. Turret Two remained unrepaired when she decommissioned in Norfolk, Va., for the last time 26 October 1990.
Iowa, as part of the Reserve Fleet, was berthed at the Naval Education and Training Center in Newport, R.I., from 24 September 1998 to 8 March 2001 when she began her journey, under tow, to San Francisco. She arrived at Suisan Bay, San Francisco, on 21 April 2001 and is part of the Reserve Fleet there.
Iowa earned nine battle stars for World War II service and two
for Korean service.
Updated: 30 July 2009