History on the Horizon as USS Iowa Arrives in San Pedro

The 887-foot battleship will be anchored off the coast for cleaning until it docks at the Port of Los Angeles

The battleship USS Iowa arrived Wednesday off the coast of San Pedro, where the 887-foot long ship will be converted into a museum.

The ship won't immediately dock at the Port of Los Angeles, but it was visible on the horizon Wednesday morning.

The battleship was towed out of a Northern California port on  Saturday for the four-day tug to Los Angeles. The 45,000-ton ship -- nicknamed  "The Big Stick'' because of its long, slender hull -- was scheduled to arrive  early today, but it will be anchored about six miles offshore to undergo a  routine cleaning of its hull for invasive species before it is brought into the port.

"It's in great shape," said curator David Way. "It's really just going to take a little bit of cleanup and getting the lighting up to speed."

The ship, now in the possession of nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center,  will take up permanent residence at Berth 87, where a grand opening is set for  July 7.   

"This is a wonderful home for her," said Bob Rogers, of the Pacific Battleship Center. "You have a real treat. This is one of the crown jewels of the Navy's historic ships."

In the meantime, the U.S. Coast Guard will establish a 100-yard safety  zone around the ship to prevent anxious boaters from moving in for a closer  look. No vessel will be allowed within the safety zone without the permission  of the Coast Guard or other law enforcement agency.

Construction of the ship, which took about two years, began in 1940, and  the Iowa was the first of four in its class completed. Once commissioned, the  Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top military advisers to  Casablanca en route to the 1943 Tehran Conference.

The Iowa would later serve in the Pacific Fleet, shelling beachheads in  the Marshall Islands. The ship was at the battle of Okinawa and was among the  first to enter Tokyo Bay after Japan's surrender.

"It was made to seek out the enemy and go toe-to-toe until one was sunk," Rogers said. "But she was built that she wouldn't be sunk. There was no projectile or ordnance in World War II that could penetrate her armor."

In 1989, during a training mission off Puerto Rico, the 16-inch gun in  Turret No. 2 exploded, killing 47 sailors, and the ship was decommissioned the  next year.

The nonprofit Pacifica Battleship Center raised about $9 million to move  and restore the ship, including $3 million from the state of Iowa. The group  took out another $5 million in loans and raised the rest through donations and  pro bono work.

The ship museum plans to offer overnight stays and at least five tours,  including tours focusing on life at sea, engineering and armor, and tours of  the ship's weapons.

"It's a floating city," said Rogers. "There are almost 3,000 compartments to it. What's so impressive is just here size.

Navy veterans who served on the World War II-era battleship are  scheduled to hold a reunion in San Pedro over the Fourth of July holiday in  conjunction with the grand opening of the ship's reincarnation as a floating  museum.

Since 2001, the Iowa has been part of the Navy's "Mothball Fleet'' in  Suisun Bay, northeast of Oakland. All three of its sister ships are also now museums.

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