The USS Iowa, a World War II-era battleship, whose speed, armor and 16-inch guns made its name as “The Big Stick” of the U.S. Navy, began the first leg of its final mission Thursday, departing a mothball mooring in Suisun Bay, California.
Representing the peak of naval military power in an era from Franklin Roosevelt to George H.W. Bush, the Iowa was nudged by tugs from its decade-long spot amid the Navy’s fleet of retired ships.
The Iowa, the lead ship of its class of the biggest, fastest and most powerful battleships ever to sail, is also the last battleship to find a permanent spot for retirement. Its sister ships are museums: the Missouri, at Pearl Harbor; the Wisconsin, in Norfolk, Va., and the New Jersey, in Camden, N.J. The Navy no longer has battleships in its fleet. This is the world’s last battleship’s final voyage.
· Nine 16-inch, 50-caliber guns, capable of firing shells weighing a ton or more for 20 miles
· Three, three-gun turrets
· Its speed, firepower and special angled armor were achievements at the time unmatched by other nations
· The Iowa was commissioned in February 1943 and deployed to the Atlantic and then the Pacific
· President Franklin Roosevelt traveled on it en route to a conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
· The Navy installed an elevator and bathtub for Roosevelt, who used a wheelchair. The tub and captain’s wardroom where he stayed were the main attractions for the few workers and visitors allowed on board Thursday. This is the only battleship ever equipped with a bathtub.
· The ship weighs 45,000 tons, is 887 feet long and 108 feet wide. It could travel at up to 38 mph and displaces 38 feet of water, leaving only inches to spare in parts of Thursday’s journey.