Monday, July 9, 2012

USS Iowa

our first look at the USS Iowa
I was privileged to attend the recommissioning ceremony for the USS Iowa last week, on July 4 to be exact. It was an emotional day. I was there with 5 of my brothers and sisters and my parents, and we went because my dad served on the Iowa in the Pacific during World War 2. He was a very young sailor, joining the Navy at 17, who called the battleship home for 3 1/2 years. His assignment was to fire one of the many 40mm anti-aircraft weapons on the deck when they were under attack.

I found this picture of the 40mm Bofur, I think this is the type of gun my dad shot.
another picture of the Iowa in the 40's
one more from back in the day       
 Several years ago, a young college student interviewed my dad about his experiences during the war. Here are some excerpts from that interview (with some very minor editing by me):
[My dad] boarded the ship when it was brand new and had just come back from its shakedown cruise. 
As part of the 3rd Pacific Fleet, led by the hard-nosed and infamous Admiral Bull Halsey, the USS Iowa departed for the Pacific theater of operations on January 2, 1944 as the flagship of the 7th Battleship Division. Remaining in the Pacific until the end of World War II, returning only once to Bremerton, Washington for repairs, the Iowa valiantly supported hundreds of air strikes against its formidable foes of the Rising Sun, the Japanese. [My dad] remembers the voyage well as they embarked from Norfolk, Virginia and headed down through the Panama Canal. He recalls how the ship was only a few feet smaller than the channel locks and barely managed to squeeze through them. They then headed for Hawaii to upload supplies and ammo for the inevitable battles ahead.
The first battle came just weeks later on January 29, 1944 in the Marshall Islands. Then in February they were in the Carolina Islands, and Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam in the Marianas. Missions continued as the Iowa supported air raids in Hollandis, Aitape, and Wake Islands to support Army forces on Aitape, Tanahmnerah Bay, and Humboldt Bay in New Guinea. During one of those battles he was credited with shooting down a Japanese torpedo bomber, an aircraft that flew in low and dropped torpedoes in an attempt to hit and sink the aircraft carriers. Through heavy smoke, he shot his 'Heavy 14" 40mm anti-aircraft gun. He heard the fire control tower announce over the loud speakers, "Nice shooting Heavy 14." After taking control of an island, they would often go ashore to resupply the Army troops on land. On one particular occasion, he remembers the sobering task of fishing the bodies of dead American soldiers afloat in the waters and removing their dog tags. "It was a putrid smell, the human flesh smell." He recalls it as a very distressing moment for him because their families would never know what truly happened to their soldier. While on the island, he remembers trying to crawl through the buffalo grass, afraid to move one blade in fear that a Japanese sniper might pick him off at the sight of moving grass.
He was aboard as the Iowa assisted in the invasion of the Philippines, saw action in Okinawa, and participated in strikes on the Japanese homeland. 
On August 29th the Iowa, accompanied by the entire Task Force entered Yokohama Naval Base in Tokyo Bay. The Iowa anchored only 300 yards from USS Missouri where [my dad] witnessed the entire ceremony of the signing of the peace through the binoculars mounted on his "Heavy 14" gun mount.
With these thoughts in mind, and in the presence of so many other former sailors, tears came easily.
 We met wonderful people, dad was interviewed by reporters, and finally we got to go aboard the
"Big Stick", as the USS Iowa was called.

looking back from the front end of the ship
looking forward from the rear of the ship
dad says he could often find a quiet place to be alone here in the rear

We were all terribly disappointed to learn that no wheelchairs were allowed on board. We spoke to anyone and everyone we felt might be able to bend the rules, all to no avail. When the crowd thinned out, dad agreed to let Gene and Greg help him walk on.

he got to 'man the rail' once again
back on deck so many years later
That was the best part of the day, seeing my dad back aboard the USS Iowa.
A few more pictures of the USS Iowa

Thank you dad, and to all who have served the cause of freedom and liberty as part of the United States military. We owe much to each of you.