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USS Iowa to be Museum at Port of Los Angeles

9/6/2011, 9:56 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--The World War II-era battleship U.S.S. Iowa will become a permanent museum at the Port of Los Angeles, the nonprofit that will manage the ship said today.

The U.S. Navy announced that it is donating the 887-foot ship to the Pacific Battleship Center, a nonprofit formed in 2009 to obtain the vessel and turn it into a museum.

The group's president, Robert Kent, said the announcement was the culmination of years of work.

"We can now move forward with the work necessary to restore the ship," he said.

The ship, decommissioned in 1990, is now among a fleet of mothballed Navy ships in Suisun Bay, at the mouth of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Kent said he hoped to have the museum open by next summer.

The Battleship Center was competing for the ship with a nonprofit in Vallejo.

Kent said the Port of Los Angeles was a good site because it would not need any dredging to berth the ship. Though the relocation will require an environmental impact report, the nonprofit will cover the costs. Had the harbor needed dredging, the process could have taken years, Kent said.

The 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.

Kent said the ship will have at least five tours, including tours focusing on life at sea, engineering and armor, and tours of the ships weapons.

He said the group is working on special science, math, and history curricula for schools, which would receive discounted visits.

The Iowa, known as the "Big Stick," has a storied past. It ferried President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top military advisers to and from Tehran Conference in advance of WW II. It later served in the Pacific Fleet, shelling beachheads in the Marshall Islands. The ship was at the battle of Okinawa and was the among the first to enter Tokyo Bay after Japan's surrender.

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