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USS Iowa on way to new home in Southern California

May 27, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO—The USS Iowa -- the iconic World War II-era battleship that once served as transport to President Franklin D. Roosevelt -- left San Francisco Bay on Saturday on its way to its new home in Southern California.

Surrounded by pleasure boats and other vessels, the 887-foot long, 58,000-ton battlewagon was towed through the bay and passed under the Golden Gate Bridge at about 2:30 p.m.

Crowds watched from both sides of the bridge as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sockeye provided an official escort and the San Francisco fireboat Phoenix led the way.

At the St. Francis Yacht Club on San Francisco's shoreline, officers and crew members of the USS Decatur, outfitted in their dress whites, saluted as the Iowa drifted past, Rogers said.

Club members also honored the Iowa with a farewell gun salute and a signal flag message -- "Farewell My Dear Friend."

"Everything has gone beautifully," said spokesman Bob Rogers of the Pacific Battleship Center, a nonprofit organization that will operate an interactive naval museum on board the USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. "The Phoenix was spraying water in every direction. She took her right out the Gate."

The Iowa, first commissioned in 1943 and again in 1951 and 1984, saw duty in World War II and the Korean War.

The ship once carried Roosevelt to a summit with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek. It also took part in escorting tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war before being decommissioned in 1990.

In recent years, the Iowa sat in the cold and fog, anchored with other mothballed ships in nearby Suisun Bay. Last year, the Pacific Battleship Center beat out the San Francisco Bay Area city of Vallejo when the U.S. Navy awarded the ship to the organization.

The center's future plans include an interactive tour experience that will allow the visitor to experience what life at sea was like during active duty. Among the highlights will be viewing the inside of one of the main gun turrets, seeing the 17.5-inch armored conning station on the bridge and viewing Roosevelt's stateroom.

The ship was recently moved to the Port of Richmond, not far from where "Rosie the Riveters" built ships in the 1940s. Workers scrubbed and painted the ship's exterior, replaced the teak deck and reattached the mast in preparation for the museum commissioning in July.

The Iowa was scheduled to leave on May 20 but was delayed because of a storm system. As it turned out, its departure came on the same day as weekend celebrations were under way marking the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary.

The trip down the coast is expected to take about four days.

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