The Battleship USS Iowa


The keel of the battleship designated BB-61 was ceremonially laid down on June 27, 1940, at the New York Navy Yard. She was in an advanced stage of construction when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, dragging the United States into war. The battleship, sponsored by Mrs. Ilo Wallace, wife of Vice President Henry Agard Wallace who was a citizen of Iowa, was launched during a ceremony on August 27, 1941.
The launched hull was towed by tugs over the waters of the East River to the fitting-out berth, where construction continued at impressive pace under pressure of time, since deployment of the battleship to the Pacific theatre of operations was a matter of the utmost necessity.
Although there were no provisions for radar equipment in the original design of the Iowa class battleships as these devices had still been in their infancy, the rapid progress in their development, sped up by the outbreak of the war produced a decision to install the first battle-tested radar systems on board the still unfinished battleship. Rectangular SK air-search radar antenna was installed on the mainmast. The radar was capable of detecting approaching enemy aircraft from a distance of 3 km. The battleship was also equipped with two SG surface search radars. They were installed atop the forward fire-control tower and at the top of the aft mast, respectively. They were capable of detecting large enemy warships from a distance of approximately 40 km, and destroyer size ones from about 28 km.
The battleship was commissioned on February 22, 1943 with Captain John L. McCrea in command. Spring and early summer of 1943 were spent on sea trials and training in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. On July 16, the ship had a stroke of bad lack. On the way back from the training cruise, passing through the Hussey Sound to Casco Bay, the Iowa hit the rocky bottom of bay. The battleship had to be dry-docked, because the damage was serious. The bottom plating was deformed at the length of approximately 77 metres, rivets were torn and sixteen fuel tanks located in the double bottom were opened to the sea.
At the end of August 1943, Iowa put to sea on her first Atlantic patrol. Operating from Argentia in Newfoundland she was to provide cover for convoys, should the German battleship Tirpitz attack from her base in Norway. At the end of October 1943, Iowa returned to the United States, where she was dry docked at the Norfolk Navy Yard for a two-week overhaul. Next, the ship was appointed to perform an unusual mission. She carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic to meeting of the “Big Three” in Teheran.
Iowa departed the American coast on November 13. She steamed across the Atlantic at about 22.5 knots to avoid the U-boat threat. In the Mediterranean, she was joined by the awaiting light cruiser Brooklyn and five destroyers.
The Iowa completed her Presidential escort mission on December 16, 1943 by returning the President to the United States, and was then immediately ordered to depart for the Pacific as flagship of the Battleship Division 7, within which she was to co-operate with her sister ship the New Jersey. After resupplying, the ship put to sea on January 2, 1944, and five days later entered the Panama Canal. At the end of January, Iowa joined the warships of Admiral Sprunace’s 5th Fleet and then took part in the Operation “Flintlock” - the invasion of the Marshall Islands. From  January 23, the battleships formed the escort of the aircraft carriers Bunker Hill and Monterey during their operation against Eniwetok and Kwajalein Atolls. Another joint operation with the New Jersey was a strike at the Japanese base in Truk Lagoon, which is a part of the Carolina Islands.
Between February 23 and 26, Iowa bombarded Saipan, Tinian, Rota and then Guam. In March the ship bombarded the Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands and on the last day of the month, she protected and supported Task Force 58 in its operations, first against Palau and Woleai, and then against Aitape and Wake. On April 22, 1944, she provided fire support for the marines landing on Aitape and Tanahmerah. In mid-June she bombarded Saipan and Tinian. On July 19, 1944, during the battle of the Philippine Sea, her  gunners shot down three Japanese planes.
In July, Iowa provided artillery support during the landing on Guam and between July 25  and 27 she bombarded Palau, Yap and Ulithi. Then, until August 10, she again bombarded Tinian. At that time Iowa with New Jersey joined Admiral Halsey’s 3rd Fleet as a part of Task Group 38.2. The entire September and June was a busy period for both ships, during which they bombarded consecutive islands in the Philippine Sea. On October 14, Iowa was attacked by a single Judy dive bomber which was spotted at a distance of 3 miles and shot down in a spectacular manner, crashing to the surface about 300 metres from the battleship’s side.
From October 20, Iowa was involved in the campaign to recapture the Philippines and in the battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese, aware of the American superiority, devised a plan to lure Admiral Halsey’s main screen force battleships away from the Japanese main task force by using some of their aircraft carriers as a bait. That would allow the Japanese to strike at the amphibious force in the Leyte Gulf. Admiral Halsey, known for being an aggressive commander, decided to pursue the “bait” despite protests of his subordinate commanders and thus, the Iowa, the New Jersey and the other battleships lost their chance to duel with the Japanese battleships.