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Former Crew, Politicians Celebrate Commissioning Of The USS Iowa

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A commissioning ceremony was held Wednesday for the retired battleship USS Iowa, which has been converted to a permanent floating museum at the Port of Los Angeles.

A host of dignitaries attended the Fourth of July event, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad; Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin; Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro; and Julianna Roosevelt, the great-granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hundreds of veterans, including former members of the USS Iowa’s crew, were also there.

The USS Iowa, known as the “Big Stick,” docked at the Port of Los Angeles last month after being towed along the coast from Northern California. The ship is now housed at Berth 87 along the port’s main channel.

Construction of the ship, which took about two years, began in 1940, and the Iowa was the first of four in its class to be completed. Once commissioned, the Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top military advisers to Casablanca en route to the 1943 Tehran Conference.

The Iowa would later serve in the Pacific Fleet, shelling beachheads in the Marshall Islands. The ship was at the battle of Okinawa and was 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 the ship was decommissioned the next year.

The nonprofit Pacific 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.

The Pacific Battleship Center will operate the floating museum, with the attraction scheduled to open Saturday. Museum memberships are already being sold at www.pacificbattleship.com.

A general admission ticket will run $18. Retired members of the military and seniors will get in for $15, and youths ages 6-17 will get in for $10.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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