By Greg Aragon
I drove to San Pedro last week for the renowned fresh seafood at San Pedro Fish Market. But when I got off the freeway and saw the profile of the legendary USS Iowa battleship, with her massive 16-inch guns protruding above the harbor, I knew I had to investigate. I also knew I had a full-day of fun, food, and history ahead of me.
To build up an appetite I began my getaway on the deck of the mighty Iowa. For my visit, I took the Full Steam Ahead Tour, which is $49.95 for adults. This tour includes separate tickets for the regular self-guided general admission tour as well as the new guided behind the scenes tour of the engineering spaces on board.
The new two-hour guided tour of an engine room, boiler room, hospital, post office, Combat Engagement Center, and plot room, gives guests access to areas of the ship that have previously been off limits to the public. During the tour I learned some of the incredible history of the vessel.
Built in 1940, the USS Iowa served the U.S. for more than 50 years. Designated the “World’s Greatest Naval Ship” due to her big guns, heavy armor, fast speed, longevity and modernization, she kept pace with technology for five decades. During her years of service, the Iowa has welcomed presidents and seen battle.
Iowa is the only ship of her class to have served in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. During the war, she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic to meet with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in Tehran. When transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1944, the battleship shelled beachheads in advance of Allied amphibious landings in the Marshall Islands.
During the Korean War, Iowa was involved in raids on the North Korean coast, after which she was decommissioned into the United States Navy reserve fleets, better known as the “mothball fleet.” She was reactivated in 1984 as part of a 600-ship Navy plan and operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. The ship was decommissioned for the last time in 1990.
In 2011 Iowa was donated to the Los Angeles–based non-profit Pacific Battleship Center and was permanently moved to Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles in 2012, where she was opened to the public as the USS Iowa Museum.
While walking around the 887-foot-long, 108-foot-tall ship I got a closer look at some of its impressive armament. The Iowa’s main battery consisted of nine 16-inch, 50-caliber Mark 7 guns, which could fire 2,700-pound armor-piercing shells more than 20 miles. She also carried 20, five-inch, 38-caliber guns in twin mounts, which could fire at targets up to 14 miles away.
On my tour I also saw the Tomahawk cruise missile and harpoon cruise missile launchers, as well as the officer’s boardroom, captain’s cabin, Navigation Bridge, the main galley, and the crew’s mess. There is also a Korean War-era Piasecki HUP Retriever helicopter displayed on the deck. The tour ends in a museum area that tells the story of the Iowa and also includes a theater.
After touring the USS Iowa, I drove about a half mile along the busy Port of LA to San Pedro’s Ports O’Call, where I got an incredible fresh seafood lunch at the San Pedro Fish Market (sanpedrofish.com). Though Ports O’Call is currently being demolished for a planned new development, a few places such as the fish market, LA Waterfront Sportfishing, and the Crusty Crab are still open. Harbor cruises, whale watching, and sport fishing trips still depart on a regular basis from LA Waterfront Cruises.
People “in the know,” know that one of the best spots in LA to get fresh fish caught daily is at San Pedro Fish Market. The market offers a wide array of fish that can be taken to go, or cooked to order on the spot. There is a fast food counter to quickly order fish n’ chips, calamari, clam chowder, ceviche, and much more; and there is a Crab Tank with live crabs and lobsters.
Battleship Iowa is located at the Pacific Battleship Center at 250 S. Harbor Blvd., Berth 87, Los Angeles, CA 90731. For more information, call (310) 971-4462 or visit pacificbattleship.com. San Pedro Fish Market is located at 1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, CA 90731.