FDR on the USS Iowa

March 12, 2019 – The four mighty, Iowa-class battleships built during World War II – the USS Iowa, USS Missouri, USS New Jersey, and USS Wisconsin – have all been preserved as living history museums. Visitors can stand on the deck of the USS Missouri, now docked next to the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, where Japan formally surrendered to the Allies on Sept. 2, 1945. And visitors can see the bathtub built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) on the USS Iowa, now a museum in California, for his trip to the Tehran Conference in 1943 where Allied leaders agreed on the D-Day invasion.

Student News Net video and interview with Craig Post, USS Iowa Tour Manager, on Feb. 28, 2019

Student News Net toured the USS Iowa on Feb. 28, 2019. She is docked in San Pedro, California near Long Beach.

USS Iowa

The massive, almost 900-foot long battleship was built in the Brooklyn Naval Yards in Brooklyn, New York. Her keel was laid down on June 27, 1940. Iowa was the first in the new class of battleships that were built to be large, agile and fast. As a battleship, it had many types of powerful guns on board that served in battle and as a deterrent to enemies thinking about taking aggressive steps against other countries.

The USS Iowa bell is back on the battleship after being displayed in Des Moines, Iowa when the battleship was decommissioned in 1990. (Photo: Student News Net on board the USS Iowa)

During World War II, 2,500- 2,800 sailors called the Iowa home. When she deployed, the ship had enough food on board for six months. That’s a lot of meat and potatoes! One meal of beef stew for the crew required more than 600 pounds of meat.

She was commissioned on Feb. 22, 1943 and left two days later for her “shakedown” cruise along the Atlantic coast. Check the dates. The USS Iowa was built in about two years. With massive guns, miles of wiring, steel reinforced floors with Word of the Day teak decks, diesel engines, fuel tanks to hold 2.5 million gallons to feed the engines, and all of the equipment needed for food service, laundry, and medical care, the USS Iowa is a floating city built in two years.

Don’t forget she was built in the 1940s when architects and engineers calculated everything by hand. Slide rules were everywhere. Computers were nowhere. It was a high tech engineering marvel, just one of many as the nation answered the call from President Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) in 1940 to create an “arsenal of democracy” to defeat Germany and Japan in their quest for world domination.

During Student News Net’s recent tour, Craig Post, USS Iowa tour manager, said when the ship was brought back to active service in the 1980s and 1990s, her systems for firing guns were so accurate, they decided not to computerize them.

FDR on board USS Iowa in 1943

One of Iowa’s most famous missions was its November 1943 journey to take FDR to the Tehran Conference in Iran where he met with Allied leaders – Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England, and Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union.

The war was now in its fourth year. Stalin had been encouraging the United States and Britain to open up another front along the French coast to defeat the Germans. The leaders decided to meet in Iran from Nov. 28 0 Dec. 1 in Tehran.

For FDR’s trip to Tehran on the USS Iowa, a bathtub was installed because the president suffered from polio and had very limited ability to stand. Visitors touring the battleship today can see the bathtub, which is adjacent to the room where FDR and his war cabinet discussed the invasion, called Operation Overlord (D-Day), on the way to Tehran.

The USS Iowa was the first U.S. Navy ship to have a bathtub installed in 1943 for FDR’s trip to Tehran to meet with Allied leaders to discuss D-Day. (Photo: Student News Net)
Tehran Conference

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Tehran Conference accomplished the following:

1) The Allied leaders agreed to an invasion along the French coast by May 1944. Stalin agreed to open up another front to the east of Germany to divert German military assets away from the French coast during the D-Day invasion.

2) Following an Allied victory over Germany, Stalin agreed the Soviet Union would declare war on Japan.

3) The Allied leaders discussed postwar Germany in regards to boundaries and splitting Germany into sections the Allies would administer although final details were not worked out at this conference.

4) The leaders outlined the need for an international body to prevent another world war. The “four policemen” for the world would be the United States, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. This discussion evolved to become the United Nations, established in 1946 after the war ended.

This photo is on the wall of the room on the USS Iowa where FDR met with his war cabinet on the way to Tehran. (Photo: Student News Net)
Past meets the present

As visitors tour the USS Iowa, it’s inevitable to see large container ships coming in and out of Long Beach Harbor, a huge port for global shipping. It’s the perfect visual to explain why the U.S. Navy is so important as ships deploys around the world to keep international shipping lanes open. It’s been the mission of the U.S. Navy since it was formed by Congress in 1798.

Where are the other two Iowa-class battleships? The USS Wisconsin is a museum in Norfolk, Virginia and the USS New Jersey is a museum and memorial in Camden, New Jersey near Philadelphia.

And the USS Iowa is known in Hollywood. Watch for an upcoming episode of Seal Team as a scene for that television series was recently filmed on the ship.