hacker emblem
jaegerfesting
Search | Tags | Photos | Flights | Gas Mileage | Log in

Iowa

Started: 2021-10-03 21:45:02

Submitted: 2021-10-04 22:37:45

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator visits USS Iowa in Los Angeles

I took my first post-vaccine flight in July, three months after my first COVID vaccine shot, eleven months after my last middle-of-the-pandemic flight (from Seattle to San Jose to pick up my kids and move them to California), more than a year after my last flight in the Before Times.

737 wing flying over Santa Cruz
737 wing flying over Santa Cruz

I flew from San Francisco to Orange County, our flight path taking us down the California coast with a view of Santa Cruz. I could see Lighthouse Point and the pier, and point vaguely to where my house was supposed to be in the wildland-urban interface on the north side of the city, while a wispy marine layer hung a few nautical miles out to sea.

737 wing flying over the Port of Long Beach at sunset
737 wing flying over the Port of Long Beach at sunset

As my plane descended into Orange County, I could see the container ships waiting outside of the Port of Long Beach, a physical sign of the disruption to global shipping brought on by the global pandemic. (At this point the vaccine was widely available, and California had been officially reopened for a month; but the Fourth Wave was already upon us.)

I had flown to Orange County for a wedding, but I didn't have appropriate clothing to wear to a wedding (since my pre-pandemic suit didn't fit me especially well any more; and it was a black suit anyway so more suitable for a funeral than a wedding; certainly not a summer outdoor wedding in Orange County), so my first order of business was to buy suitable pants. This meant I needed to figure out where I could buy dress pants on short notice in Orange County; I ended up at Nordstrom Rack and found suitable pants and, while I was at it, a short-sleeved blue collar shirt that worked better than the shirt I had brought with me.

With my clothing resolved, I got lunch and coffee and went back to the airport to pick up Kiesa, who had flown down to Orange County after dropping our kids off at my parents' house in Walla Walla for a week-long summer visit.

On Saturday, 17th July, we had no other commitments, so we headed to visit USS Iowa (BB-61), the lead ship of the US Navy's last class of battleships, permanently docked as a museum ship in San Pedro, Los Angeles.

USS Iowa as a museum ship
USS Iowa as a museum ship

The self-guided tour took me around the front deck to the ship's bow, looking back at the two forward gun turrets, each carrying three 16-inch guns. These are the same guns that equipped the batteries around San Francisco Bay, including Battery Townsley, capable of firing massive high-explosive shells across the horizon (with the caveat being that it's difficult to aim at something across the horizon). The main guns were arranged in three turrets of three guns each, with each turret capable of rotating and firing independently.

USS Iowa main deck and forward turrets
USS Iowa main deck and forward turrets

I stopped to watch the video describing the operation of the guns, and tried to visualize how the structure of the gun turret descended several decks into the hull of the ship; or, to be more accurate, the hull of the ship was built around the guns, since the entire purpose of the battleship was to provide a mobile platform for the guns and try to deliver more firepower than one received.

USS Iowa main tower
USS Iowa main tower

The tour took me past the number one gun turret and around the number two gun turret. It was the number two gun turret that exploded during a gunnery exercise in 1989, and the main hatch at the rear of the turret was sealed.

Seagull and chicks on top of USS Iowa 5-inch gun turret
Seagull and chicks on top of USS Iowa 5-inch gun turret

I followed the tour route on a circuitous climb around the super-structure, into the various command and control rooms (none of which were explained quite as much as I would have appreciated). Under normal operations the ship could be controlled from a windowed bridge with a commanding view of the forward deck and the the surrounding ocean (or, in this case, the pier and the neighborhood of San Pedro). While in combat, the ship was controlled from inside a heavily-armored cylinder embedded inside the superstructure, sealed off from the threat of enemy bombardment.

Looking forward over USS Iowa
Looking forward over USS Iowa

Towards the rear of the ship I saw a number of more-modern cruise missile batteries that had replaced some of the secondary side turrets when Iowa was modernized and recommissioned in the 1980s.

USS Iowa 16-inch gun turret number 3
USS Iowa 16-inch gun turret number 3

The tour took me below the main deck into the mess hall (including a 1980s vending machine with vintage soda logos), the kitchens to feed an entire ship full of sailors, and some of the enlisted bunks. The tour continued through a few museum spaces, with a gallery discussing some naval gunnery accidents and finally referencing the turret number two explosion. The tour finally ended in the gift shop, but I didn't find anything compelling to buy (and carry back with me on an airplane in a couple of days).

As I stepped off the ship, after a couple of hours on board, it was all I could do to resist turning around and signing up for one of the special tours (gunnery or engineering); but it was time for lunch so I left Iowa, having seen for myself an interesting piece of World War II and Cold War naval history.

The point is that one should never assume that sucky, disgusting software
is written by first year comp sci majors. There are enough professional
programmers out there to cause a far bigger disaster.
- Randseed (132501) on Slashdot, 08 June 2003