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Iowa History Daily: April 20 - USS Iowa Turret Explosion

Iowa History Daily: On April 20, 1989, 47 crewmen died aboard the USS Iowa when a turret exploded during a routine gunnery exercise. A tragic event aboard Iowa’s namesake battleship, the devastating explosion moved the World War II era ship toward a final retirement.

Initially ordered for construction in July of 1939, the USS Iowa officially launched for service on August 27, 1942. Featuring a main battery consisting of nine 50-caliber Mark 7 guns as well as an array of anti-aircraft guns, the Iowa first sailed as a part of the Atlantic Fleet. In November of 1943, the new ship carried President Franklin Delano Roosevelt across the Atlantic en route to meet Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill at the Tehran Conference.

In early 1944, the USS Iowa departed to serve as the flagship of Battleship Division 7 in the Pacific Theater. Serving in the campaign for the Marshall Islands, as well as in strikes against Japanese positions in Guam in the Mariana Islands and in the quest to retake the Philippines. When Typhoon Cobra struck the group including Iowa in late December in the Philippine Sea, the vessel sustained significant damage to propeller shaft Number 3. After arriving back stateside in San Francisco for repairs during early 1945, Iowa sailed for Okinawa where it resumed service in efforts to retake the island.

The ship went on to serve in the Korean War before entering the US Navy reserve fleet (also known as the ‘mothball fleet’) until 1984 when reactivation entered the ship into the Cold War. After the disastrous turret explosion killed 47 sailors on board during April of 1989, the ship officially reached decommissioned status in October 1990. A brief return to service from 1999 to 2006 ended with donation to the Pacific Battleship Center in 2011 where the ship today stands as the USS Iowa Museum in Berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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