The USS Iowa has reached its final destination at berth 87 at the Port of Los Angeles in Southern California. On the Fourth of July, a special ceremony will commemorate the ship's final docking and honor all who served aboard her. In attendance will be President Franklin Roosevelt's great granddaughter, Senator Harkin, Governor Branstad and a contingent of U.S. Congressional and Californian dignitaries.
On Memorial Day at Camp Dodge, Senator Black and I signed a USS Iowa banner on your behalf. This banner will be on display at the Fourth of July ceremony at the Port of Los Angeles. Then, on July 7, the first of an estimated 500,000 visitors will tour the ship as it becomes an interactive naval museum run by the non-profit Pacific Battleship Center.
On Feb. 1, Governor Branstad signed SF 2018 wich appropriated $3 million to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to work with the Pacific Battleship Center in assistance of this project. This bill passed the House and Senate unanimously, and I was proud to vote in favor. The U.S. Navy, Los Angeles, and California have also assisted. Private contributions make up a major portion of the project funding. If you would like to contribute, go online to www.pacificbattleship.com.
The USS Iowa, which served in World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War, is 14 stories high and displaces more than 45,000 tons. It is the only ship in her class to serve in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans during World War II. The Iowa earned 11 battle stars. She's known as the "Battleship of the Presidents" because many of her notable visitors include Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. Also known as "The Big Stick," the 887-foot Iowa-class warship was commissioned in 1943. That same year it took Roosevelt across the Atlantic on his way to a meeting with British Prime Minister Churchill and Soviet strongman Stalin, the first conference of the "Big Three" Allied leaders of the war.
Now, 69 years later, at its final port in Los Angeles, the ship will offer a unique educational experience to visitors. All Iowans can take advantage of this opportunity for free. A highlight of the tour is a digital virtual reality experience which has been created by a leading video game developer, Wargaming.net. History will be brought to life through high-tech, interactive, digital technology. A state-of-the-art video experience will recreate the ship's role in supporting American landings at Okinawa, Japan, in 1945. On the "Bridge of Experience," through high-tech video, visitors will see the ship's impressive turrets as its 16-inch guns rotate and fire at their targets. In addition, Wargaming.net is developing a gaming room on board that will put visitors in Grumman F6F Hellcat warplanes to defend the USS Iowa from attack by Japanese Zeros. I plan to tour the ship at some point and I'm looking forward to this state-of-the-art exhibit. If you make the trip, I'd love to hear about your experience aboard the floating interactive naval museum.
While many notable historical figures have stepped foot on the ship, the true heroes of the USS Iowa are the sailors who served aboard. Many USS Iowa veterans will attend the Fourth of July ceremony. Deceased USS Iowa crewmembers, those who died in battle and after returning to civilian life, will be remembered.
I was fortunate to befriend one of these heroes while I was a student at Newton High School. To anyone who graduated from Newton High School in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, the most beloved man in the building was Walt. Walt Druyff (pictured above) worked as a custodian at NHS for many years. He valued every student and cared enough to get to know them. He loved to tell stories about serving on the USS Iowa during World War II. His service was justly a point of pride throughout his life. I was very fortunate to spend time with Walt and hear about his experiences both in war and life. He attended annual reunions with his shipmates and educated anyone interested about the history and capabilities of the ship. I remember him telling me that when he was a young sailor, he truly believed he and his shipmates were "fighting the last war." I stayed in touch with Walt right up until he ended his battle with cancer a little over year ago. At my request, a U.S. flag was flown over the Iowa Capitol in honor of Walt. If you would like this done in honor or memory of a Jasper County veteran, please let me know. I'd be happy to put in a request.
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.
Feel free to contact me any time at 641-521-9260 or dan.kelley(at sign)legis.state.ia.us. Visit my web site at electkelley.com and friend me on Facebook. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.