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Battleship IOWA Repair Work Underway

Iowa departs Suisun Bay

Battleship IOWA departs Suisun Bay. Photo by Jeremy Bonelle, courtesy of the Pacific Battleship Center.

In early November, we shared photos of the departure of the battleship ex-USS Iowa from the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, CA. Restoration work on Iowa is now underway at Richmond, CA, to repair the ravages of time since her 1990 decommissioning. Staff and volunteers of the Pacific Battleship Center are now supervising extensive work on the exterior of the ship, including painting, corrosion control, repair of her famous wooden deck, and underwater hull preservation. Restoration crews are removing wood from the steel bulkheads (margins) on the main decks for the painter to get close enough and blast the steel to prevent further corrosion. They are also removing severely rotted wood on the bow that makes this area unsafe for future visitors, and which is allowing water under it.  Some of the wood on Iowa was replaced with Douglas Fir in the 1980’s and it appears the Douglas Fir has rotted much more than the teak. The overall goal is to preserve as much teak as possible and look at replacing teak in the farthest degraded areas.  These areas amount to approximately 25 to 30% of the ship.

The work is proceeding at a rapid pace, with the battleship’s final tow to Los Angeles scheduled for January, and a planned grand opening to the public next Fourth of July. This past weekend, with repair work still ongoing, portions of the ship were opened to the public. The Battleship Expo at the Port of Richmond includes a visit on board Iowa and access to exhibits that include a short film on the battleship, 16” shells, a Sheridan tank & half-track displayed by the Military Vehicle Foundation, the Blue Angels F-4 Phantom flight simulator from Pacific Coast Air Museum, and numerous other exhibits.

Currently the forward portion of the main deck with a view of turrets 1 & 2 is open to guests. As work is completed, additional exhibits and areas on the battleship may be open to the public for visitation. Reservations are not required. The Battleship Expo entrance donation is $10 per adult, $5 per child 12 years or older, and children 11 & under are free. Iowa is located at Terminal 3, 1411 Harbour Way, Richmond CA. The Battleship Expo can be accessed via the northeast gate.

USS Iowa Repair 1

Damaged deck wood being removed. Photo by Jeremy Bonelle, courtesy of the Pacific Battleship Center.

USS Iowa Repair 2

Repair work on the battleship requires many skilled craftsmen. Photo by Jeremy Bonelle, courtesy of the Pacific Battleship Center.

USS Iowa Repair 3

Sue Schmidt, volunteer coordinator, hard at work on restoration efforts. Photo by Jeremy Bonelle, courtesy of the Pacific Battleship Center.


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  1. The Douglas fir was deteriorating much faster than the teak between 88-90 when I was in Deck department. The foc’s’le area shown here had some rough spots, but was not as bad as the 01-level starboard side above the wardroom / XO cabin.

    • Vincent LaVallee

      Why are they replacing the rotting wood flooring with more wood? Why not use some modern composite instead that should last forever? I seriously doubt that teak would would be less in cost than any useful modern composite, so I doubt this is a financial issue.

      What has happened with repairing the damaged turret from 1989?

      • Crunk

        You would not use anything other than teak because that would not be period correct. It would ruin the feel of the ship with a modern composite. If your going to do it, do it the correct way.

      • They didn’t repair it. I have send photos inside of the turret. They fixed it enough so it looks good on the outside but inside it still is a mess. The whole gun house has been gutted and sealed off inside the center gun where the explosion happened it is still all torn apart and the walls between the turrets are also gone.

  2. george

    What possible use is a wood deck on a battleship anyhow? It is laid directly on a sealed steel flooring. As if to just be something to trap corrosive damp underneath. The liner SS United States was okay with a green fireproofed masonite and that was probably to keep passengers from slip and fall incidents. On the “Big I” it is true that the vertical armor belt, which is internal to the hull plating anyway, is sitting on some sort of timber for shock attenuation or stress relief, but being internal is only an issue in fire propagation.

    • matt

      The wood deck was for safety for moving the powder bags and shells. Less chance of spark when moving them around the deck.

      • thomas myrvold

        they knew that the iowas was going to operate in warm climates and the wood also protects the steel from direct sunlight so it dosent get as hot inside

    • kirk

      the wood deck was to walk on for the many men that manned the ship during WWII, a lot better footing than walking on wet steel, there is steel plate underneath the wood about 1″-2″ thick. the wood is only a walking surface, like pavement on a road.

  3. Gerald Webb

    Is there going to be any work for us to do on her as volunteers when she comes down to San Pedro?

    • admin

      Gerald, you may want to contact the Pacific Battleship Center to see about future volunteer opportunities, but on a ship that size there will always be plenty to do!

  4. David Atchison

    I am glad this mighty Lady will be restored and added to the Hall of Fame.
    I love the Battleships, and wish some were still in commission. I do not
    realy care for the ships now, dont even look like a ship, and I dont really
    care for missiles, only the big guns. Hope someday to be able to walk the
    decks of this great ship with my Grandkids.
    US Navy Retired.

  5. Ken LaBruzzi

    I can’t begin to tell you, what an honor it truely is, to be apart of this historical mighty ship. I am a third generation Boatwright beginning with my Grandfather, Dominic LaBruzzi and my Father Lawrence LaBruzzi. In the 1920’s my Grandfather and my Dad built Monterey fishing boats in Oakland DBA D. LaBruzzi & Son Boat Builders. In 1983 I joined my Dad in San Rafael, Ca. DBA Harbor Boat Repair. I am now employed at KKMI in Richmond. I couldn’t think of any other way in my life to continue my heritage as a boat builder, than to be apart of the USS Iowa Restoration project.

  6. Brian Chapman

    > What possible use is a wood deck on a battleship anyhow? It is laid directly on a sealed steel flooring. -George <

    George, hello, I have read that the teak overlay was a safety measure. Teak will not (iirc) splinter and shard in the way other woods will do, if shells struck Iowa's deck. For footing, an overlay atop the steel deck plate was required, and teak was easily the wood of choice.

  7. Luke Evans

    Yes, the purpose of the steel decking is mysterious to me as well. While it is beautiful when new, it is a moisture trap and must be a continuing maintenance headache. I’ve been working on the ship for several weeks now while she’s been in Richmond. Most of my work has been on the deck boards. From what I’ve seen, just about all of the decking will need to be replaced. An area on the aft section of the main deck just forward of the flight area is in pretty good shape, but the rest is severely deteriorated. This includes both the teak and the douglas fir boards, though the teak does seem to be faring much better. However, even those that look OK on the surface usually have rot underneath where water has collected between the boards and the steel subdecking. Where this has occured, the steel subdecking is substantially corroded as well. Tearing up the boards, preparing/repairing the steel subdeck, and then replacing the boards with new wooden decking will be quite a job and will be costly. Once replaced, maintenance will be critical, otherwise you’ll be back at it a few years later. It’s just the nature of the design.

    I did encounter one area just aft of Turret 3 where the teak was in beautiful condition and some sort of super sealent adhesive had been applied beneath the teak. The wood was perfect, and the steel subdeck was spotless. Getting up the boards was very difficult and required cutting the pieces into small chunks and prying them up, thus destroying the boards. However, it needed to be done to gain access to some steel protrusions that needed to be cut out. Whatever that sealant was that was applied in that area was very effective. Assuming it was applied before the ship was decommisioned in 1990, it has held up perfectly for 20+ years and literally looked like it was applied yesterday. That same stuff is what needs to be used for the replacement boards, if possible.

    All who want to get their hands dirty should visit the Pacific Batleship Center’s website and volunteer. There will be plenty to do for years to come. Much of the work isn’t exactly glamorous, but it is very rewarding.

    • kirk

      it’s to walk on for the crew back in the day, and for assembly, etc. imagine how HOT a steel deck would be in the equatorial sun out at sea, it would burn your hands and feet. there is a steel deck under the wood about 1″-2″ thick


    What a great lady. I look forward working on her when she get to Los Angeles

  9. Brad Proffitt

    I will be great to walk on her decks again with my dad. Before the war, he was assign to Division 4 on the USS West Virginia, BB48. He will never forget crossing the equator or ‘holy stoning’ the decks. Go Navy!

  10. Chris Hampton

    The wood decks main purpose was insulation from the hot tropical sun. During Ww2 some ships were not hot weather rated because of steel decks that got extremely hot, the wood helped this tremendously. Also imagine there was some nostalgia to the wooden decks of the past.

  11. John Anderson

    Ken, I restored a 1928 Dominic LaBruzzi 34′ raised deck cruiser named “Tule Lady” back in the 70s and 80s. Owned her 1972-1987. She is still kept in great shape in San Rafael by her current owner, Jim Staley.
    -John Anderson. [email protected]

    • Ken LaBruzzi

      Yes John, I remember her and you! My dad, Larry LaBruzzi and I had done some work on it. Where is she kept now? Do you have any pictures?

  12. Pingback: April Is ‘The Cruellest Month': Terrible Things That Happened In April | Phactual

  13. Stephen Hockey

    Hello, did turret #2 complete repair after explosion? Just curious.

  14. Looking for Teak Deck Plank from a US Navy Ship size 10″ x 13″.
    I am with the non profit Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee, Riverside, California. We just received an awesome gift from the USS Arizona Relics Program at Pearl Harbor. It is a Steel Piece of the USS Arizona harvested in the 1960’s when the Memorial was constructed. It will be displayed in the National Cemetery Lobby and we would like to place it atop an actual teak deck piece from a US Navy Ship. This will connect the legacy of those Veterans who were KIA and the survivors now at eternal rest in RNC. Two such heroes… one KIA on 12-7-41 on the Battleship Oklahoma one who survived serving on the USS Vestal (the Vestal was tied up to the USS Arizona)
    ANY ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.

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