The USS Iowa (BB 61) has a proud early naval history of service to the United States by projecting our overseas strength and providing firepower soon after it was commissioned in early 1943. Iowa entered into service at the mid-part of World War II and was present at the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Later another call to duty was issued for serving in the Korean conflict which eventually ended with an armistice on July 27, 1953.
The American Battleship is a wonderment of naval technology and projects power from bow to stern. Specifically looking back upon Iowa’s construction at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, gun Tube #270 was installed in turret 1, left position till removal circa 1954 to be relined at the Naval Gun Factory, Washington Navy Yard and reproved at Dahlgren, Virginia as a ready spare.
Fast forward 30 years and note that Iowa BB 61 and her sister battleships being the New Jersey (BB 62), Missouri (BB 63) and Wisconsin (BB 64) are all reactivated in 1984 as part of the plan for a 600-ship Navy. It is sometime shortly thereafter that 9 ready spare tubes arrive at the St. Julien’s Creek Annex (SJCA) of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) to be forward deployed if there were ever need for vessel repairs. I remember this event well because I issued a small Public Works contract work order to prepare a 3-foot-deep stone foundation base in a grass field before they arrived from Dahlgren for long term storage to await as ready spares.
In 1995, one of these nine tubes makes the trip to NNSY’s historic Trophy Park to where it is displayed today, that is Tube #290 which served upon USS New Jersey BB 62 throughout both World War II and Korea.
In June of 2011, the Coastal Defense Study Group was asked to help find safe homes for the remaining eight historic 16-inch/Mark 7 barrels at SJCA or the would be sold for scrap and cut into eight-foot sections. At almost 70 feet long and weighing nearly 120 tons it became quite the labor of love to find groups that might be interested yet to date all have been relocated to either former costal batteries to help interpret the battle on the homefront or adjacent to ships or memorial parks.
So as an aside it is important to understand that Gun #270 was the first 16-inch/Mark 7 gun ever built and is special representing advancements of American naval firepower. The final multi-step destiny of same shall be summarized as follows, thus my title reference of USS Iowa, Gun Tube #270 – An Amazing Final Journey, Part I.
Collaboration between the Navy and multiple private stakeholder organizations have already seen tangible portions of the vision accomplished late January 2023.
The existing uneven surrounding earth from when Tube #270 was repositioned in 2018 after three other adjacent tubes were removed was overcome by the US Navy’s finest, the Seabees from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story. They utilized skills with survey instruments to shoot elevations to determine cut and fill required before activating of their massive Caterpillar 120M Road Grader.
Next came local contractor Barnhart with their self-designed 1 shot double gantry crane system capable of lifting 500 tons. Powered by hydraulics this crane system never even recognized the almost 120 tons within the slings as it quietly lifted then lowered the gun tube onto an equally amazing 120-wheel heavy lift trailer.
A short night time road trip from SJCA to Marine Specialty Painting adjacent to NNSY followed soon thereafter. It is here we shall see the existing coatings removed and a fresh coat of preservation over the next month or so.
What is next? Well, you can read about it here in a future issue of Service to the Fleet as we cover the USS Iowa Gun Tube #270 – An Amazing Final Journey, Part II as it transits the roads of Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach for a final display location adjacent to the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse at Fort Story later this summer.