Crew visits to spark interest as USS Iowa attack submarine nears christening
Soon the USS Iowa will no longer be just a piece of history.
Any Iowan who has visited the State Capitol knows the vintage World War II battleship that bore that name: the shipbuilder’s 18 1/2-foot, 1,350-pound model of the now-retired vessel occupied a place of honor right next to the rotunda for more than 50 years, marveling generations of children on school outings.
Now a 377-foot, 7,000-ton submarine, nearing completion at General Dynamics Electric Boat, is ready to carry on the legacy. The christening of the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine as USS Iowa is expected early next year, with former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack holding up the champagne bottle at the company’s shipyard in Groton, Connecticut.
After: USS Iowa cannon will be on display near the ship’s former home in Virginia
As the christening approaches, the SSN 797 Commissioning Committee – which uses the ship’s current official designation – is stepping up its activities to both raise funds for the privately sponsored event and introduce the crew. of over 130 members in Iowans.
Two of these events are scheduled for the next few days. From 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, crew members will be on hand to meet at the new Des Moines bar of Big Grove Brewing, a committee sponsor, at 555 17th St. Then on Monday, Governor Kim Reynolds, accompanied by members of the crew and the submarine’s commanding officer, Matthew Powell, will appear in a 1:30 p.m. ceremony at the Iowa State Fair, where Reynolds will declare USS Iowa August.
“We try to involve as many people as possible as we generate interest,” said Mathew Tanner, a Cedar Rapids native, Electric Boat test engineer and executive director of the commissioning committee.
A contingent of crew from the USS Iowa took part in the annual Big Register Bike Ride in Iowa in July and crew members appeared at the Waterloo Irish Festival earlier this month and visited the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in that city, which commemorates the five Sullivan brothers of Iowa, all Americans. Navy sailors who died in the sinking of the USS Juneau during World War II.
After: Crews work to repair the hull of a WWII ship named after the Sullivan brothers of Iowa
Tanner said the commissioning committee has assembled a network of Iowa families who host the Iowa crew on visits.
“We want them to come face to face with that friendly Iowa atmosphere that we have,” he said.
The committee’s goal is to ensure a strong turnout of Iowans for the baptism. And the events will not stop there. Once christened, Iowa will depart for eight months of sea trials. When these are satisfactorily completed, she will be commissioned in a full dress ceremony as a ship of the United States Navy, a Tanner said.
The new Iowa, the 24th of 3 planned Virginia-class submarines, will have a significant distinction as the first of the $2 billion ships specifically outfitted to accommodate female crew members, Tanner said.
It will be the third US Navy ship to bear this name. The most famous, of course, is the battleship, the first of her class, launched 80 years ago this month in 1942. She was finally broken up in 1990 and is now a floating museum at the Port of Los Angeles. in California (which anyone with an Iowa driver’s license can get free admission to).
The first USS Iowa, launched in 1896, was a battleship that participated in the Spanish-American War.
Bill Steiden is the Business and Investigative Editor for the Register. Contact him at [email protected]