Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Thousands Visit USS Iowa Museum on Opening Day-blogger

Thousands Visit USS Iowa Museum on Opening Day-blogger

LOS ANGELES, Iowa — The fearsome guns of the USS Iowa protected FDR from torpedo attacks and helped destroy the Japanese military in World War II. They shelled North Korea in the 1950s and patrolled the Central American coast during the Cold War.

On Saturday, with the grand opening of the country’s newest battleship museum in the Los Angeles community of San Pedro, the artillery that struck so much fear in America’s enemies got a new role: photo op.

More than 3,000 people walked up the Iowa’s gangplank on its inaugural day and nearly every one seemed to want a photo with its 16-inch guns.

“I want them to be part of history,” said retired Marine Brian Tisdale of his two children, whom he captured posing at the gun barrels.

Whether a snapshot on the Iowa deck will become as mandatory to a southern California vacation as a picture in front of the Hollywood sign remains to be seen. Officials said they were pleased with the museum’s first day, especially given the breakneck pace of the project.

The opening came just a month after the Iowa, one of the largest battleships ever, arrived in Los Angeles’ harbor and just 10 months after the Navy selected San Pedro as the site of the museum.

“It’s unheard of. It usually takes about three years,” said battleship enthusiast Robert Kent, who led the campaign to bring the Iowa to L.A. and now serves as director of the non-profit that runs the museum, Pacific Battleship Center.

Built in 1940, the Iowa was an important part of the Navy fleet for five decades. It ferried President Franklin Roosevelt to Casablanca during World War II and later fought in the Pacific, sailing victoriously into Tokyo Harbor. The Iowa served in the Korean conflict and plied the Persian Gulf in the 1980s.

Only about 15 percent of the ship is open to the public so far. Visitors are funneled down a single route that passes through a wardroom where officers ate and relaxed, around the vessel’s upper decks and through the captain’s quarters where Roosevelt once stayed.

Kent said additional renovations are ongoing, and by 2015, there will be five different tours and about 95 percent of the ship will be open to the public.

Museum organizers have previously said they anticipated 450,000 visitors annually, but as he stood at the top of the gangplank Saturday, Kent said the goal was 200,000.

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