Crew visits to spark interest as USS Iowa attack submarine nears christening

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Soon, USS Iowa will not just be a piece of history.

Any Iowan who has visited the State Capitol knows the vintage battleship of the Second World War who bore that name: The 18 1/2-foot, 1,350-pound shipbuilder’s model of the now-retired ship has held a place of honor just off the rotunda for more than 50 years, impressing generations of children during 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.

The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Missouri departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.  The USS Iowa, scheduled for christening in early 2023, will be the 24th Virginia-class submarine.

After:USS Iowa cannon will be on display near the ship’s former home in Virginia

As baptism approaches, the commissioning committee of the SSN 797 — which uses the ship’s current official designation — is stepping up to both raise money for the privately-sponsored event and introduce the 130-plus-member crew to Iowans.

Two of these events are scheduled for the next few days. From 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, crew members will be on hand to an encounter to Big Grove Brewing’s new Des Moines bara committee sponsor, at 555 17th St. Then on Monday, Governor Kim Reynolds, accompanied by crew members and the commander of the submarine, Matthew Powellwill appear in a 1:30 p.m. ceremony at the Iowa State Fair, where Reynolds will declare USS Iowa August.

Petty Officer First Class Flynn Davis holds a patch for the USS Iowa next to a shoulder patch for the Submarine Pre-Commission Unit during a visit by members of the USS Iowa PCU to the Iowa City Veterans Administration Hospital in 2019.

“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 Waterloo’s Irish Fest earlier this month and toured the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in that city, which commemorates the five Sullivan Brothers of Iowa, all United States 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 participation of Iowans in 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 ceremony as a ship of the United States Navy, a said Tanner.

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.

The battleship USS Iowa, launched in 1942, is now a floating museum at the Port of Los Angeles in California.

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. Her final dismantling came in 1990 and she 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. Join it at [email protected].

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