USS Iowa – Farewell Salute to “The Big Stick”

USS Iowa

Firing the 16 inch guns

USS Iowa (BB-61) was the lead ship of a class of battleships built during World War II. The four ships of this class, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, were designed to operate as an integral component of a “fast carrier task force.” This meant their primary focus would be defending aircraft carriers against surface and aerial attacks, providing gunfire support for invasion forces storming a beachhead, and interdicting enemy supply and transportation systems along coastlines. While they were not designed to be “heavyweight brawlers,” they carried the armor and firepower needed to fight toe-to-toe with the capital warships of the Axis powers.

The 887-foot long ships could steam at high speed (33 knots) yet, having a 45,000 ton displacement, were protected by heavy armor. The main gun battery consisted of three turrets, each with three massive 16-inch guns, which could hurl crushing salvos of nine 2,700 pound projectiles at targets up to twenty-three miles away. During World War II, the Iowa class ships carried a massive array of 5-inch, 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft guns. As an unintended by-product of the Navy’s design considerations, these ships are not only the most powerful battleships ever built by the U.S., but are among the most elegant as well.

USS Iowa

Overhead view of the Iowa

Iowa was the only ship of her class to serve in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans during the war. She was commissioned in February 1943, with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox presiding over the ceremony. That fall, she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic to Casablanca en route to a crucial meeting in Tehran with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin. In support of this mission, a square bathtub was installed in the Captain’s quarters, as well as an elevator to shuttle the wheel-chair bound President between decks. Iowa is the only modern U.S. Navy battleship to carry a bathtub as part of its amenities!
When transferred to the Pacific Fleet in early 1944, Iowa shelled beachheads at Kwajalein and Eniwetok atolls in advance of U.S. amphibious landings. Later, as part of Fast Carrier Task Force 58, she supported carrier strikes against the Marianas Islands, including Guam and Saipan. Iowa often operated with the USS Hornet (CV-12), blasting enemy dive bombers and kamikazes from the skies around the battle fleet.

At the beginning of 1945, she left the war zone and entered an overhaul period at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco. In March, she rejoined the naval forces off Okinawa and participated in the invasion of that strategic island. Several months later, Iowa served as the flagship for Admiral William “Bull” Halsey during the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. She was briefly decommissioned after the war.

USS Iowa

Clearly shows the size of Iowa's 16 inch guns relative to the men who operated them,

However, Iowa was recalled to active duty to serve in the Korean War. For seven months in 1952, she was involved in raids on North Korea, smashing transportation, storage and industrial targets along the coast line with armor piercing and high explosive projectiles from her 16-inch guns.

In early 1958, she was decommissioned and placed into the Navy’s mothball fleet in Philadelphia, where she stayed for many years. Iowa was modernized in 1983 as part of a major naval expansion program and upgraded with the most advanced weapons systems available. These included Harpoon long-range anti-ship missiles, Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles, and Phalanx gatling guns for close-in anti-missile and anti-aircraft defense. Iowa was the first battleship to receive the RQ-2 Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle, which was useful for aerial reconnaissance and gunfire spotting. Her firepower was unmatched by any other ship in the world short of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. She operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets to counter the recently expanded Soviet Navy.

During a practice gunfire session with her main gun batteries in April 1989, a horrific explosion wrecked her #2 gun turret and killed 47 sailors. The reason for the explosion remains somewhat of a mystery today, and the turret was never repaired. Initially, the Navy investigation pointed towards a homosexual sailor who was having problems with his partner. However, subsequent evaluations demonstrated that the powder bags, manufactured during World War II, had become unstable and may have simply spontaneously exploded when rammed into the gun’s breech before firing.

Iowa was decommissioned for the last time in 1990, and was initially struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995. She was reinstated from 1999 to 2006 to comply with federal laws that required retention and maintenance of two Iowa-class battleships as possible gunfire support platforms for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Iowa was berthed in Newport, Rhode Island when, in 1999, Senator Boxer, Senator Feinstein and Representative Pelosi secured a three million dollar grant from Congress to transport her to the west coast. They envisioned having the famous capital warship become a major San Francisco waterfront museum attraction, boosting the city’s economic environment.

In March 2001, Oakland-based Crowley Marine Services used the powerful ocean going tug Sea Victory to tow her 6,500 miles via the Panama Canal. The canal transit alone took three full days, with only eight inches to spare on either side of the Iowa as she was maneuvered through the locks.

To the delight of thousands of onlookers, the sleek battleship arrived in Suisun Bay on April 21, the most unique ship to be part of the local mothball fleet in decades. Having her become part of the “ghost fleet” is analogous to having Madonna move into your neighborhood. What once was a fairly quiet, unobtrusive group of gray ships now became a major tourist attraction in its own right. Passengers (and drivers) inside cars, buses, boats and trains passing along the Suisun Bay area, craned their necks to get a look at her distinctive clipper bow sticking out upriver at the end of row “G.”

Little did the Navy, or the ship’s former crew, realize that new battles were looming on the horizon. In an astonishing mid-July 2005 decision, the SF Board of Supervisors voted against allowing the Iowa to be berthed in the city, citing their opposition to the war in Iraq and the military’s policies regarding homosexuals (i.e., “don’t ask, don’t tell”). This paved the way for other California communities to bid for the battleship – and reap the resulting financial rewards.

USS Iowa

USS Iowa passing thru the Panama Canal in 2001 on its way to the west coast

By March 2007, several competing groups formed to obtain the Iowa for their community. The Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square (HSMPS), the same group who attempted to place the Iowa in San Francisco, now advocated locating her at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. Another group from Stockton led by Navy Captain Jim Dodge (who was instrumental in saving the USS Hornet) also submitted a proposal to the Navy. In October 2007, the Navy sent a letter to HSMPS stating that the Vallejo group was the only remaining viable candidate to acquire Iowa but their application would be further reviewed only after evidence of firm financing.
Unfortunately, our major nationwide recession soon took hold and the city of Vallejo wound up in serious financial difficulty. HSMPS was unable to raise enough money to persuade the Navy to make a final donation decision in their favor.

The magnificent battleship patiently waited in Suisun Bay, with her teak deck slowly rotting, as various organizations continued to spar over her fate. In September 2011, the Navy decided to donate Iowa to a non-profit group in Los Angeles called the Pacific Battleship Center. Late this year, the ship will be permanently moved to the Port of Los Angeles (berth 87 in San Pedro) to serve as a museum and memorial to battleships.

The USS Iowa has many historical connections to the SF Bay Area, including the Hunter’s Point Shipyard, FDR’s presidential yacht M/V Potomac and her WWII combat companion USS Hornet. One the surface, it would seem logical to keep her here as a museum. However, Iowa deserves to be cared for by people who understand the rich heritage of American battleships, and their role in protecting the democratic principles citizens of our country enjoy today. While the SF Bay Area has an impressive maritime legacy, much of its populace does not readily acknowledge nor embrace it. In the end, the Navy felt the Los Angeles area had a better chance of ensuring long term success of the museum.

Farewell Iowa, we enjoyed having you in our mothball fleet and we will miss you!

* * *

Commemorate Veteran’s Day on November 11 at the USS Hornet Museum. For more information, visit the museum website at or call (510) 521-8448, ext. 282.

All Aboard for a “FUN”tastic Winter Ride!

Reno Snow Train

The Reno Fun Train moves through Sierra Snow—no chains required!

I love to dance and a weekend of dancing with friends in Reno sounded great … but fighting the traffic out of the Bay Area and through the snowy Sierras on a Friday and back again on Sunday sounded like anything but fun, not to mention stressful.

Answer – the Reno FUN TRAIN!

The FUN TRAIN’s festive atmosphere combined with the mystique of riding the rails over the mountains creates an unforgettably unique experience. It’s a party on wheels that begins the minute you step on board and gains steam with each passing station (Emeryville, Richmond, Martinez, Suisun, Sacramento, & Roseville) as cheerful travelers hop on with their weekend bags, picnic baskets, and ice chests.

At every stop, “Fun Rick” the Train Manager, hangs out of the train, welcoming guests with hat held high and a contagious smile on his face. On each platform, the FunAtics greet arriving passengers with lively Dixieland music as friendly cabin attendants direct you to your assigned car.

The Reno FUN TRAIN is the only train in the world where you can dance, sing-along, conga line, relax and let loose all while making new friends and enjoying the romance of riding the rails over the magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountains on your way to exciting downtown Reno.

Reno Snow Train

“Fun Rick” makes the ride... more Fun!

Fun themes and decorations add to the train’s festive atmosphere and strolling entertainers bring music, magic, and FUN right to your seat. The train’s staff is GREAT, going out of their way non-stop to make sure every passenger is well taken care of.

The Dance Car is laughter-filled as dancers try to keep their footing while the train zigs and zags through the foothills—giving a whole new meaning to “Rock & Roll”! The live band and full bar make this car a very popular hangout.

The Piano Lounge is a comfortable car where you can relax and listen to music or visit with friends. If you’re hungry, grab a snack at the Café/Bar and head up to the Dome Car to enjoy the incredible view. Or, if your money is burning a hole in your pocket, head to the Souvenir Shop where there is a good choice of mementos and gifts for purchase. And a Smoking Car comes complete with Cigar Lounge area.

As the FUN TRAIN clickity-clacks along, the scenery constantly changes as we pass through small towns and the Sacramento valley, over bridges and through tunnels. Sunshine turns to rain and then into snow. Flat valleys turn into gently rolling hills and then into snow frosted mountain peaks.

The Reno FUN TRAIN is all about “the journey” and this was one to remember. But we did also have plenty of time to enjoy our weekend destination – Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World.”

Reno Snow Train

Approaching the Sieraas and hidden beauty you can’t see from Highway 80

On Sunday morning, refreshed but exhausted, we re-boarded the train for our return trip. Needless to say, this trip was a bit more subdued as many passengers were quickly lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the rails.

For me, there were still more pictures to take so I headed up to the Dome Car with my camera to enjoy the spectacular wintertime show as we peacefully wound our way back through the magical snow covered Sierras, down through the foothills, and back into the Bay Area. We arrived home just in time to watch the sun set—the perfect ending to a never-to-be-forgotten journey!

My friends and I give the Reno FUN TRAIN 5 Stars!

The first FUN TRAIN ran the rails from the San Francisco East Bay to Reno in 1963 when Southern Pacific Railroad and the Reno Chamber of Commerce devised a plan to stimulate wintertime business in Reno while, at the same time, keeping the Southern Pacific crews working during the off season. Over the years different tour operators have managed the train but Key Holidays won the contract from Amtrak in 1993 and they have been running it ever since.

“Running these special charter trains to Reno has been a true labor of love.” said Jade Chapman, President of Key Holidays. “Our family’s passion has always been tied to travel and railroading. The Reno Fun Train and Reno Snow Train are the only trains in the world offering such a spectacular ride in the Sierra Nevada Mountains aboard a mode of transportation that is so totally unique not only in the Bay Area, but in the world.”

Key Holidays, a family run business in Walnut Creek, was started in 1983 by Chapman and her (now retired) step father, Henry Luna who is a founding member of Niles Canyon Railway. Chapman’s mother (also retired from Key Holidays) was a Fun Train Onboard Manager in the 1970s.

Reno Snow Train

“FunAtics” get the ball rolling on the station platform

Will 2012 be the end to an era?
There is a projected Amtrak charter equipment shortage on the West Coast and, unless more train cars can be supplied by Amtrak, this will be the final season for the Reno FUN TRAIN.

“The Fun Train is going out with a bang one year shy of its 50th Anniversary,” says Chapman, “and we’re inviting all our old friends and new ones to take one last spin, and relive some of the epic times between here and Reno.”

Don’t miss out!!!
Reno FUN TRAIN (Must be 21 or over)
February 10th – Mardi Gras
February 24th Hawaii “Aloha”
March 2nd – Mardi Gras
March 9th – 60s, 70s, & 80s
Midweek Reno SNOW TRAIN with onboard entertainment, live music, and historical narration for those who can get away midweek, families, and retirees.
February 14th – Valentine’s “Sweethearts”
February 21st – 50s Sock Hop
February 28th – Fat Tuesday
March 6th – Classic Country

For more information or to book your FUN TRAIN or SNOW TRAIN adventure, contact Key Holidays at 800-783-0783 or

Another Election Year is Coming

By the time you read this we’ll be just a year away from the Presidential Election. President Barrack Obama versus the last man standing in the GOP Battle Royale. Every election year, I feel like I’ve had the crap beat out of me by the time I got to my designated polling place to vote, and presidential elections are the worst. The negative campaign ads, the “no holds barred” style debates and the dinner hour interruptions from pollsters and candidate call centers make my head hurt. Someone said, “Politics is a dirty business,” and if that’s the case then elections are like rolling around in a mud puddle after a litter of puppies has just “done their business.”

Politicians spend so much time campaigning that they can’t possibly be doing their actual job and where does that leave us, as constitutes? It leaves us unrepresented. The guy or gal we hired is not showing up for work because he or she is out of the office trying to get rehired. Here’s a real world example: Imagine if all of the cashiers at Safeway/Lucky Supermarkets/Whole Foods/ Lunardi’s/Drager’s/etc. left their registers to go door-to-door, asking for support to keep their job. Chances are, we would all be annoyed by their visit and then we’d all head to the grocery store to stock up on free stuff because not one would be there to check us out. Could it be that the rest of the world knows we’re our most vulnerable during an election year because no one is minding the store?

It doesn’t matter which political affiliation you have these days; Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Vegetarian, Independent, New Union, Peace, Reform, American Populist, Citizens United, Daughters of the American Revolution or Sons of Anarchy, you’re inundated with television ads, phone calls, banners, signs, radio spots and town hall assemblies. It’s sensory overload when it comes to our right to vote.

In the spring of 1975, when I was in the seventh grade at Isaac Newton Graham Junior High School, I ran for Student Body President. This was the ultimate in prestigious titles for anyone transitioning to the eighth grade. I watched in awe as students stepped aside anytime Charlie Passentino, the reigning Student Body President, roamed the corridors. Like many aspiring politicians, I was seduced by the power the office held. Once I submitted my application, with the required thirty signatures (I’m not afraid to admit that I cozied up to the band geeks and drama freaks), I hit the campaign trail. Plastering the hallways of our school with campaign posters, that would eventually be defaced with obscene drawings, I didn’t so much defend my position on issues as much as make a lot of false promises I had no intention of keeping. At the candidate debate, which took place before the entire seventh grade class in the school’s multi-purpose room, all of the candidates did their best just not to throw-up on stage during our first public speaking experience. Ultimately, I lost the election. I think I came in sixth and there were only five candidates running. The charismatic and dashing Russell Kevin (or was it Kevin Russell?) won in a landslide victory. To his credit, Russ was a born politician and did an admirable job during his term. He managed to create new jobs, balance the budget, reduce our international debt, stabilize the stock market and secure a jukebox for the cafeteria. Russ was eventually succeeded by Jack Vandervork. Sadly, Jack’s administration was rocked with scandal during the fall of 1976 when he arrived stoned at the annual Sadie Hawkins Day dance.

The University of Akron conducted a study entitled Trends in Federal Campaign Spending, which charts a ten year history of campaign spending. Not surprising, the peak was during the last presidential election in 2008. The findings recorded total campaign spending that year at just under $600 million dollars. As I recall, the average American couldn’t escape the onslaught of ads. Our home phone message recorder had five to seven political related calls every day. Granted, I did feel popular, but it became so over-the-top that I just wanted it to stop. I kept thinking that all that money could’ve been spent more wisely or philanthropically.

Elections are good for the economy, but bad for the environment. erhaps President Obama’s jobs plan will coincide with the election year pumping $600,000,000 into the economy. Smart. However, the post election disposal of 1000 tons of bulk mailers and one million lawn signs could actually melt the polar icecaps and dry out a rain forest. The Green Party won’t like that one.

My own personal political views fall somewhere between Liberal Republican and Conservative Democrat. My Republican vote is usually cancelled out by my wife’s Democrat vote, however knowing that every vote counts I try and vote early and often. Prior to every election, my wife and I sit down and go over our sample ballots cover to cover. We typically see eye-to-eye on Bonds, Measures and Referendums, but truthfully I couldn’t tell you the difference between a bond, measure or referendum. Aren’t referendums the guys wearing stripped shirts doing the officiating at basketball and football games? The Mrs. elects to mail her ballot in where I prefer to get the full election experience, and the I Voted sticker, at my local polling place.

The right to vote is a privilege we should not take lightly. People all over the world have fought long and hard for that right and many countries today still do not have that form of democracy. Our country was built by people (fondly know as Pilgrims) who left England to establish a country where citizens had a right to choose their officials and representatives. Initially it was just white male citizens, but we’ve come a long way since the mid-1700s. Every U.S. Citizen, 18 years old and older, should feel a need to exercise their right to participate in the electoral process. Each and every one of us has a voice. Our vote does count. Rock the Vote! God Bless America.

Transforming Challenges Into Important Life Lessons

Dancing Feet
Okay, I must confess right out of the gate…I am a lover of books. My house is a testament to this passion. In fact, I have at least one shelf of books in every room and closet of my home (except the bathrooms). Recently, I decided to liberate some of the intense book energy in my house. So, I collected a couple of large cardboard boxes and set out on a “releasing quest.” I have to tell you that initially…I was off to a VERY slow start.

First, with my head tilted down (practically to my shoulder), while straining to see through my progressive lenses…I scanned the various book titles on one shelf. Then, squinting, I hesitantly chose “a candidate” to release. Next, while cradling the book in my hands, I quickly scanned its pages. That’s when a few of the book’s “priceless gems” caught my eye—and left me with a strong desire to re-read the book, again.

Now, multiply this procedure by ten. Yep, after not “releasing” a single book in the first forty minutes of my book cleanse, I sat myself down in an attempt to better understand my deep attachment to books. In the midst of this introspective moment, I realized that my love of books went way back…all the way back to childhood.

Unfortunately, like some of you perhaps, I didn’t feel as though I fit into my family of origin. And this lack of connectedness was painful since it’s natural to yearn for a sense of “belonging” within our families. So, in order to experience a deep connectedness to something, I discovered books at an early age.

Oh, the “GLORIOUS WORLD” of picture books, comic books, short stories, fiction, nonfiction, inspirational…whew…the list goes on and on. In short, I acquired a ravenous appetite for books. Clearly, books were an emotional and intellectual bridge to others…and a blessing! For this reason, I still savor reading the innermost thoughts and feelings of authors or the musings of their fictional characters.

Meanwhile, after clarifying why I love books so much (and after identifying my new “Bridge Theory”), I began to reframe my motivation for desiring to release a substantial number of books. Then, it came to me in a flash. I could share some of my fabulous books with others—lots of others—by donating them to our local library. That way, lots of people could enjoy them! And with that realization, numerous books flew from my shelves, filling the cardboard boxes to the brim…with glorious books to share.

In addition, during my book “releasing quest,” I reconnected to a beautifully written book by a Berkeley graduate, Parker J. Palmer. His bestselling book, Let Your Life Speak, touched me deeply and is currently designated as “a keeper.” Palmer’s writing style is fearlessly vulnerable as well as powerfully insightful. For instance, he shares some of his pivotal life experiences—including a deeply depressed period…a dark night of the soul.

What I love about this book is reading how he gleans “meaning” from each of his life challenges, thus gaining a better understanding of himself and of his world. Now, I’d like to share a quote, from his chapter entitled, “There Is a Season.” Palmer writes: 

We are here not only to transform the world but also to be transformed. Transformation is difficult, so it is good to know that there is comfort as well as challenge in the metaphor of life as a cycle of seasons. Illumined by that image, we see that we are not alone in the universe. We are participants in a vast communion of being, and if we open ourselves to its guidance, we can learn anew how to live in this great and gracious community of truth. We can, and we must—if we want our sciences to be humane, our institutions to be sustaining, our healings to be deep, our lives to be true.

Finally, as we experience the seasons of our own lives, let’s remember to savor the joys (like reading a great book) and glean “meaning” from our sorrows. After all, when we humbly embrace the wisdom from difficult times…we transform challenges into important life lessons.

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Join Trina and attend her upcoming Walnut Creek workshop for women and men: Managing Emotional and Compulsive Eating John Muir Women’s Health Center: Monday, Dec 19, 6:30-8:30 pm. Cost: $40 (Includes Weight Loss: 2-CD set). Seats are limited—register today for this inspiring workshop: (925) 941-7900 option 3. For more info, go to & click on “Private Sessions & Workshops.”

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author of the 2-CD Set, Weight Loss: Powerful & Easy-to-Use Tools for Releasing Excess Weight. Her artwork and personal profile are included in Outstanding American Illustrators Today 2. She is the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. She soulfully shares her creative approach to personal growth and passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or


Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.