Bay City News—Sometimes even a mighty battleship can't overcome Mother Nature.
The planned departure of the historic USS Iowa from San Francisco Bay was postponed Sunday because of a storm brewing off of the southern California coast, according to officials with the Pacific Battleship Center. The center is converting the Navy vessel into a museum at the Port of Los Angeles.
A variety of events had been scheduled to take place around the bay to see the Iowa off to its new home in San Pedro. In the case of the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, the festivities went ahead even without the battleship's planned voyage.
The O'Brien, a historic World War II Liberty Ship, welcomed a crowd of several hundred passengers for a cruise into San Francisco Bay that was supposed to escort the Iowa out under the Golden Gate Bridge. But the itinerary was amended so that the O'Brien would make the trek across the bay to the Port of Richmond, where the Iowa has been undergoing repairs in preparation for its journey south.
Though passengers were disappointed that they wouldn't get to see the Iowa leading a grand procession through the bay, many were happy to glimpse the ship up close one last time in the Bay Area.
"To think this enormous ship is being retired is kind of sad — I think they made a gross mistake by letting it slip down to L.A., because kids today should be able to know what took place [in local history]," said Bruce Elliott, 87.
Elliott, who was accompanied on the trip by his son, granddaughter and great-grandson, said he started working in the Richmond shipyards during World War II at the age of 17, performing a wide variety of jobs on ships much like the Jeremiah O'Brien.
"At that time I could fly up and down these stairs, nothing bothered me. It was great sport, so I ran myself ragged," said the still spry Elliott, who along with a few veterans made a point of climbing on board today to pay tribute to the Iowa.
A U.S. Navy band on board the O'Brien played a mix of traditional marches and military themes throughout the day, and when the ship reached the Port of Richmond, and eventually the Iowa, it paused for everyone to raise a glass of champagne to honor the many years of service of the battleship, and the Americans that served aboard it.
A series of horns were blown, and two cannons fired in salute to the storied vessel before the O'Brien turned back around and headed out for the Golden Gate Bridge to complete the afternoon's originally scheduled path. Passing underneath the bridge's span, the ship's horn blared again and its machine guns fired off a volley of blank ammunition, the sounds of which echoed loudly off the bottom of the structure, prompting loud cheers from the crowd below.
"You can't honor a ship like that enough-I am flattered in being involved in saluting her, in anyway that I can. It's a salute to the people that helped win World War II," said Capt. Patrick Buttner, 77, who manned the O'Brien for the day's cruise.
A new departure date for the Iowa has not yet been announced.
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