Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” A famous line by a guy who wrote a naval battle history book by the time he was 23 years old. When I was 23 I was still just working on finishing up at UCLA, and barely managing that. I had chosen to major in Political Science with an emphasis in international relations…so I was all about the big sticks.
I've always loved history. As much as some like to tout the history of artists and scholars, of poets and lovers, one fact I've come to learn is that the history of nations is always violent. It is the nature of humanity. We are creative, we are artistic, we may be innovative, but we are violent. As long as man is moving and desiring progress, that will be the case.
One of my favorite places to visit – as it covers my favorite subject – is the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California. Ever since my brother and I were little boys we knew the sound of a Merlin Engine coming from just over the horizon. It would send chills of joy and wonderment. One of the things that amazed me most was the fact that in about forty days, a necessity became the mother of one of the greatest inventions of WWII. The P-51 Mustang. America (with the help of some British engineers) created a fighter/escort plane that not only put the United States out front in the war, but also happened to be one of the same vehicles to help propel African Americans from the back seats of the war effort to the very zenith of it as they made a name for themselves as some of the greatest fighter squadrons of the entire war.
It amazed me to read about and see the discoveries and mechanical accomplishments created by people who, prior to the conflict, worried little about anything over seas. And, like my favorite president believed, dominance of the seas during this time would be and absolute must. Enter the Iowa class of battleships.
I recently got an opportunity to visit the USS Iowa in Long Beach thanks to Discover Los Angeles, and I jumped at the chance. I had never really focused my attention on any type of naval vessel previously, and thought this would be a great way to expand my historical understanding. Not only that, but this would also be a great visit to share with the boys on my neverending quest to expose them to fantastical things.
In 1940, the United States set to build a new class of battleship. A formidable boat to sink and dominate all the rubber duckies that the German military could float our way. Not only that, but it would help dominate land fortifications. Wait. LAND fortifications? Yeah. That's right.
The first of the class was conveniently called the USS Iowa, AKA “The Big Stick.” Get it? I eluded to that at the beginning…tricky, huh? It was built with nine main guns. These guns were capable of firing a round (big bullet) that was sixteen inches in diameter. That's bigger than most people are wide. What's even more amazing is that the really big rounds weighed in at 2,700 pounds. You know what else weighs 2,700 pounds? That is the same as shooting a bullet that weighs as much as a 2014 Toyota Corolla. And now for the really amazing part: it could accurately fire this 2014 Toyota Corolla 25 miles.
To show you how amazing this is I've created a small list of familiar distances to illustrate that span:
- Long Beach (right where the USS Iowa rests) to Anaheim
- San Francisco to Oakland…five times over
- Downtown Chicago to Gary, Indiana
- The Mexican border to La Jolla cove
The USS Iowa is also four feet longer than the Titanic. Unlike the Titanic, Jack would not have had to let go had he been in the Iowa as the Iowa would have turned every iceberg in a fifty mile radius into a slushy. Who's up for crushed ice? The USS Iowa is also taller than the Statue of Liberty from the water up, could power a small city, and weighs as much as 42,556 of those Toyota Corollas that it can shoot.
I would have to say that after going through the entire ship on the self-guided tour, it is more impressive – as far as visits go – than the Hoover Dam. I was very happy Chelsea and the boys got to come along, and we even brought Opa to ogle at the machinery. Sidekick loved the cannons and Some Boy had fun just following the arrows on the ground to show us our next stop.
Now through May 19th, LA's best hotels and museums are offering up to half off as part of their Culture LA initiative. If you live in the area and have been meaning to see sights like Annenberg, Geffen or LACMA, now's the time to do it. And if you do visit Battleship Iowa, hop on over the Green Onion just down the street for lunch or dinner and gorge on their totally addictive chips and salsa. Yum!