Grayson Schmidt, Ames (IA) Tribune
3 September 2015
Seventy years after the second USS Iowa battleship was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo, the USS Iowa (SSN-797) submarine was officially named at the campus of Iowa State University.
There was not an empty seat in the Memorial Union’s Campanile Room Wednesday afternoon, as ISU President Steven Leath, Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus spoke about the importance of the ceremony.
“It’s very meaningful and very significant that on this occasion, the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender, we would have a new ship named after the state of Iowa, and we’re proud of it,” Branstad said.
The newest USS Iowa will be a Virginia-class submarine, which has enhanced stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and special warfare enhancements that enable it to meet the Navy’s multi-mission requirements. These submarines are also capable of attacking targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conducting covert, long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters or other sea-based forces.
Each one of these submarines is 7,800 tons and 377 feet in length, has a beam of 34 feet, and can operate at more than 25 knots submerged. They are designed with a reactor plant that does not require refueling during the planned life of the ship, reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.
The original USS Iowa (BB-4) was a battleship during the Spanish-American War, which afterwards was renamed and sunk in 1923. The second USS Iowa – which is the most well-known – served in Word War II and the Korean War. According to Mabus, it was the ship that President Franklin D. Roosevelt sailed on to Europe. It is currently anchored in Port of Los Angeles and serves as a museum. And with the newest USS Iowa announced, Branstad said the state will have a new ship to be proud of.
“This is a great honor. The USS Iowa has a proud tradition in history,” Branstad said. “You don’t get a ship named after the state very often, and now we have a nuclear submarine named after the state of Iowa.”
ISU is the only school in the state with a Navy ROTC unit, which, coincidentally, is about to celebrate its 70th anniversary this weekend. And despite not being located on (or even close to) the coast, Mabus stressed the importance of connecting the U.S. Navy with states that are not on the sea.
“What you’re doing shows how important that connection is, and how important it is that states that aren’t on the sea are a part of the sea services,” Mabus said.
With Iowa being associated with one of the most famous battleships in U.S. history, naming a new ship after it just seemed appropriate.
“It’s been a long time since Iowa had a ship named for it in the fleet, and it’s particularly important for states not on the sea to make that connection,” Mabus said. “We did it here because of the NROTC unit that is here and because it’s their 70th anniversary.”
According to Mabus, the USS Iowa was purchased with nine other submarines at a total cost of $18 million. He said it was a “10-for-nine deal,” in which the U.S. Navy bought 10 submarines at $2 million apiece but was only charged for nine. And even though the newest USS Iowa will not come into the fleet until the early 2020s, Sec. Mabus said it will be in there for about 40 years and will hopefully fill those big shoes that are associated with the USS Iowa.
“One of the most iconic ships ever in the U.S. Navy was the USS Iowa, the battleship during World War II,” Mabus said. “I’m sure it will uphold the name of the state and the ships that preceded it.”