IOWA class gallery 3

(USS Iowa image). After various firing exercises to fine-tune its artillery, from August 1984 to April 1985, the Iowa made various visits to points in Central America, including some humanitarian missions in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras. In April the ship returned to Norfolk and there received a review that mainly affected the shaft seals, sea valves, ordinance, interior-communications systems, boilers, turbines, but especially the realigning the pedestal bearings. These components caused so much noise and so much vibration at high speed that it was practically impossible to stay in the Command Post Office, which was located on top of the inboard propellers on the skeg shafts.
(USS Iowa image). In 1986 Iowa began a program to improve the accuracy of her main artillery. In 1982, during the intervention of the USS New Jersey in Beirut, it was found that there was a great shell dispersion and too much ammunition had to be spent to hit the targets. In July she conducted targeting exercises in the Gulf of Mexico and successfully launched a Tomahawk missile, and in August she conducted maneuvers with other NATO ships. In December she conducted tests with remotely piloted vehicles (RPV) in the Atlantic Ocean with inconclusive results.
(USS Iowa image). In 1987 experimentation with RPVs continues and it is clear that they are a great help in the concept of indirect long-range fire. RPV recovery procedures are improved and a book entitled “Battleship 16″/50 Caliber Gunnery Handbook” is incorporated into reactivated ships in September. This book was based on a review of research conducted in 1939-40 during naval tests developed in Dahlgren, in which the corrections of the elevation angles according to the wear of the barrels were studied.
(USS Iowa image). The ship was in the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea from the end of November 1987 to February 1988. In 1989 it was carrying out special firing trials with the 406mm guns and with the use of RPVs, rangefinders and velocimeters, two of six shells hit a target located at a distance of 42,775 meters. The velocimeters measured the speed of the projectile when it left the barrel and thus the amount of powder could be adjusted more precisely, thus achieving greater accuracy and greater ranges.
(USS Iowa image). The morning of April 9, 1989 would remain the blackest day in the career of the USS Iowa. On this date, during exercises carried out as part of the “Fleetex 3-89” maneuvers, the Turret II suffered an internal explosion that took the lives of 47 crew members. This disaster took place a few months after the replacement of Captain Seaquist by Captain Moosally and the change of certain operational aspects within the ship. For example, the new Captain Moosally’s predilection for missiles rather than artillery was known, which led to her care and instruction not being carried out as regularly as with the previous Captain Seaquist. Of course, this does not explain by itself the accident that occurred, although according to some experts, it could have played an important role.
(USS Iowa‘s turret explosion image). The USS Iowa had not conducted target practice for six weeks and some of the 406mm turret crews had recently been changed. That same morning a gun in Turret I had problems with one of the powder bags that prevented it from being fired. This problem was not uncommon when using reduced charge powder bags and had absolutely nothing to do with the subsequent catastrophe. Order was given to load three dummy shells and D846 propellant into Turret II. Although this propellant was not normally used to avoid barrel wear, this time a 5 bag powder charge would be used instead of the usual 6 bags. In this way, the pressures generated would be barely a third of the maximum tolerated, that is, their use did not generate conditions of insecurity. The outer guns were loaded and raised to firing position at 17 and 44 seconds after the order was given, but things in the center gun didn’t go smoothly.
(USS Iowa‘s turret explosion scheme). Apparently there was a problem with the arrangement of the powder bags inside the barrel. The last bag was located 60.9 cm inside the barrel, when the ideal was 10 cm. While the Gun Captain Clayton M. Hartwig was investigating what the problem was, the breech was open and the rammer was still in the barrel, and suddenly, smoke, flames, unspent powder grains and hot gases burst out of the open breech. The explosion spread through the interior of the turret and instantly killed 47 servers, although fortunately 11 lower magazine servers survived, as they were outside the rotating turret substructure.
(USS Iowa‘s turret explosion scheme). Investigations into what happened were immediately launched, and it should be noted that the Navy was unable to reproduce the accidental explosion that was believed to have occurred in Turret II. It must be remembered that the barrel was “cold”, that is, that it had not yet fired a shot when the accident occurred, so the explanation that it was caused by a malfunction of the rammer, which caused the ignition of the unspent powder grains, is almost eliminated. The ignition properties of D846 propellant and black powder were studied and it was found that it took 9 minutes for the black powder to ignite when heat was applied with a lighter through the quilted patch on the powder bags. Similarly, the powder grains took between 2.5 and 3.5 minutes to ignite, depending on whether they were inside the plain silk material or a polyethylene wear-reducing jacket.
(USS Iowa‘s turret explosion image). It was also proved “impossible” to light the powder bags by dropping or ramming them from heights of 12 and 16 meters. These barrels were designed to prevent the primer from being fired until the breech block was closed and locked. In addition, the ignition of the charges started from the breech part forward in a sequential manner, causing the pressure that propelled the shell towards the muzzle. After ruling out accidental causes, it was concluded that the gun had surely been sabotaged. Small traces of steel wool, glycol and calcium hypochlorite were found in the rotating band of the shell introduced in the center gun. After various tests it was confirmed that a plastic bag containing a glass tube filled with these materials, placed between the first and second powder bags, and then rammed into the breech could produce what happened on the USS Iowa.
(USS Iowa‘s turret explosion image). Following the Navy’s confirmation that the explosion had been caused by sabotage caused by a chemical or electrical detonator, all blame fell on the Captain of the gun, Clayton M. Hartwig. This man was said to have sabotaged the gun in an act of revenge or suicide for his broken relationship with another sailor on the ship, Kendall Truitt. From this moment, everything led to a soap opera of alleged homosexual relationships and unconfirmed suicide threats. Logically, this explanation did not convince a good part of the families of the victims, neither the media nor a good part of Congress, for which a new investigation was requested from the Sandia National Laboratories.
After the first tests, the Sandia National Laboratories began to suspect an accidental ignition caused by the rammer. They found that the chemicals found in the rotating band shell of the Iowa were also found (in different quantities) in the USS Wisconsin and USS Missouri, so they focused on whether it was possible that the rammer had caused the ignition. To do this, they analyzed the D846 propellant again and made a half-scale cylindrical chamber to perform various tests. These researchers determined that with sufficient velocity, the propellant could ignite, but in reality, the test conditions were not the same as in Turret II.
(USS Iowa image). After seventeen drop tests of five D846 powder bags replicating the rammer velocity of 4.25 m/s, ignition was not possible. However, in test eighteen, a bright light was observed between powder bags 2 and 3, followed by flames and an explosion. This time the charge had fewer trim-layer pellets, which had been placed in a circle near a black powder pouch. On May 25, 1990, investigators testified before the Senator Armed Devices Committee that they could neither confirm nor deny the theory that a chemical detonator had caused the explosion, but that a small number of pellets in the trim layer increased the possibility of an explosion if a “high-speed” overram did occur.
Further investigations were conducted at Dahlgreen following the results presented by the Sandia National Laboratories, since after examining the Turret II after the explosion, the rammer lever’s was in the “low-speed position”, which indicated that the rammer had lower speed. than those used during testing at Sandia. It was confirmed that the fewer pellets, the easier it was to ignite the charges, even if some of the pellets were misplaced, this was conducive to accidental ignition. However, the chance of an accidental ignition with the barrel cold and the “high-speed” position on the rammer was 1 in 38,000, but in the case of the “low-speed” position the probability was 1 in 1 x 10 raised to 47, or zero….
Despite the large number of tests and trials to accurately explain what happened in Turret II of the USS Iowa, the accident has not been clarified. Subsequently, the Navy made a series of recommendations aimed at improving safety in the handling of 406mm guns. The powder bags were redesigned, eliminating the trim layers to avoid the possible ignition of the pellets in the event of an overram. In fact, all the ones used during Operation Desert Storm were of this type.
(USS Iowa image). After the accident, the Iowa stopped in Puerto Rico to disembark the remains of the deceased. She then proceeded to Norfolk, where the ammunition was unloaded and some repairs were carried out. The damaged turret was rotated to its usual position and its guns were lowered with their own engines. New equipment was requested to get the turret operational in the future, but it was stored inside the turret and the turret was sealed. In June 1989 the ship was flagship of the Sixth Fleet and in December she returned to Norfolk for Turret II to be repaired, which never happened.
On October 26, 1990, the USS Iowa was decommissioned for the third and last time. During her 1982-90 reactivation, the ship fired 2,873 406mm shells, more than any other peacetime battleship. In 2006 the Iowa was struck off the Naval Vessel Register to be donated as a museum ship, but on the condition that she remain in good enough condition to be re-activated if necessary. In September 2011 the ship was delivered to the “Pacific Battleship Center” organization for display in Port of Richmond, California. On June 9, 2012, the USS Iowa was permanently docked in San Pedro, and on July 7 she opened her doors to the public.
USS New Jersey BB-62 (on the image) was launched on December 7, 1942 and commissioned on May 23, 1943. In September 1943 her bridge was rebuilt giving her a very distinctive semi-circular appearance and at the end of the year after some brief maintenance work it was dispatched to the Pacific together with the USS Iowa, where they joined the Fifth Fleet. In late January 1944 she had her first combat mission and was assigned to operate as an anti-aircraft escort for a carrier task force.
(USS New Jersey image). On February 17, 1944, near Truk, she sank an armed trawler and, together with the USS Iowa, attacked the light cruiser Katori and the destroyer Maikaze, and showed that their main guns were excellent weapons. Although New Jersey did not get direct impacts, she quickly got several straddles despite of the great distance og the engagement. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf she was the flagship of the Third Fleet, but she did not engage the Japanese surface fleet. On December 23, 1944 the ship received a 127mm shell fired by an escorting destroyer during target practice. Fortunately, only one crew member was injured and the damage was minimal.
(USS New Jersey image). She began 1945 protecting aircraft carriers that made attacks on Luzon, Formosa, and Okinawa. During February she participated in the assault on Iwo Jima and in the first air raids from aircraft carriers over Tokyo. From mid-March to mid-April she actively participated in the conquest of Okinawa escorting aircraft carriers and performing air defense duties for them. At the end of April the USS New Jersey entered at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for maintenance and overhaul work. She would go out to sea again on July 4 for Pearl Harbor and later headed for Guam. In mid-August she became the flagship of the Fifth Fleet again and thus she would end the war. She arrived in Tokyo Bay on September 17 and was the flagship of the Naval Forces in Japanese waters until the end of January 1946.
(USS New Jersey image). In February 1946, it can be said that she carried out his last mission of WWII when she brought some 1,000 soldiers back to the United States under Operation Magic Carpet. During her wartime service the New Jersey sailed over 220,000 miles, shot down 20 enemy aircraft and fired 971 406mm shells. After the war she was assigned to the first training squadron and toured European waters from June to August 1947, training over 2,000 US Navy and US Marine midshipmen. In mid-October 1947 BB-62 anchored at the New York Naval Shipyard and on June 30, 1948 the ship was decommissioned and assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in Bayonne, New Jersey.
(USS New Jersey image). On November 21, 1950, the USS New Jersey was recommissioned to be sent to Korea. She served in the Korean War from April to November 1951 and from March to November 1953. On May 21, 1951 she received a 100mm shell from a coastal battery while anchored in Wonsan Harbor performing fire support duties. The impact occurred on the roof of Turret I but no casualties or damage were caused. However, that same day an air bust killed one and wounded three servers of a machine gun. These were the only combat losses suffered on the ship during her entire career.
(USS New Jersey image). The main task during the Korean War was seaborne artillery support. It destroyed artillery emplacements, troop positions, shore batteries, supply lines, railways, bridges, command centers, pillboxes and bunkers with overwhelming efficiency, demonstrating once again the need to have this type of ship for operations in coastal areas. During her operations in Korea the USS New Jersey fired 6,671 406mm shells in support of the U.N. and South Korean troops.In November 1953 the ship returned to Norfolk and after some maintenance work carried out routine exercises until December 1956, when it was anchored at the New York Naval Shipyard for deactivation. On August 21, 1957, she was again posted to the Reserve Fleet in Bayonne, New Jersey, where she would spend more than 10 years until her next return to work.
(USS New Jersey image). In August 1967, the reactivation of the USS New Jersey was approved for deployment to Vietnam to perform naval gunfire support as it did in Korea. Secretary of Defense chose this ship out of 4 in her class because she was in the best overall condition, as the ship received an extensive overhaul shortly before her decommissioning. After removing all the 20 and 40mm guns and upgrading her electronic and radar equipment, the BB-62 was recommissioned on April 6, 1968 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. To expedite their reactivation, equipment from the USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin was used on the condition that they be replaced later. The front bridge was remodeled to accommodate the new electronic systems, the medical facilities were improved and a landing area for helicopters was installed. On September 2 she left Long Beach and on the 30th of the same month she fired her first shots against the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) near the 17th parallel.
(USS New Jersey image). On April 3, 1969, the ship left for the United States and arrived in Long Beach on May 5. Although the New Jersey was prepared for a second tour in Vietnam, President Nixon decided to deactivate her again, as a goodwill gesture to the North Vietnamese authorities. Thus, the ship was decommissioned at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on December 17, 1969. During its 120 days of deployment in Vietnam, the USS New Jersey effectively carried out its task destroying a multitude of bunkers, caves, tunnel complexes, coastal artillery sites, troops concentrations and some logistics craft. She fired 6,200 406mm shells, and that’s considering Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had decreed that only a maximum of sixty-five 406mm rounds could be fired per day.
(USS New Jersey image). In July 1981, the New Jersey was towed to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a new reactivation. After an extensive period of modernization and installation of new armament, and electronic systems, the “old battleship” was ready for service once again. On October 28, 1982, she returned to service as an even more powerful and efficient ship, and in August 1983, she was sent to the Mediterranean Sea to operate in Lebanon with a multinational force to put an end to a bloody civil war. She was stationed outside Beirut from September 1983 to April 1984. It sent its first salvos in this campaign against Syrian anti-aircraft artillery on December 14, 1983. Later, on February 8, 1984, it fired 288 406mm shells at artillery positions in the mountains. It would be after this action that it became clear that the accuracy of the guns was not adequate and a gunnery test program was started with the USS Iowa to solve this problem.

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