Is the organization attempting to “save” the ex-USS Iowa (BB-61) telling the truth?

With the agreement to shed the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet, the ex-USS Iowa is set to be disposed of in about seven years. To save the Iowa, the Navy’s designated partner, “Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square”, must raise $15-20 million dollars.

But the President of “Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square,” Elaine Merylin Wong, is saying some things that make me question her credibility.

Look at the recent news coverage. As the the Governor of Iowa, Chet Culver, signed on to support fundraising efforts, Wong said, according to the Des Moines Register, her organization has done quite a lot:

Already, $4 million has been raised and spent, and another $18 million to $20 million is needed to prepare the USS Iowa for public visitation, Wong said.

The article also said Wong painted a dire picture of the ship’s condition:

“Today, the ship is somewhat of a bathtub itself. It draws in copious amounts of ocean water, said Merilyn Wong”

But that…well, that horrible news on the ship’s condition totally contradicts what Wong said earlier in the month. A few days ago, the Courthouse News Service reported this:

Wong says the inside of the ship is in “pristine condition,” and says it has “received at least $1.5 million in work in the last four or five years.”

The nonprofit hopes to raise another $18 million on top of the $4 million it already has raised to restore the Iowa.

So what is the deal? Is the Iowa’s interior “pristine” or shipping a “copious” amount of water?

And… more worryingly, if the “Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square” has raised and spent $4 million dollars (never mind the $1.5 million supposedly spent on interior work–I’m assuming that’s money the government has spent on things like dehumidifying the vessel), where is it?

Where did $4 million dollars go? There’s no record of this amount of money ever entering the nonprofit’s books.

None of the $4 million dollars that the “Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square” has “already raised” shows up on the Form 990s nonprofits are required to file on an annual basis. In fact, the 990s point to an organization starved for funds. They detail an organization that is, quite frankly, a horrible–almost incompetent–fundraiser.

According to the 2006 and 2008 990s, the Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square took in $16,595 in 2002, $26,782 in 2003, $11,930 in 2004, $15,147 in 2005, $25,254 in 2006, $41,459 in 2007, and $ 30,905 in 2008.

That’s not anywhere near $4 million dollars.

So…where’s the money? For a nonprofit, the public gets to know these things.

See more at NEXTNAVY.COM

Posted by Defense Springboard in History, Navy
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  • Chuck Hill

    Much as I hate to see any significant ship turned into scrap, there are already examples of this class, or very similar ships, being preserved. There are much more important examples that should be saved first. Notably the Olympia and Texas.

  • Huron

    I agree with Chuck. It would be sorry to see her go, but there would still be Iowa-class ships left to visit. Seven years is a fair bit of time for a competent group to try to save her.

    Olympia and Texas need saving first.

  • Mario Majors

    At what point do you draw the line? I hate to see ships broken up, but considering that ships that were every bit as historically significant as the Iowa if not more so, were broken up, why should she be spared? Regrettably, if the funds to save her do not become available, Iowa should not end her life as a burden to the U.S. taxpayer. Perhaps, it would be possible to sink her, rather than breaking her, thus turning her into an artificial reef. That way she could meet her end like the old warrior that she is and perhaps generate some tourist dollars in the process; just a thought.

  • Can’t say I disagree. Olympia & Texas both deserve our support more than Iowa, though I am loath to see any great vessel off to the breakers.

    To be honest, I’d rather see her back in the fleet, where her guns could support a LOT of missions, but that’s just the dreams of an old sailor. Still, you can project a lot of diplomacy and power with nine 16″ guns.

  • Wharf Rat

    AW1 Tim:

    I too would rather see her back in the fleet, but the fact is that turret 2 was never repaired, if memory serves.

    As much as we know that 3 Iowa class BB’s have survived, this is such a magnificent class, it’s hard to think that the nameasake of the class isn’t saved.

    That said – I wish taxpayer money could be used for Texas, Olympia, Iowa, even Ranger (I’m a board member of the museum committe – full disclosure here), because based on the garbage spending I’m seeing, all are much more worthy of tax payer money than many other pet projects and entitlements.

    And I’m a conservative.

  • Bucherm

    What really stinks about this is that we potentially could have had the Iowa set up as a memorial simply and relatively painlessly…but the SF Board of Supervisors put the kibosh on that. Since so much effort is now being expended, the sane thing to do is to cut our(the naval history community’s) losses and concentrate on saving other ships. Time for the Iowa to become a dive site somewhere.


    ” The SF Board of Supervisors put the kibosh on that “. As Eeyore would has said, ” How like them “. At least the Big Badger Boat is safe in Norfolk.


    Three of the four Iowa class BBs are already museum ships, at Pearl Harbor, Norfolk and Camden, NJ. As funds are always going to be limited, in the interest of historical preservation I’d much rather see the money go to saving Olympia and Texas because these really are historic ships and the last examples of their types anywhere in the world.

  • ENC David C.

    There are organizations such as the “Pacific Battleship Center” who have both the money and the desire to preserve this ship without public funds; and there are a host of veterans of the Iowa, such as myself, who are willing to do the work of restoration pro bono. The fact that a questionable non-profit has somehow gained exclusive rights to the ship should not be the thing that sends her to the bottom.

    As April 19th approaches and we remember my 47 fallen shipmates from Turret 2, it seems somehow unfitting to speak of sinking or scrapping this great warship. Although there are indeed 4 Iowa Class BBs, they are separated widely by geography, and only the Iowa is located on the West Coast.

    This is a piece of our Naval Heritage which can, and should be saved, and would be saved completely by the money and labor of volunteers and crew-members, such as myself, who are not interested in spending money or time saving any other vessel. All we need is the Navy to give us a chance by re-opening the bid for the Iowa and allowing some serious non-profits (such as the Pacific Battleship Center) to apply.

  • Nancy Lewis

    The Navy wronged 47 young men 21 years ago today by allowing them to shoot the big guns in unsafe conditions with unstable powder and then lied about it. She needs to be saved to remind the Pentagon, daily, their first concern should be the safety of their men. Not the pleasuring of an Admiral.

  • I believe the 4 Million Dollars that M. Wong is talking about is the funds that the navy spent to get the Iowa ready for towing to the west cost which included the cost of the tow itself that was allocated for a towing exercise and also included the Panama Canal fees. These funds were allocated by Senator Feinstien. and may have included the cost to tow the New Jersey to Philadelphia is a swap to have 2 ships on each coast as required at the time I believe that The organization in San Francisco contacted Sen. Feinstien’s office to get this to happen but as far as actual fundraising, this would be considered a statement of less then truthful proportions.

    It has been reported that all of their fundraising has gone back to them for more fundraising, like trips to Iowa and Norfolk and other places. I do not believe that they can actually show where any funds that they have raised have actually gone to the ship or its proposed location.

    As far as the Navy wronging the 47 sailors that were lost in turret two 21 years ago, there was no recognized danger or unsafe conditions beyond the normal risk of firing large caliber artillery. The other 3 ships of the class had no problems, this situation seemed to be limited to the Iowa herself and this was still a situation that was created by the crew. I am not aluding to any intentional act here either.

  • Save the Iowa

    The Iowa is a one of a kind. It is the lead ship of the Iowa Class. It’s carried the president, the only battleship with a bathtub (for FDR) it was first into Tokyo Bay, it broadcast the surrender ceremonies, it was Admiral Halsey’s flagship. It was chosen to carry Pres. and Mrs Reagan during the rededication celebration for the Statue of Liberty, survived Typhoon Cobra and mostly it should be preserved in honor of those 47 sailors who died while aboard.

  • Greg Bishop

    The Pacific Battleship Center’s proposal to move Battleship IOWA to San Pedro, California – Los Angeles Harbor – was submitted to the Navy in November 2010. The support is overwhelming, including the Los Angeles City Council and Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission, which has allocated the prime berth 87 to IOWA — the PBC’s first choice out of a dozen proposed locations! Berth 87 sits on the main entrance to LA Harbor, right next to the cruise ship terminal, the SS Lane Victory museum ship, and within easy view of the Vincent Thomas Bridge!

    They are hoping to move IOWA by summer, 2011.
    You can follow the progress at

  • Your 990 figures for the years shown in this article are nowhere near correct. Over $4M has already been raised and the additional $15-20M required to secure the movement of the USS Iowa to Mare Island is actively being sought, through all possible grass-roots and philanthropic channels.
    Don’t condemn this CRITICAL piece of US Naval history with false figures and rhetoric.

  • LA will not be getting th Iowa, until PBC agrees to shell out the over $1M required for the Environmental Impact Study. I seriously doubt as well that enough support exists among the Los Angeles City Council for the acquisition of the USS Iowa.