OC Register: Volunteers to battle USS Iowa’s aging process

Through the stoop-inducing corridors, under exposed pipes on the ceiling and down narrow stairs, the 70-year-old USS Iowa is showing her age.

There's the chipped paint, the clutter of dusty radio boxes and video monitors on bunks where sailors used to sleep on those long sea journeys during World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War. On the deck, wood from the '40s lines up with wood from the '80s—splintered in sections and uprooted entirely in others.

But from afar, the three big guns that can launch a massive shell about 25 miles still look striking in their drab gray. The bow of the ship is tall but sleek. Except for the ramps leading up to it and the giant ropes tied to the capstans at the dock in San Pedro, it looks like it could sail out into the horizon tomorrow.

Those days are over for the 887-foot battleship. But on Saturday, Michael Gonzalez will join about 60 volunteers—including about 30 union workers from Orange County—to spiff it up, slap on some new paint and try to restore it to past glory. The ship is also having a public Veterans Day celebration Saturday.

“It's frozen in time. It's like going back to the house you grew up in and nothing has changed,” Gonzalez said.

“The colors are the same—imagine going to the same house you grew up in and the bed you still slept in was there and it was painted just the same. That's what it will be like,” he said.

Gonzalez served on the USS Iowa from 1985 to 1988. He's 50 now and in his last four years in the U.S. Navy—this stint as a Naval Reserve officer—while also working as a corporal in the Santa Ana Police Department.

But going below deck and seeing the rooms with flaking paint and mothballed equipment brings back his memories like few things can.

He said he hoped volunteers from ironworkers unions, food and commercial workers unions, Los Angeles police cadets and other groups will gain an appreciation of the history—not just of the ship, but of veterans' contributions. The clean-up and restoration is part of the “Veterans + Labor—Partners in Service” project launched earlier this year.

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(Photo courtesy O.C. Register)