Exhibits at the future National museum of the Surface Navy in San Pedro would include the Navy’s role around the world in humanitarian aid and in protecting international waters for trade. (Courtesy Photo, Pacific Battleship Center)


A proposed congressional resolution would, if it becomes law, designate the Battleship USS Iowa Museum, docked in San Pedro, as the national museum of the Surface Navy.


The resolution — which U.S. Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-San Pedro, and Sen. Diane Feinstein introduced Thursday, Sept. 25 — would make the Iowa the first Surface Navy museum in the nation, a move that has been in planning stages for about two years.


The Surface Navy, said Jonathan Williams, CEO and president of the Pacific Battleship Center, “is basically anything that is gray that floats on the top of the ocean.”


In other words, all the men and women who have served on Navy ships throughout the nation’s history.


“It’s the largest and oldest community of the Navy,” Williams said.


No museum exists that’s dedicated solely to the Surface Navy, he said, adding that much of the aim will be to showcase how the Surface Navy makes it possible to conduct international trade and provides humanitarian relief.


Designating the Iowa as the national museum for the Surface Navy is appropriate, Williams said, as so many ships were built in the Port of Los Angeles, where the Iowa is located, and so many families in San Pedro have Navy ties.


The museum, to be located on a deck of the historic World War II battleship, will cost some $60 million.

The designation through the bill, Williams said, further formalizes what was already an agreement made more than a year ago with the U.S. Navy to support the creation of the museum on the Iowa, which has been a tourist attraction at the Port of Los Angeles since 2012.


“The USS Iowa played a critical role during World War II,” Feinstein said in a written statement, “including carrying President (Franklin) Roosevelt to his meeting with (WInston) Churchill and (Joseph) Stalin and serving as a home away from home for sailors from all 50 states.”


Barragan, in her statement, looked to the past and the future.


“In decades past, the Iowa defended our nation,” Barragan said. “Today, it serves our community here in San Pedro by educating the next generation.”


The overall plan eventually is to move the Iowa to the Southern Pacific Slip, where it would be closer to the new waterfront development now anticipated. A building adjacent to the ship would be part of the overall museum at that site. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has slowed many of those kinds of plans for the time being.


Plans originally called for the first phase of the new museum to be unveiled in 2023, with a completion date of 2030. Fundraising is ongoing for the museum, Williams said, adding that there’s been strong interest in the project.


“For 244 years, our country’s Surface Navy has protected free trade on the seas, provided humanitarian assistance and promoted international relations,” said Rear Adm. Mike Shatynski, chairman of the board for the Iowa museum.


The new museum, he added, will be the first to exclusively pay tribute to that work.