Take a Tour of the USS Iowa

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," February 14, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And welcome back for a special edition of "Hannity & Colmes." We're live from San Francisco tonight.

The USS Iowa, displacing 45,000 tons and carrying a crew of almost 7,000 — I'm sorry, 3,000, was launched as the first battleship of its class in 1942.

Now, in the fall of 1943, the Iowa carried FDR to and from the Tehran conference with Churchill and Stalin. The ship earned nine battle stars for World War II service and served as the flagship during the surrender of the Japanese in 1945.

The Iowa was recommissioned for battle in the Korean War and once again in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. Since 2001, the Iowa has been in mothballs.

Veterans and local politicians campaigned to bring it to San Francisco as a naval history museum and memorial. But this summer the board of supervisors voted 8-3 against that plan. Their reasons span from the military's policy towards gays to disapproval with the war in Iraq, to fears that the Iowa would cost the city too much money.

Earlier today we took a tour of the USS Iowa with some of the veterans who are still fighting to restore her to her former glory.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was aboard the Iowa 1943 through 1945.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went aboard the ship in November of 1991, and I left in 1994.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was on '45-'46.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the ship in 1951 during the Korean War.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was put on new construction in '44.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was the assistant navigator and the navigation division officer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the fire control division.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was aboard the Iowa 33 months, continuous sea duty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came from a little mining town in Nevada. And when I went aboard her, I realized exactly how fortunate I was to go aboard a ship like her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was glad to be aboard the Iowa, because there wasn't anything nicer afloat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't imagine it, unless you go aboard and start doing some of the walking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you serve on a ship for awhile that ship becomes part of you, and you become part of that ship. And you can't help but be connected to that ship emotionally.

You had your duties to do every day. And it was just another part of history. I think everybody in World War II was part of history, whether you were onshore or whether you were on — out to sea or whether you were in the trenches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I left the Iowa on the 4th of July of 1946. And when I got about 100 feet away from the ship, I was carrying my sea bag and that, and I turned back and looked at Iowa. And I had two thoughts. And I thought — one is "I'll never see Iowa again" and the other was I felt like I was leaving a dear friend. It was almost like leaving a relative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd love to bring my grandchildren aboard her. And I'm sure other people would, too, whether they served in the Navy or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thinking about the Iowa and the vote of the supervisors against the Iowa, I have to admit, when I think of it, I get a little tear in my eye. And I think to the people of San Francisco, how could you have ever done such a thing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She deserves to be a museum. She's not an inert piece of steel. Get some bodies aboard. She's alive.


HANNITY: And earlier today I visited the proposed site where her supporters would like the USS Iowa to be installed as a memorial and museum, and I spoke with Merilyn Wong, who...


HANNITY: ... was president of the historic San Francisco stadium. When Barry Bonds was hitting home runs people were in that waterway there, waiting for the ball to come over, right?

MERILYN WONG, WORKING TOWARDS IOWA MUSEUM: Exactly. They're waiting for that home run or that grand slam.

HANNITY: Yes. All right. This is Willie McCovey. They've got a statue for him. And of course, when he was playing Willie Mays was a big part of the team back then.

We have a more pressing issue here, the USS Iowa. Tell us what you're doing and what you've been working on here.

WONG: We are talking about bringing another yet San Francisco giant to the San Francisco waterfront. And by that I mean bringing one of our nation's most historic and charismatic ships and placing her in one of the most visited city's waterfronts to serve in a new and dignified role as a museum, a memorial, even a possible emergency command center, and a platform for conflict resolution.

HANNITY: If we could just sort of pan over here, because it's just on this other side over here. Right where that barge is, is the location where the Iowa would have been docked. It would have been open and accessible. As we see it's very centrally located to a lot of people that we're visiting here. Is that it?

WONG: Yes. That's one of four potential sites that we have engineered to place this ship. And it's a wonderful locale. Think about it. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and the USS Iowa.

I mean, this ship was present at some of the most defining moments in American and world history. She speaks freedom. She is the stuff — just like baseball — of which America was made, a free nation was made.

HANNITY: Is there still a fighting chance or is this battle lost now because of the supervisors? Does this now — does the USS Iowa go to Stockton?

WONG: Well, fortunately, the Iowa congressional delegation, teaming up with the Bay Area congressional delegation, did successfully maintain our right to compete for this ship. That is consistent with Navy policy for donation of historic vessels.


WONG: So insofar as Stockton, they have the right to compete just as much as we do. And still...

HANNITY: But they seem very aggressive, and the supervisors did go 8- 3 against. And they don't seem to have the plan that Stockton had put in place. Very aggressively fighting for this.

WONG: There's still a chance. The only limit to our realization of this goal is really our doubts of today. And we're moving forward with strong and active faith.


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