USS Iowa: Brooklyn-Built Battleship Lives on in LA

Earlier this year, Cindy and I had the privilege of visiting one of the largest and most decorated ships ever built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the battleship USS Iowa. Launched from the Yard in 1942, for more than a year she has resided in Los Angeles as a fantastic museum ship. Thanks to the wonderful hospitality of the Iowa‘s staff, we got an up-close view of this historic piece of Brooklyn handiwork.

When we arrived at the Iowa last spring, we were greeted by Dave Way, the museum’s curator. Over the course of two days, Dave spent several hours with us showing off the ship’s exhibits and archives, and even taking us around some of the areas of the ship that most visitors don’t get to see. Transforming the Iowa into a museum was a monumental task, and Dave has been part of this project for several years. Along with a core group of volunteers, he spent nine months living ins spartan conditions on board the ship up in the Bay Area, working tens of thousands to fix and clean the mothballed vessel. Once the work was done, the Iowa was then towed down to her berth in San Pedro, where she finally opened to the public on July 4, 2012.>> Continue reading

Labor Day Weekend: New Tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn Army Terminal

Credit: Rich Garr

This weekend, explore the Brooklyn waterfront with Turnstile Tours!  From sidewalk botany to intermodal transportation to the Battle of Guadalcanal, our tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal will explore historic sites and and innovative industries.

Saturday kicks off with our World War II Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Based around the oral histories of workers and sailors, this tour brings to life what the yard was like when 72,000 people came to work there everyday, building and repairing ships around the clock.  Want a broader perspective on the yard?  Our Overview Tour takes you from the battles of the Revolutionary War though to the 300+ companies that call this innovative industrial park home today – join us for this experience on Saturday or Sunday.  Then at 3pm, join us for our inaugural tour of the Brooklyn Army Terminal.  Once the largest warehouse in the world, this World War I-era architectural masterwork dispatched American forces and supplies across the world for nearly 50 years.  This walking tour will explore the inner workings of the ship and rail facility, as well as how it has been transformed into a home for dozens of businesses today.>> Continue reading

NYC Fleet Week Canceled, but USS Franklin Not Forgotten

The Brooklyn Navy Yard has been a place of refuge for much of its history.  During its 165-year run as a naval shipyard, it did not just send ships down the ways and off to war; it took in ships in the most desperate, hopeless shape, and put them back into fighting order.  During World War II, more than 5,000 vessels were steamed, limped, towed, and dragged into the safe waters of Wallabout Bay to be tended to by the 72,000 men and women of the yard.

Of all the wounded ships to steam up the East River, none were more so than the aircraft carrier USS Franklin.>> Continue reading

Merchant Marines, Unsung Heroes of World War II

While developing our new tour about the World War II history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we encountered a fascinating – and largely untold – history of the oft-forgotten service branch, the Merchant Marines. While the wartime exploits of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Army Air Corps are often celebrated, merchant seamen have received short shrift, both in the history books and in real life.

When we first offered the tour as a sneak preview for veterans and their families in early November, we were privileged to be joined by a veteran of the Merchant Marines who served in the Atlantic theater during the war, a gentleman by the name of Paul Mager. I do not use the word “veteran” lightly – while it may seem an obvious moniker to apply to someone who provided essential wartime service in the middle of a combat zone, that status had been denied to Mr. Mager and his compatriots for decades, so it holds particular meaning for them.>> Continue reading

Pouring Concrete: The Brooklyn Navy Yard Prepares for War

Times of war have always brought the biggest transformations to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and none were bigger than those that took place during World War II. But long before the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged America into the global war, US military planners saw the need to expand the country’s navy in order to fight on two oceanic fronts. A larger navy required larger facilities not just to build ships, but to outfit, service, and repair them. In short, the navy needed more dry docks in more places around the world.>> Continue reading