Ordered in under the Second Vinson Act , Iowa was the lead ship of her class of battleship. She remained in the Reserve Fleet until Under the command of Captain Gerald E. Gneckow, she was recommissioned on 28 April , one year ahead of schedule. The ship failed the inspection.
Lehman, who had advocated bringing the Iowa-class ships out of mothballs, did not take the ship out of service, but instructed the leaders of the Atlantic Fleet to ensure that Iowa's deficiencies were corrected. A short time later, the ship retook and passed the evaluation. Instead, the funds were spent on overhauling the ship's powerplant. According to Ensign Dan Meyer, the officer in charge of the ship's Turret One, morale and operational readiness among the gun-turret crews suffered greatly.
Iowa's Turret Three is in the background. In January Iowa's Master Chief Fire Controlman , Stephen Skelley, and Gunnery Officer, Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Michael Costigan, persuaded Moosally to allow them to experiment with increasing the range of the main guns using "supercharged" powder bags and specially designed shells. McEachren concealed his approval of the gunnery experiments from his superiors.
Meyer complained to Commander Robert John Kissinger, Iowa's chief weapons officer, about the proposed experiments, but Kissinger refused to convey the concerns to Captain Moosally or halt the experiments. Although the shells had been fired without serious incident, Meyer and Petty Officer First Class Dale Eugene Mortensen, gun chief for Turret One, told Skelley that they would no longer participate in his experiments.
The spanning tray is then folded out of the way and the breech block is closed and locked. At this angle, one of Turret Two's guns was firing over Turret One. During the shoot, according to Turret Two's left gun captain, Jack Thompson, one of the powder bags in the left gun began to smolder before the breechlock was closed.
Thompson said that he was barely able to close and latch the breechlock before the gun discharged on its own. The concussion from Turret Two's guns shredded Turret One's gun bloomers the canvas covers at the base of the main gun barrels and damaged Turret One's electrical system.
Dan Meyer said of the shoot that it was "the most frightening experience I have ever had in my life. The shock wave blew out the turret officer's switchboard and the leads. We had no power, no lights for a time.
There Ziegler complained to his wife about the morale, training, and safety situation aboard Iowa, stating, "We're shorthanded. Chiefs with seventeen years of service are quitting. I've got to teach these kids to push the right button, or they'll blow us to kingdom come! My butt is on the line! We shouldn't be doing them. Something could go wrong. Iowa served as Johnson's flagship during the exercise.
The center gun's compressed air system, which cleansed the bore of sparks and debris each time the gun was fired, was not operating properly. Moosally, Morse, Kissinger, and Costigan did not attend the briefing. Do Not Use with 2,pound projectiles. Skelley explained that the experiment's purpose was to improve the accuracy of the guns. Skelley's plan was for Turret Two to fire ten 2,pound practice no explosives projectiles, two from the left gun and four rounds each from the center and right guns.
The rammerman, Robert W. Backherms, was inexperienced, as were the powder car operator, Gary J. Fisk, the primerman, Reginald L. To help supervise Lawrence, Ziegler assigned Gunner's Mate Second Class Clayton Hartwig, the former center gun captain, who had been excused from gun turret duty because of a pending reassignment to a new duty station in London , to the center gun's crew for the firing exercise.
The ram was used to first thrust the projectile and then the powder bags into the gun's breech. The ram speed used for the projectile was much faster 14 feet 4.
Overramming the powder bags into the gun could subject the highly flammable powder to excessive friction and compression, with a resulting increased danger of premature combustion.
Also, if the bags were pushed too far into the gun, a gap between the last bag and the primer might prevent the powder from igniting when the gun was fired, causing a misfire. None of Iowa's rammermen had any training or experience in ramming nonstandard five-bag loads into the guns. Complicating the task, as the rammerman was shoving the powder bags, he was also supposed to simultaneously operate a lever to shut the powder hoist door and lower the powder hoist car.
Iowa crewmen later stated that Turret Two's center gun rammer would sometimes "take off" uncontrollably on its own at high speed. Furthermore, Backherms had never operated the ram before during a live fire shoot. Thirty minutes later the turrets reported that they were manned, swiveled to starboard in firing position, and ready to begin the drill. Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. Turret One's left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge.
Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. According to standard procedure, the misfire in Turret One should have been resolved first before proceeding further with the exercise. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready.
A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, in Turret Two's center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret's phone circuit that, "We have a problem here.
We are not ready yet. We have a problem here. Center gun is having a little trouble. We'll straighten that out. Lawrence then called out, "I'm not ready yet!
I'm not ready yet! The powder is smoldering! About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, "Oh, my God! The explosion caved in the door between the center gun room and the turret officer's booth and buckled the bulkheads separating the center gun room from the left and right gun rooms.
The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret. The resulting fire released toxic gases, including cyanide gas from burning polyurethane foam, which filled the turret. Nine minutes later, another explosion, most likely caused by a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, occurred. All 47 crewmen inside the turret were killed. The turret contained most of the force of the explosion.
Twelve crewmen working in or near the turret's powder magazine and annular spaces, located adjacent to the bottom of the turret, were able to escape without serious injury.
These men were protected by blast doors which separate the magazine spaces from the rest of the turret. Meyer and Kissinger, wearing gas masks , descended below decks and inspected the powder flats in the turret, noting that the metal walls of the turret flats surrounding several tons of unexploded powder bags in the turret were now "glowing a bright cherry red".
Mortensen found Hartwig's body, which he identified by a distinctive tattoo on the upper left arm, at the bottom of the foot 6. His body was missing his lower forearms, legs below the knees, and was partially, but not badly, charred. The gas ejection air valve for the center gun was located at the bottom of the pit, leading Mortensen to believe that Hartwig had been sent into the pit to turn it on before the explosion occurred. Mortensen also found that the center gun's powder hoist had not been lowered, which was unusual since the hoist door was closed and locked.
After most of the water was pumped out, the corpses in the turret were removed without noting or photographing their locations. Over the next day, the crew swept, cleaned, and painted the inside of the turret. Loose or damaged equipment was tossed into the ocean.
No attempt was made to record the locations or conditions of damaged equipment in the turret. Scanio, a fireman present at the scene. Bush at the memorial ceremony at Norfolk on 24 April. On 23 April Iowa returned to Norfolk, where a memorial service was held on 24 April. Several thousand people, including family members of many of the victims, attended the ceremony at which President George H.
During his speech, Bush stated, "I promise you today, we will find out 'why,' the circumstances of this tragedy. Truitt was a friend of Hartwig's and had been working in Turret Two's powder magazine at the time of the explosion, but had escaped without serious injury.
Truitt promised to give the life insurance money to Hartwig's parents. She asked that someone talk to Truitt to convince him to give the money to Hartwig's parents. Donnell, commander of Surface Forces Atlantic, appointed Commodore Richard Milligan to conduct an informal one-officer investigation into the explosion. An informal investigation meant that testimony was not required to be taken under oath, witnesses were not advised of their rights, defense attorneys were not present, and no one, including the deceased, could be charged with a crime no matter what the evidence revealed.
He did not attempt to stop the ongoing cleanup of the turret. Accompanying Milligan to assist him in the investigation was his personal staff, including his chief of staff, Captain Edward F. Milligan and his staff began their investigation by interviewing members of Iowa's crew. Meyer stated that Moosally and Kissinger had allowed Skelley to conduct his experiments without interference or supervision.
At this point, according to Meyer, Messina interrupted, told the stenographer to stop typing, and took Meyer out into the passageway and told him, "You little shit, you can't say that!
The admiral doesn't want to hear another word about experiments! After his interview was over, Meyer warned Mortensen, who was scheduled to be interviewed later, to be careful with what he said, because, in Meyer's opinion, Milligan and his staff appeared to have a hidden agenda. Later, when Meyer and Mortensen read transcripts of their interviews with Milligan's panel, they found that some of what they had said had been altered or expunged, including what Meyer had said about the location of Hartwig's body.
Scanio was interviewed by Milligan and his panel three days later. Scanio, in describing the interview, stated, "I told them everything that exactly happened In his interview with Milligan, Moosally complained that the U.