Sailor reunites with old ship
Valencia man played role in bringing historic ship to Los Angeles
By Matt ThackerSignal Staff Writer, Posted: August 5, 2016
SAN PEDRO – Bryan Moss walks up the gangway, stops and salutes twice – first the American flag, and then the officer of the deck – before boarding the USS Iowa.
A light breeze flows from Los Angeles Harbor on an early Saturday morning in July. A couple hours later, the West Coast’s only battleship museum will open for the day, and hundreds of visitors will tour the World War II-era ship. But Moss has early and almost unfettered access.
“Go wherever you want to go,” one security officer tells him. “It’s your ship, Bryan, as far as I’m concerned.”
Once a month, the 82-year-old Moss drives 60 miles from his home in Valencia to visit the USS Iowa, which he served on at age 18 during the Korean War. Six decades after the war, he helped bring the 45,000-ton ship to Los Angeles.
“They treat me like a king around here,” he says.
Moss, born and raised in Glendale, joined the U.S. Navy on Nov. 1, 1951. He
served four years active duty – reaching the rank of petty officer, first class – followed by four years in the reserves.
Moss says he joined the Navy because he did not want to be drafted into the Army or Marines. Two weeks into boot camp, he learned that he had received a draft notice for the Marine Corps.
“I literally dodged a bullet,” he says.
Moss served as a radioman on the USS Iowa from March 1952 until October 1953. He taught himself Morse code for three months before the ship arrived in North Korean waters in April 1952.
Although the Iowa was heavily involved in the war – shelling key North Korean locations – Moss says his memories from that time are mostly positive. He notes the ship was shot at 17 times and never hit while he served.
“It was all good,” he says. “I went to places I had never been.”
As a rookie, he would spend hours a day playing pinochle in Radio 3, a room where the backup radiomen worked. Sometimes he would rotate to the main radio room where he would take down messages delivered in Morse code.
Moss would translate the signals into letters and numbers, which would tell the cryptologists where to set the wheels on their machines to retrieve messages.
After leaving the Navy, Moss worked as an FBI radio specialist from 1956 to 1966 and later worked for a printing company, spending several decades in business before retiring in 1997 and moving to Valencia.
His 18 months as a radioman on the Iowa remained with him throughout his career. Even now, his cellphone ringtones are in Morse code.
So Moss decided to take action in 2008 after he found out the ship, which was decommissioned in 1990, was rusting away in Suisun Bay near San Francisco and in danger of being turned into scrap metal. In 2006, the Navy announced it would be willing to donate the ship to a private organization.
“They weren’t doing a damn thing with it,” Moss says. “It was just sitting and rotting. They were going to cut it up.”
Moss contacted Robert Kemp, who had been trying to bring a warship to Long Beach, about placing a bid for the USS Iowa. But bidding had already closed with the Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square of Vallejo determined to be the only viable candidate.
That group wanted to move the ship to a naval complex near San Francisco.
Moss says he and Kemp formed a group of eight or nine men, created a nonprofit called the Pacific Battleship Center and began lobbying. Moss was able to connect with former Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, who had been chairman of the Armed Services Committee.ted to move the ship to a naval complex near San Francisco.
“I said I’d like to get my ship back out to bid,” he says.
Three weeks after the meeting, in May 2010, bidding was reopened. The group received support from the city of Los Angeles after not finding a suitable location in Long Beach.
The Navy awarded the ship to Pacific Battleship Center in September 2011, citing the Vallejo group’s lack of progress. Pacific Battleship had raised $9 million, including $3.5 million awarded by the state of Iowa.
In June 2012, the ship was towed to San Pedro, where it was permanently anchored at Berth 87. The museum opened the next month – on Fourth of July weekend.
Moss says he felt no sense of nostalgia when he stepped foot onto the ship in 2012 for the first time since 1953.
“The ship’s not the ship I was on,” he said. “The hull looks the same, but the innards are different.”
Most equipment from the Korean War era has been replaced, but Moss says it’s important to preserve history.
“I did what I did when I felt I had to do it. This ship has lots of history,” he says.
The ship, nicknamed the “Battleship of Presidents,” was commissioned in 1943 and hosted three U.S. presidents. A bathtub and an elevator were installed for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Iowa in 1943 for a meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.
In 1989, 47 sailors were killed during an explosion in the Turret 2 Gun Room near Puerto Rico. Months later, the ship was decommissioned as the Cold War came to an end.
Today, more than 1,200 volunteers help with the museum. During the summer, up to 1,500 people a day visit the ship over the weekend.
Moss says he is grateful that his ship is now open to the public.
“It’s part of my life,” he says. “I served my country.”
See the original article on The Santa Clarita Valley Signal