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Iowa

The #2 turret of the USS Iowa (BB-61) explodes on April 19, 1989, killing 47 members of the turret crew. The left gun of Turret One in the background is fully elevated as its crew tries to clear a misfire that occurred earlier by trying to coax the powder bags to slide backwards against the primer.

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A terrible thing to have happened in the twilight years of a great battleship. Jim.
 

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Do you really believe it was sabotage? In light of all the other information that's surfaced since?

There are so many things that could have gone wrong- look at the information coming to light regarding the battlecruisers' demise at Jutland, for example.

There was a lot of pressure to meet performance targets, firing experimental ammunition, firing the WRONG ammo for the type powder, using powder milled 50 years prior, 5 bags instead of the 3 the crew had trained with...etc. Also, the sailors and chiefs that really knew what they were doing with the big guns had long since retired, the crews of the 80s were learning 'on the fly', with luck, from grizzled vets when they could be found.

There was a classic 'error chain' extant- and from all appearances, an attempt to whitewash the investigation, such as it was.

Anyway, lots of good info in the Wiki article.
 

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The Navy attempted to blame this on one of the crew members who died in the explosion and, consequently, could not defend himself from the accusations leveled against him. As I recall, the evidence against the crew member was weak, and the attempt to implicate him only succeeded in bringing discredit upon the Navy rather than upon the dead crewman.

I wonder why they bothered to paint that flag on the top of the turret? Surely not to aid in identification. Anyone who saw one of these battleships underway could never have mistaken it for any other vessel, not even from ten miles away!
 

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I went on a tour of IOWA during Kieler Woche in 1989 and apart from the fact that B Turret was sealed off, you would not have realised that anything had happened. There was some minor blistering on the turret and that was it......I assume they just sealed the area off for her remaining years in service.
 

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I vaguely remember something about the flag (or a version of it) being painted on the turret top during the Korean war, to aid in aerial identification...
 

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One significant reason for the initial investigation focusing on sabotage was that the investigators were told by Navy ordnance people that powder charges could not be ignited by friction or pressure, only by electrical charge. Thus, even though they knew there had been an overram (the rammer was extended 21 to 24 inches farther into the breech than it should have been), since they were told (and, not being ordnance experts, they had no reason to believe otherwise) an overram could not cause a powder explosion, they looked for alternate explanations for a source of electrical ignition. Since there were none, it had to be sabotage. Sandia Laboratories demonstrated that powder charges could be ignited by pressure and there was a good probability that's exactly what happened. The cir***stances under which an overram would ignite the powder charges were uncommon but they nevertheless happened, as was subsequently demonstrated. 'Explosion Aboard the Iowa' by one of the Sandia investigators has a very good accounting of the investigation and the resistance encountered from the US Navy hierarchy. It is written by a scientist, not a journalist or professional author, and is very undramatic and even-handed.
 

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The "Iowa" explosion happened shortly after the sinking of the Soviet submarine K-278 "Komsomolets", even the numbers of crewmen lost were similar.
I remember thinking back then that April 1989 was a bad month for superpower navies...
There are obviously no things in common, save for the fact that the sailors paid the price for (most probably) technical malfunction.
 

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United States Navy Ships
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Tim Webb
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