Local veteran steps into the past
Indian Valley Editor
Indian Valley parade announcer for more than 60 years, Joe Knadler recently stepped into his past as a sailor in the U.S. Navy.
The occasion was an escape from mothballs for his old battleship, the USS Iowa.
He first set foot on her deck in Brooklyn during 1942, when he was a young electrician’s mate with two years experience on a cruiser, the USS Nashville.
While the Nashville was sold off and scrapped long ago, the Iowa was recommissioned for service two more times: for service in the Korean War and again during the Cold War.
During Knadler’s service on board, he helped install an elevator and call buttons for the use of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The president traveled on the Iowa with top military brass across the Atlantic to the Tehran Conference.
Knadler served on the ship during the following action in the Pacific, including participation in Operation Hailstone, in support of air strikes on the Japanese naval and logistics base in Truk.
Her crew was also involved in anti-shipping strikes aimed at enemy vessels escaping to the north, where the light cruiser Katori was sunk with help from the crew of the Iowa’s sister ship, the USS New Jersey.
While the crew of the Iowa worked to protect aircraft carriers, they also helped to bombard enemy installations and ammunitions on Saipan and Tinian.
The Pacific Battleship Center, a nonprofit organization headed by one of Roosevelt’s grandsons, is the new owner of the “Big Stick,” through donation from the Navy.
She was towed out of the ranks of the reserve — or mothball — fleet Oct. 27, after only a few short weeks of preparation.
Her permanent home will be in the Port of Los Angeles, near the cruise ship terminals in San Pedro.
Over pancakes the first morning of the move, Knadler was expecting to watch the move from the shore with the aid of binoculars, a spotting scope and his grandson as navigator.
But then came the lucky call to Bay View Charters, just to ask if they had an unscheduled trip out to the mothball fleet.
Yes, they did, and Knadler dropped his fork and stood up, his pancakes half-eaten.
His age-weakened eyes were able to see the move up close with the help of captains Howard Williams and Charlie Wilson.
They plied him with some top-shelf Scotch while he regaled the photographers on board with stories from his years in the Navy and Navy Reserves from 1940 to 1952.
His favorite stories were not of battles, though; they were about the girls he met and the fun times he and the other “dogs” had.
The “dogs” were a group of electricians who strived to be the first men off the ship when it reached port, and the last ones back on.
He saved an issue of the USS Iowa Times, a shipboard publication that featured a sketch of a canine companion one left behind.
Almost all of the “dogs” autographed it for him before he left Iowa’s decks 67 years ago — or her bilges anyway.
That’s where he spent most of his time working: in the after-diesel area, where it was always warm, even in Newfoundland.
The ship is temporarily berthed at the Port of Richmond, where volunteers are scrambling to scrape off the rust and give her a fresh coat of paint.
The radar array and other structures removed to fit her under the bridges between Benicia and Richmond will be reattached as well.
For more information about the USS Iowa, or to support her becoming a museum and a memorial as the last of the available battleships, visit pacificbattleship.com or call president Robert Kent at (877) 446-9261.
To read a story about the USS Iowa in USA today, click this link: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-10-27/world-war-ii-era-uss-iowa-leaves-for-los-angeles/50968324/1
Disclosure: Reporter Alicia Knadler is Joe Knadler’s wife.