(The commissioning of USS Iowa on February 22, 1943.)
On February 22, 1943, George Washington’s birthday, the USS Iowa, the nation’s newest and largest battleship, was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn, NY, under the command of Captain John L. McCrea. The commissioning took place a record six months after the ship was launched on August 27, 1942.
The ceremonies were held on the stern of the ship. The speakers, including Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Captain McCrea, and others, were assembled facing aft under the big 16″ guns of the ship’s after turret. Invited guests were seated before them, and the ship’s company stood in ranks on either side. Others witnessed the ceremony from adjacent piers and buildings, and from ships moored nearby.
Captain McCrea was the last speaker. He addressed most of his remarks to the ship’s company. He stated unequivocally his demands for the ship: “I expect a clean ship. I expect a smart ship. Above all, I expect a fighting ship.” He then spoke of the need for rigorous training, and as he did so, he shifted to the pronoun “we,” suggesting a common interest shared by captain and crew. He concluded:
“As you all know, much remains to be done. The tremendous amount of work thus far accomplished augurs well for the future which you and I face together–the future which you and I face together with confidence and determination. Our Commander in Chief, our Secretary, and our brothers in arms expect much of us. We cannot and must not fail them.”
It was not the last speech to the ship’s company where McCrea conveyed that he and his men were part of the same team.
After the ceremony, McCrea hosted a luncheon in his quarters. During the luncheon the Secretary Knox hit it off with McCrea’s mother, who had come east from her home in Marlette, Michigan, for the commissioning. According to the Secretary, Mrs. McCrea remarked to him that her son was too young to command such a large ship. He was 52 at the time.
McCrea, John L.. History of the USS Iowa (BB 61) (Unpublished history of Iowa’s first year). John L. McCrea Papers. Library of Congress.