A piece of World War II history is coming back home to Indiana.
The prow of the battleship the USS Indiana has been acquired by Indiana University. The prow is the forward most portion of the bow – the front of the battleship that served the Pacific theater during the war.
It was donated to the university by the family of Frank Spenger, who collected Navy memorabilia and saved the prow from being scrapped.
It has been on display outside the family‘s seafood restaurant in Berkeley, California for several years. At the USS Indiana display at the Indiana War Memorial museum is a scale model of the last Naval vessel to be named for the state.
Memorial director Gen. Stewart Goodwin (Ret.) says it was commissioned in April 1942 as one of the ships built to replace the Pacific fleet destroyed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor four months prior. “This has 16-inch guns, so each time it fired, it was like throwing a Volkswagen across the horizon, 2,000 pounds per shell,” said Goodwin.
The Indiana earned nine battle stars during the war, participating in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November 1943 and the Marshall Islands in January 1944, as well as the Marianas campaign in June 1944. Following an overhaul, she returned to the Western Pacific in January 1945 in time to participate in the invasion of Iwo Jima.
Like many battleships from the Second World War, the Indiana was decommissioned soon afterward, as the needs of the military changed along with warfare tactics. The ship went out of service in 1947 and was sold for scrap in the 1960‘s.
There are a variety of pieces scattered across the state. “We have the ship‘s wheel here at the War Memorial as well as the ship‘s bell,” said Ethan Wright, director of the Indiana War Memorial Museum. “The mainmast is down at Memorial Stadium at I.U., and the anchor is at War Memorial Stadium in Fort Wayne.”
I.U. will acquire the ship‘s prow in July and will display it outside Memorial Stadium alongside the mainmast and two of the ship‘s guns.
“The fact that we have an opportunity to preserve a physical piece of this legacy and provide a lasting home for it at the state‘s flagship public university is a source of immense pride that I share with all Hoosiers.” said IU President Michael McRobbie.
The prow will be dedicated September 7th, appropriately enough, just before the Hoosiers‘ football game against Navy.