USS Iowa Battleship CEO Receives Navy’s Highest Civilian Award

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Jonathan Williams, president and CEO of the Pacific Battleship Center and president of the LA Fleet Week Foundation, received the Department of the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award earlier this month at the Surface Navy Association’s 34th National Symposium in Arlington , Virginia (Facebook)

(Tribune News Service) – Jonathan Williams has received the U.S. Navy’s highest civilian award for his work bringing the USS Iowa to port in Los Angeles and turning it into a licensed navy museum.

Williams, president and CEO of the Pacific Battleship Center and president of the LA Fleet Week Foundation, received the Department of the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award earlier this month at the Surface Navy Association’s 34th National Symposium in Arlington, in Virginia.

“It really is a cornerstone for many years,” Williams, 46, said of the award, which was publicly announced on Monday, January 24. implied. I’m embarrassed on some level to receive it because it’s really a collective effort. But I am deeply honored.

The award was presented to Williams by Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro on January 12. It is the Navy’s highest honor for non-military civilians.

Williams helped bring the ship to the Los Angeles waterfront in 2012 – and worked to increase its stature.

“Jonathan has transformed the historic ship into a world-class museum that brings history to life,” said retired Rear Admiral Mike Shatynski, chairman of the National Surface Marine Museum Board of Trustees, “ and made it a community platform that offers programs that give back to the public through education, veterans and community programs.

Williams oversaw the Battleship Iowa and transformed it from a floating tourist attraction to full-fledged museum status with nationwide veteran outreach and education programs, and helped host it. of the annual LA Fleet Week. The Navy recognized him for the leadership and vision he provided for the efforts from July 2008 to 2021.

The National Museum of the Surface Navy will officially open on October 13, 2025, the 250th anniversary of the United States Surface Navy.

USS Iowa

USS Iowa (Facebook)

Williams became involved in early efforts to rescue the World War II battleship, which languished in storage in Northern California, and bring her to the Port of Los Angeles for preservation. He then established the USS Iowa as a licensed National Navy Museum which provides direct and indirect support to the Navy and has become a top tourist attraction in Los Angeles.

According to the award citation, it was through his extraordinary vision and leadership that “The Battleship Iowa Museum and LA Fleet Week have become the exemplary ship museums and fleet weeks in recognizing the United States Navy and its essential role in the service of our country and the world.”

Long-term plans for Iowa include a possible move for the ship from its current berth near the World Cruise Terminal to a location in the South Pacific, about a mile south and closer to the new waterfront development, West Harbor, due to open next year.

This year’s LA Fleet Week will feature new attractions, tying the event more closely to its Los Angeles location, with new ties to Hollywood. This year’s event will take place on Memorial Day weekend, concurrent with New York Fleet Week.

The Los Angeles event, previously held on Labor Day weekend, began in 2016.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka added his praise for the award.

“It is recognition of his hard work over the past decade to create a popular and meaningful historical attraction,” said Seroka, “his talent in curating the Battleship Iowa experience and his commitment to bringing a national museum from the surface marine to the LA Waterfront.”

Past recipients of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award include legendary actor Tom Hanks for his work in various films, including “Greyhound”; Sybil Stockdale for her support of prisoners of war and their families during the Vietnam War; and Joe Rosenthal for his iconic photo of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II.

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