USS Indiana prow finds home at IU
By Matt Bloom
Lowen, who operated the turrets on the USS Indiana during the war, traveled from his home in Fairfax, Va., with his son, Jim.
He was one of 20 World War II veterans personally invited to Saturday’s celebratory installation ceremony.
Hundreds of University officials, veterans, alumni and guests gathered in the Henke Hall of Champions Saturday to dedicate the wartime vestige to its permanent resting place.
The behemoth new addition to Memorial Stadium’s west entrance joins the ship’s main mast and gun mounts, which the University acquired in 1966.
Saturday’s football game attendees posed for pictures inside and around the prow, which functions as a ship’s forward-most part that cuts through the water.
Lowen served on the USS Indiana in 1945 when he was 23 years old.
“I never expected a ship that shot down five Japanese aircraft in one day would be sitting outside of a football stadium,” he said.
He and his son sat at a large, round table directly in front of the main stage where President Michael A. McRobbie introduced speakers Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus Jr., Sen. Daniel Coats, R-Ind. and Sen. Joseph Donnelly, D-Ind.
The speakers discussed the importance of the USS Indiana memorial on campus.
Rep. Todd Young, R-9th District said the visual presence of the ship will impact Hoosiers the most.
“We want people visiting the stadium to see the prow, pause and take a moment to reflect on the freedoms they have that so many helped protect,” Young said.
The battleship was commissioned in 1942 throughout the south pacific theatre during World War II, receiving nine battle stars for her service in Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Mabus said she survived countless kamikaze attacks and duels with enemy ships, and she finally anchored in Tokyo Bay in 1945 for the Japanese surrender, which ended World War II.
The USS Indiana was formally decommissioned in 1947 and sold for scrap in 1963. The Frank Spenger family acquired the prow and used it as a decorative piece for the family’s seafood restaurant parking lot in California.
The team of IU officials asked the Spenger family if they would be willing to donate it to the University, said Mark Land, associate vice president of IU communications.
“Then we worked with the folks at Crane Naval base to refurbish the prow to its original state,” Land said.
In his speech, McRobbie said it was fitting for the ship to reside in Indiana’s largest and oldest university. It will honor those from IU who fought and died in U.S. forces and those who continue to serve in the Navy.
“All Hoosiers can take pride that she bore the name of our state,” McRobbie said.
The stadium’s naval memorial is a result of the University’s close ties with the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, the third largest naval installation in the world, which is located about 25 miles south of Bloomington, McRobbie said.
In 1942, IU established a naval training school. More than 5,000 men and women were trained for service before it closed in 1944.
In 2011, the University formed a partnership with the Naval Center for training in public management, physics and other sciences.
“We now have placed between our two institutions an extensive range of educational collaborations,” McRobbie said. “It is our goal to build further on this in future years.”
The group of USS Indiana veterans were introduced to the thousands of IU students and alumni on the jumbotron prior to Saturday’s football game.
Land said the Navy game was an appropriate time to celebrate the installation of the prow.
“With Navy coming to play football today, it was natural to host the celebration tonight,” Land said.
The battleship’s official number, 58, is freshly painted on the side of the prow, now cutting through the concrete outside of the stadium’s west entrance.
Mabus said it was fitting for the historic relic to be brought back to this
As part of his duties as Secretary of the Navy last year, Mabus named a new USS Indiana, a fast-attack submarine currently under construction.
“It will carry this state’s name and the Indiana tradition set by the battleship across the world’s oceans for at least the next four decades,” Mabus said.
Follow campus culture reporter Matt Bloom on Twitter @Matthew_Bloom.
Like what you are reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.