University adds USS Indiana prow to collection

Indiana University has secured the original prow from the battleship USS Indiana, which served in the Pacific during World War II and was the last ship to be named for the Hoosier State.

The acquisition means the ship’s prow will be reunited with its mainmast and two of its gun mounts, which have been on display outside Memorial Stadium’s west entrance since May 1966. A plaque there notes the items were a gift from the U.S. Navy and stand "as a memorial to the sons and daughters of the state of Indiana who have so gallantly served in the armed forces of our nation."

The university will formally welcome the ship’s prow to its new home with a re-dedication ceremony Sept. 7, when IU hosts Navy in a football game. Representatives from the university, the U.S. Navy and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center in Martin County, as well local, state and federal lawmakers, are expected to attend.

"Indiana University is an appropriate home for this treasured vestige of naval history and tradition from the last warship named in honor of our great state," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said in a statement. "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."

A 35,000-ton South Dakota-class battleship, the USS Indiana was commissioned in April 1942. She participated in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November 1943 and the Marshall Islands in January 1944, and took part in 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. The ship, which earned nine battle stars for her service in World War II, was decommissioned in September 1947 and then sold for scrap in 1963.

The Frank Spenger family, whose patriarch collected Navy memorabilia, saved the front portion of the ship from being scrapped and displayed it for decades in the parking lot of the family’s seafood restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. The university reached out to the family, who agreed to donate the structure.

Other artifacts from the USS Indiana are displayed throughout the state, including one of the battleship’s anchors at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum at Fort Wayne and her bell at the Heslar Naval Armory in Indianapolis.