U.S.S. Iowa towed under the Golden Gate Bridge on the way its new home in Los Angeles. (file photo)

The mayor of Los Angeles paid tribute to the USS Iowa and the State of Iowa during a weekend appearance in Des Moines.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the keynote speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.

At the opening of his speech, he mentioned the retired battleship, which had been in a northern California salvage yard before a group of Iowans and former sailors on the ship raised the money for restoration as a floating museum.

“L.A. owes Iowa a debt of gratitude,” Villaraigosa said.

“Since July the USS Iowa has been docked in the Port of Los Angeles…It’s there thanks in large part to the citizens of Iowa who pledged $3 million to refurbish the ship and get it ready for display and I want to thank you for this inspiring outpouring of generosity and support.”

The USS Iowa was built in 1940 and was in service for five decades. It ferried Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush on overseas trips. According to L.A.’s mayor, the “Battleship of Presidents” has become one of the most popular attractions on his city’s waterfront.

“Americans from all across the state and the nation are traveling to L.A. to see the ship and the USS Iowa draws them in not just because it’s an awesome symbol of America’s naval power, but it’s something else,” Villaraigosa said. “It’s a symbol of something broader and deeper — a symbol of America’s resolve.”

The USS Iowa is part of the “Iowa class” of battleships, considered the fastest and most heavily armored of their time. It could launch eight Tomahawk missiles and its gun turrets are almost 67 feet long.

Villaraigosa said the ship is a testament to the “Greatest Generation” as the massive ship was built in less than two years.

“A symbol of how far we’ll go for freedom’s sake, a symbol of what we’ll achieve when we all pull together,” Villaraigosa said. “Over 50 years sailors of every creed, color and conviction served on its decks. They poured their heart and soul into the ship because they knew America was counting on them.”

Villaraigosa is hosting his city’s first annual “Veterans Appreciation Festival” on the ship, on Saturday, November 10.

Iowa legislators and the governor agreed a few years ago to spend $3 million in state tax money on the ship’s restoration and relocation. In return, Iowa residents who make the trip to L.A. can tour the ship for free.