The USS Iowa patrolled the ocean from World War II until it was mothballed in 1990, the last battleship in the world to be retired from service. At the USS Iowa’s new home at the USS Iowa Battleship Museum, San Pedro, Calif., the restored version is on display, along with statistics about the ship’s fast speed, heavy armor, survivability, large-caliber guns and flexibility. One sponsor of the battleship restoration project, Evanston Awning Co., Evanston, Ill., took on the job of replicating the bucklers (sometimes called “bloomers”), huge black blast bags attached to each gun at the turret face plate. Bucklers kept precipitation and shrapnel from entering the turret behind the 66-foot guns.
Working from original pictures from 1943, Evanston Awning developed a sample buckler using only the photos and the original drawings. The fabric had to be fire-retardant, shock resistant and pliable enough to recoil four feet each time the gun was fired. The company used Ferrari Precontraint® 502 for its first sample and attached the prototype with bows and steel bands recovered following a hunt through the 887-foot-long ship. After two minor changes, Evanston Awning manufactured bucklers for nine guns, all of which fit perfectly. Serge Ferrari North America donated the fabric, and Evanston Awning donated all its time and labor to help restore the USS Iowa to its former glory—and open it up to the public for a memorable visit to living history.