ressed the crew of Iowa prior to leaving by stating, "... from all I have seen and all I have heard, the Iowa is a 'happy ship,' and having served with the Navy for many years, I know—and you know—what that means." He also touched on the progress made at the conference before concluding his address with "... good luck, and remember that I am with you in spirit, each and every one of you." Service with Battleship Division 7, Admiral Lee A large ship tilted to the right, with gun barrels pointed to the left. Crewmen can be seen on the battleship's deck. To the left of the image another large warship can be seen. Iowa in the Pacific; Indiana can be seen in the distance As flagship of Battleship Division 7 (BatDiv 7), Iowa departed the United States on 2 January 1944 for the Pacific Ocean, transiting the Panama Canal on 7 January in advance of her combat debut in the campaign for the Marshall Islands.
From 29 January to 3 February, she supported carrier air strikes made by Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman's Task Group 58.3 (TG 58.3) against Kwajalein and Eniwetok atolls. Her next assignment was to support air strikes against the major Japanese naval and logistics base at Truk, Caroline Islands. Iowa, in company with other ships, was detached from the support group on 16 February 1944 to conduct an anti-shipping sweep around Truk, with the objective of destroying enemy naval vessels escaping to the north. During this action, Iowa, along with her sister New Jersey, sank the Japanese light cruiser Katori, the cruiser having escaped Truk the day before following Operation Hailstone, the US air attack on Truk. On 21 February, she was underway with the Fast Carrier Task Force (alternatively designated TF 38 while with 3rd Fleet and TF 58 while with 5th Fleet) while it conducted the first strikes against Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam in the Mariana Islands. On 18 March 1944, Iowa
, flying the flag of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee (Commander, Battleships, Pacific), joined in the bombardment of Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Although struck by two Japanese 4.7 in (120 mm) projectiles, Iowa suffered negligible damage. She then rejoined TF 58 on 30 March, and supported air strikes against the Palau Islands and Woleai of the Carolines for several days. From 22–28 April, Iowa supported air raids on Hollandia (now known as Jayapura), Aitape, and Wake Islands to support Army forces on Aitape and at Tanahmerah and Humboldt Bays in New Guinea. She then joined the Task Force's second strike on Truk, on 29 and 30 April, and bombarded Japanese facilities on Ponape in the Carolines on 1 May. In the opening phases of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, Iowa protected the American carriers during air strikes on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan Island on 12 June. Iowa was then detached to bombard enemy installations on Saipan and Tinian on
13–14 June, which resulted in the destruction of a Japanese ammunition dump. On 19 June, in an engagement known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Iowa, as part of the battle line of TF 58, helped repel four massive air raids launched by the Japanese Middle Fleet. This resulted in the almost complete destruction of Japanese carrier-based air-forces, with Iowa claiming the destruction of three enemy aircraft. Iowa then joined in the pursuit of the fleeing enemy fleet, shooting down one torpedo plane and assisting in splashing another. Throughout July, Iowa remained off the Marianas supporting air strikes on the Palaus and landings on Guam. After a month's rest, Iowa sailed from Eniwetok as part of the Third Fleet, and helped support the landings on Peleliu on 17 September. She then protected the carriers during air strikes against the Central Philippines to neutralize enemy air power for the long-awaited invasion of the Philippines. On 10 October, Iowa arrived off Okinaw
a for a series of air strikes on the Ryukyu Islands and Formosa. She then supported air strikes against Luzon on 18 October and continued this duty during General Douglas MacArthur's landing on Leyte on 20 October. In a last-ditch attempt to halt the United States campaign to recapture the Philippines, the Imperial Japanese Navy struck back with Sh?-G? 1, a three-pronged attack aimed at the destruction of American amphibious forces in Leyte Gulf. The plan called for Vice-Admiral Jisabur? Ozawa to use the surviving Japanese carriers as bait to draw US carriers of TF 38 away from the Philippine beachheads, allowing Imperial Japa