I happened to stumble across this US Navy video from 1988 chronicling the reactivation of the USS Missouri and her Iowa class sister ships.
Shortly after Desert Storm, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and consequently the Soviet fleet, the manpower costs associated with the battleships led to their inactivation. The hazards and logistical issues with their bagged powder guns likely played a part as well.
Let’s back up a moment and discuss the role of the battleship in World War II. The common wisdom is that the defeat of the Pacific Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor sounded the death knell of the battleship, and heralded the rise of the carrier as the primary capital ship of the fleet. The battleship was relegated to shore bombardment. That’s only partly true.
The US battleship fleet in World War II consisted of two distinct types of ships. The older “standard” slower battleships built before the Washington Naval Treaty, and the later, post-treaty “fast battleships” of which the Iowa class was the third and final batch.
Some of the old battleships were used early in the war in the Atlantic to escort convoys, as the threat of German surface raiders was seen as potentially as devastating as the U-boat threat. As fast battleships became available, they too served in the Atlantic. As the threat of German surface raiders declined, the fast battleships were transferred to the Pacific Fleet where they were integrated with the then nebulous Fast Carrier Task Force. The slow battlewagons increasingly became the experts on shore bombardment.
The fast battleships, the North Carolinas (2 ships in class), the South Dakotas (4 ships in class) and the Iowas (4 ships in class) did tend to provide a massive anti-aircraft screen to the carrier task force.
But their role was more than that. It is important to remember that the carrier had only the most limited ability to attack at night or in foul weather. The battleships still maintained a critical anti-ship warfare mission, one that they would execute, perhaps not as often or as decisively as pre-war doctrine envisioned, but more than popular history seems to recall.
And while the reactivated Iowa class was used almost exclusively in the shore bombardment role (via either their guns or as Tomahawk missile launchers), the impetus for reactivating them was as the nucleus of powerful Surface Action Groups to face off against Soviet surface fleets.
The Iowas are now but museum pieces, and never again will we see their like upon the waves. But my, what a sight to see one with a bone in her teeth.