Navy veteran's Portsmouth business to revitalize gun barrel of USS Iowa, the ship he served on decades ago

The project is significant for Marine Specialty Painting's President & CEO, Alfred “AJ” Marchigiani, who was on the USS Iowa when disaster struck in 1989.
Alfred “AJ” Marchigiani
USS Iowa’s gun barrel
USS Iowa’s gun barrel
USS Iowa’s gun barrel
AJ Marchigiani and Chief Lewis
Posted at 5:43 AM, Mar 09, 2023

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The USS Iowa’s gun barrel is being fully revitalized by Marine Specialty Painting, whose CEO has a special connection to the historic battleship.

The project, which is a joint effort between Marine Specialty Painting and the Coast Defense Study Group, aims to preserve history through the revitalization of the gun barrel.

USS Iowa’s gun barrel
USS Iowa's gun barrel arrives at Marine Specialty Painting in Portsmouth.

The USS Iowa was commissioned during WWII in February of 1943. The battleship operated in campaigns around the Marshall Islands and raids in the Pacific before serving in the Korean War.

The ship was decommissioned in October of 1990 after nearly five decades of service. The USS Iowa is now open to the public in the Port of Los Angeles as a floating museum.

In February, the 16-inch, 120-ton gun barrel arrived at Marine Specialty Painting in Portsmouth for revitalization. This project is significant for the business’ President and CEO, Alfred “AJ” Marchigiani.

Marchigiani served in the U.S. Navy and was aboard the ship on April 19, 1989, when a fleet exercise in the Caribbean ended tragically.

Alfred “AJ” Marchigiani
A photo of Alfred “AJ” Marchigiani in the Navy. Marchigiani is the President & CEO of Marine Specialty Painting (MSP). MSP revitalized USS Iowa's barrel for free.

During the fleet exercise, “the accidental over ram of powder bags into the breach of one of the 16-inch guns exploded and a fire broke out,” according to a release from Marine Specialty Painting.

On that day, Marchigiani saw 47 of his fellow Sailors die. Now, over 30 years later, his company is revitalizing the ship’s gun barrel.

“This is something I had to do. My personal connection to this battleship and the lives lost, inspired me to volunteer for this restoration project. The USS Iowa is a critical part of American military history and it’s my duty as a veteran of the U.S. Navy that it gets the recognition and visibility it deserves,” said Marchigiani.

AJ Marchigiani and Chief Lewis
AJ (left) and Chief Lewis (right), who was AJ’s chief in the Navy. They are standing inside Marine Specialty Painting's main lobby, holding the flag that was draped over the turret on the USS Iowa when it pulled back into Norfolk after the 1989 explosion.

Marine Specialty Painting says it’s revitalizing the gun barrel for free.

The fully revitalized barrel will be unveiled on April 19, which marks the 34th anniversary of the tragic explosion aboard the ship. According to the release, after the unveiling, “the barrel will get a second life in Virginia Beach at the Fort Story military base."