In 1919 a decommissioned battleship best known for firing the first shot in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba more than 20 years prior was given the opportunity for a second life. The ex-battleship Iowa (BB-4), whose design quickly fell out of fashion in the first quarter of the 20th century, was the first U.S. Navy ship to be converted into a radio-controlled target ship after World War I. Without a single person on board, she was now tasked to outmaneuver bomb-dropping American pilots.
In mid-1919, the Iowa, renamed Coast Battleship No. 4 that April, was sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard where all of her guns were removed, remote-control equipment was installed, and her boilers were fitted to burn oil. Many of her compartments were sealed to ensure watertight integrity, and automatic pumps were put in to control water that might pour in when she was struck by gunfire or aerial bombs.1