A rare photograph has surfaced apparently showing an elevator added to the battleship Iowa, one of a handful of adaptations made to the vessel for wheelchair-user President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.
Officials with the Iowa -- now a museum floating along the San Pedro waterfront -- said an author discovered the black-and-white photograph while researching for a book documenting the time Roosevelt spent on the battleship en route to the Middle East. The image shows the elevator shaft on the ship's starboard side.
Iowa officials said the photograph was significant because of the secrecy surrounding the 1943 voyage, when the battleship ferried the president across the Atlantic to a meeting in Tehran with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.
It was at the Tehran Conference that the three leaders planned their next movements against the Axis powers, including the D-day invasion at Normandy.
"Finding anything from this trip is significant to the ship's heritage," David Way, the battleship's museum curator, said in a statement. "A photo of the elevator is particularly important because it shows how extensively Iowa was modified to accommodate President Roosevelt on his voyage to the Tehran Conference."
The elevator was not the only addition made for Roosevelt. Larger hatches were added to the captain's cabin, battleship officials said, along with an enclosed veranda deck space. A bathtub was also installed, making the Iowa the sole U.S. Navy warship with such an amenity.
Iowa officials said they were working with the National Archives to officially authenticate the image and planned to display it in the captain's cabin.
The photo was taken on Nov. 12, 1943 by a Navy blimp tasked with providing anti-submarine reconnaissance, battleship officials added. The image was apparently classified until 1964.
At 45,000 tons, the Iowa is among the largest U.S. warships ever built. The vessel spent more than 50 years in service, making appearances in World War II, the Korean War and the Persian Gulf War.
It came to Southern California from San Francisco last year, opening to the public in July 2012.