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Floating museum

GEORGE LAUER, PHOTOS BY CHAD SURMICK

Dozens of other military vessels sit idly in the water, some museums in waiting, others on reserve status in case the Navy needs them.

The biggest collection is the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet near Benicia also known as "the mothball fleet." The most notable ship there is the USS Iowa, a World War II battleship.

Iowa supporters are working on congressional approval to turn the ship into a floating museum on San Francisco's waterfront.

The closest the public can get to most of the mothballed ships is by way of another boat. Bay View Charters offers a mothball-fleet excursion around the Iowa and other ships in the fleet. Veterans, some of whom served on the Iowa, lead the tours.

Several of the Bay Area's former military bases are being civilian-ized. The San Francisco Presidio will become headquarters for the Lucasfilm company and other businesses, maybe including a museum dedicated to Walt Disney. A conference center is proposed at Fort Baker near Sausalito. Mare Island in Vallejo and Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato are changing by stages from military bases to areas of civilian businesses and housing.

The Bay Area's link to the Cold War sits at the edge of the ocean in the Marin Headlands. For two decades during the Cold War, Nike missiles lay in underground silos all over the United States, hundreds of them ready to rise as America's last line of defense.

In 1974, as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, missile sites were decommissioned and missilemen were reassigned.

A group of Nike veterans adopted a former missile site in the Marin Headlands in the mid 1980s and set out to refurbish it as a Cold War museum.

Nike Missile Site SF-88, in a secluded corner of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is the only Nike launch site in the country restored for public viewing.