When Hoosier football fans approach Gate 3 on the west side of IU Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana, many may not notice an odd looking flagpole. It is hard to miss the two sets of big guns pointed skyward flanking the gray flagpole. When you approach the display you see that this flag pole has a circular platform below Old Glory waving in the breeze. This is in fact the main mast from the USS Indiana (BB-58), given to Indiana University by the US Navy. The guns are twin mounted antiaircraft platforms also from the ship. A large plaque mounted behind the mast states in part that "It stands as a memorial to the sons and daughters of the State of Indiana who have so gallantly served in the Armed Forces of our nation."
The USS Indiana (BB-58) was commissioned April 30, 1942. A South Dakota-class battleship, she was actually the fourth US Navy ship to carry the name of the State of Indiana. The USS Indiana took part in many of the now famous sea campaigns in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. She provided cover for the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Saratoga during the assaults on the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. She was one of several battleships that bombarded the Japanese homeland prior to the surrender. USS Indiana steamed into Tokyo harbor on September 5, 1945. The USS Indiana earned nine battle stars for her operations and engagements. She was decommissioned in 1946.
The IU Memorial Stadium also has a rich history. The original stadium was constructed in 1924 at a different location on campus. The site of the present day stadium is on the North West side of campus, and hosted its first game in September, 1960. The design of this stadium was the standard for decades for collegiate stadiums. Originally the stadium had stands on both sides of the football field. The combined capacity was over 46,500. In 2003 the huge "Press Box" was completely renovated.
The surface of the playing field also has quite the history. It opened in 1960 with natural grass. Artificial turf was installed in 1970, followed by AstroTurf in 1986. They went back to grass in 1998. In 2003 a new artificial surface, Astroplay, was installed. This field was washed out by a massive flood event in 2008. The current surface is now FieldTurf.
In 2007, construction began on a massive and impressive project: Enclose the entire north end zone of the stadium. This project would turn the stadium into a horseshoe shape, and bring the capacity up to 52,929 including suites and boxes. The project also added classrooms, offices, a team auditorium and state of the art conditioning facilities. This project was completed in time for the start of the 2009 football season.
Thus, two remarkable histories come together. When near Bloomington, Indiana, take the time to drop by the IU Memorial Stadium. Look for the mast of the USS Indiana. Take in the history of this famous Big Ten stadium. Both will make an impression.