NORFOLK, OCT. 26 -- The battleship USS Iowa, which survived two wars and a catastrophic explosion and fire that killed 47 crewmen, was decommissioned today for a third time.

The World War II and Korean War-vintage ship, with 16-inch guns that sent one-ton projectiles at targets 20 miles away, was taken out of service 47 years after it first joined the Navy.

After serving in the Pacific providing protection for aircraft carriers, the Iowa was decommissioned in 1949.

The battleship stayed in mothballs for little more than two years before it was brought back to service in August 1951. Its guns fired more than 4,000 rounds during the Korean War.

The ship was put in storage from 1958 until 1984, when it was modernized at a cost of $435 million and recommissioned as part of the Navy buildup to a 600-ship fleet.

But on April 19, 1989, an open seas gunnery exercise ended in tragedy when the No. 2 turret exploded, killing 47 sailors.

A Navy investigation blamed the explosion on a disgruntled gunner's mate, Clayton Hartwig, who died in the blast. Navy officials said the gunner's mate deliberately sabotaged the guns.

That report has been challenged by some of the families of the sailors and some members of Congress. Earlier this year, the Navy reopened a portion of the investigation. The Navy has said it did not base its decision to decommission the ship on the fact that it is estimated to cost at least $12 million to rebuild the wrecked turret.