STATUS: Decommissioned, Preserved
SHIPS-IN-CLASS (4): USS Iowa (BB-61); USS New Jersey (BB-62); USS Missouri (BB-63); USS Wisconsin (BB-64)
LENGTH: 887 feet (270.36 meters)
BEAM: 108 feet (32.92 meters)
DRAUGHT: 38 feet (11.58 meters)
DISPLACEMENT (SURFACE): 57,450 tons
PROPULSION: 8 x Water-tube boilers with 4 x General Electric geared steam turbines developing 212,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts.
SPEED (SURFACE): 28 knots (32 miles-per-hour)
RANGE: 12,948 nautical miles (14,900 miles; 23,979 kilometers)
Detailing the development and operational history of the USS Missouri (BB-63) Battleship.
Entry last updated on 4/24/2018.
Authored by Dan Alex. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The USS Missouri (BB-63) is one of the most storied American warships ever constructed. Few can lay claim to having fought in three of the major American engagements of the 20th Century, taking part in World War 2 (Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Guam), the Korean War and the Gulf War before she was retired. As such, the vessel served as a battletested learning ground for generations of American sailors that produced grandfathers, fathers and sons that had all served on the same ship. The Missouri is perhaps best known for her participation in the surrender ceremony of the Empire of Japan at Tokyo Bay to conclude World War 2 in 1945. She was brought back out of retirement in the latter years of the Cold War, modernized with cruise missile capabilities and advanced technology before be decommissioned for good and set up as a floating museum for all to enjoy, self-educate and offer remembrance to those that have led the way. Her colorful history has endeared the vessel to generations of Americans and today, she stands as a symbol of peacekeeper, keeping an ever watchful eye over her fallen comrades at Pearl Harbor. She is berthed a short distance away from the Arizona Memorial whose oil slick drives past the starboard side of the "Mighty Mo" for hundreds of yards.
USS Missouri Specifications
Make no mistake, the USS Missouri was a huge surface vessel. She maintained a running length of 887.2 feet with a beam (width) of 108.2 feet. Her draught (height) was listed at 28.9 feet. The typical World War 2 crew complement consisted of 2,700 personnel made up of officers and sailors of the United States Navy and United States Marines. In 1984, this complement was reduced to 1,851 personnel. She displaced at 45,000 Standard tons but could balloon up to 58,000 tons on a full maximum sea load.
Power was supplied from 8 x Babcock & Wilcox Boiler systems delivering energy to General Electric geared turbines and 4 x screws. This supplied the vessel with speeds up to 31 knots with a 35 knot maximum possible in perfect conditions. Range totaled 14,890 miles of sea terrain, allowing her to be called to service in far off places around the world.
The hull of the USS Missouri was conventional for her time, made slim at the forecastle with a wide girth amidships and a tapered, oblong stern. Much of her height actually sat under the waterline. Her deck was covered over in a special teak wood and appropriately sealed, further protected by 7.5 inches of armor. Her bow showcased a noticeable upward angle to help in cutting through rough waters. Her belt was protected by 12.1 inches of armor. Anchors and their giant spool control systems were held well aft, ahead of the forward turrets. The hull alone maintained six of the vessels eighteen total floors (when including the superstructure). The superstructure was mostly contained at amidships, nestled in between the three main gun turrets, and held twelve floors consisting of the important operational suites as well as the two funnels. The funnels extracted the necessary exhaust smoke from the four turbines buried in the aft portions of the hull. These funnels were fed by four large vents from each turbine. The turbines were arranged in a staggered formation to keep the vessels width in check and powered four massive propellers held under the stern. The outermost propellers were some distance ahead of the inner most pair. A rudder was situated at the base of the stern, aft of the propellers. A large lattice-type antenna array completed the Missouri's tall, imposing appearance.
The forward gun batteries consisted of two turrets with angular faces and flat tops for a low profile. The second turret overlooked the first turret to allow for firing of the two systems against forward placed targets. Each turret held three main guns. The third turret was directly aft of the superstructure and could be called into play if the target was within its arc of fire. Obviously, a broadside approach against a target was the only way the Missouri could bring all three gun batteries to bear on a single target. While limiting in scope, this was the conventional design method for most warships up to this time.
Life at Sea
In all, the battleship was intended from the beginning to be something of a floating island (in much the same way that aircraft carriers serve sailors today), away from land for months at a time. Thusly, the crew needed facilities to maintain healthy "normal" lives away from home. Services such as dental care, sleeping berths, a post office, accounting office, career counseling all added to the benefit of a serving sailor. US Marines added security police detail aboard the Missouri but maintained separate quarters.
The main deck held the main gun battery of turret Number 1, the captain's cabin and gig, main battery turret Number 3, the boat room, a 40' utility boat, the "Officer's Country", the Executive Officer's Stateroom and the ward room. The flight deck was added only after World War 2, when the Missouri's twin aft-mounted seaplane launch rails were removed, and was designed to accept various helicopters temporarily (there was no onboard hangar for storage).
The second deck (this below the main deck) housed the crew's mess hall, library, galley and berths. Additionally, this floor was home to the Chief Petty Officer's mess and quarters, the Master-at-Arms office, the USMC "War Room" and small arms lockers, the bread room and bakery, counselor's office, machine shop, supply office, disbursing office, Command Master Chief's office, the post office, dental facilities, sub-floors of turrets Number 1 and 2, a computer learning center (obviously added only later) and the Warrant Officer stateroom. A small arms lockers contained rifles and pistols for onboard security personnel. Fire control maintained the needed equipment and oxygen stores for fighting onboard fires.
The superstructure consisted of five major levels of note. This began with Level 01 above the main deck (increasing in number the high up one goes). Level 01 held the captain's cabin and several of the 5" gun mounts. Level 02 was home to the USMC mount and officer staterooms. Level 03 became known as the "Tomahawk Deck" after the installation of said missile systems in 1984. The flag bridge and signal shelter were also found here. Level 04 held the binnacle/compass, navigation bridge and the captain's at-sea cabin (the captain was given at least three cabins across the Missouri, some "loaned" out to important political or military figures who happen to be cruising with the Missouri crew. President Harry Truman toured with the Missouri crew on several occasions, giving rise to what became known as the "Truman Line" in the enlisted man's mess hall (the President insisted on eating with the crew and eating the food they ate). Level 05 was home to the second battery director, the CIWS mountings and came to be known as the "flying bridge".
Traversing the various hallways and decks of the Missouri was something of an adventure to the uninitiated. Ladders were steep and required some concentration at first, often being referred to as "knee knockers" for those approaching them incorrectly. Recommended operation was to always face the ladder when climbing up or down. However, in the heat of battle and through years of experience, the young spritely crew of the Missouri found it much viable to simply slide down the rails without ever setting foot on the steps. Additionally, some hatches hung low and became known as "head-bangers" for obvious reasons, requiring personnel to stay alert when entering/exiting an area. Heavy steel fire and flood doors were present throughout her design, intended to contain fires and flooding during battle.
Despite her berthing quarters, sleep was sometimes an elusive activity for the Missouri crew as there were always tasks to complete across such a huge ship. Marines were generally given the better of the berthing options and were kept segregated from the Navy crew for obvious reasons. Navy crew made due with suspended, stacked berths while Marines slept hardily on cubby-hole type bunk berths with more storage space for personal belongings.
USS Missouri Armament
Firepower has always proven to be the lifeblood of any sea-going warship in history and the USS Missouri did not disappoint. Like her sisters, she was fielded with 9 x 16-inch (410mm)/50 caliber Mark 7 main guns held in groups of three across three large turrets. The turrets were identified through a simple numbering system marked from bow to stern, meaning the first turret was known as Number "1" followed by turret Number "2". The turret held aft of the vessel therefore became turret Number "3". Each gun on these turrets could operate independently of the other and each could also fire individually. The most effective form of attack was a full broadside from all three turrets, allowing all nine guns to attack a single target area for a lethal dose of airborne devastation. Each projectile weighed in at 2,700lbs and were armor-piercing in nature, able to fly some 20 to 22 miles towards a target. Turret armor measured in at 19.7 inches (500mm). The inherent firepower from a full broadside from the Missouri was such that the resulting action would actually boil the surrounding waters, causing shockwaves as well. Their immense weight - coupled with the overall weight of the Missouri hull and superstructure - also meant that the Missouri stayed in her place during the firing action, making for one very stable gunnery platform. By the end of her story, her gunnery crews were among the best in the business.
Of interest considering these turret emplacements were the fact that they were designed to sit independently of the hull. They were merely weighed down by their own massive weight within the Missouri structure. This was to ensure that if the vessel ever listed or overturned, the turrets would slip out of their rings and sink to the ocean bottom, giving the hull - and the crew within - a chance at survival instead of having the entire vessel sink under her intense weight. This little known fact was delivered to us by an expert tour guide ( retired military) volunteering aboard the Missouri during our visit.
Backing up the main gun batteries were a network of 20 x 5-inch (130mm)/38 caliber Mark 12 dual purpose cannons. These implements could engage surface vessels, shore-based targets or inland targets as needed. Each barbette was allocated 11.6 to 17.3 inches of protective armor. Some 80 x 40mm/56 caliber Bofors cannons were used as anti-aircraft weapons to protect the vessel at all angles or apply support to vulnerable aircraft carriers she might be escorting/screening. Should an enemy make it past these guns, there were another 49 x 20mm/70 caliber Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannons to contend with.
In 1984, the USS Missouri was upgraded for modern warfare thanks to a Reagan initiative. She retained her massive 9 x 16-inch gun batteries but only 12 x 5-inch /50 caliber Mark 7 cannons. Much of her original close-in support was enhanced by installation of 32 x BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and an updated weapons suite. Additionally, new threats abounded on the high seas by this time and the Missouri was granted use of up to 16 x RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. For close-in defense, 4 x 20mm/76 caliber Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) were added to her improving digital arsenal, removing the need to field lower-caliber cannons such as the aforementioned 40mm and 20mm gun systems.
You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
Despite her upgraded weapon suites - especially concerning those of the main guns - the digital equipment installed to manage the 9-inch main guns proved too sensitive to the violent abuse inherent in the firing action and forced gunnery crews to revert back to the original 1943-era aiming and firing methodology. Since the young Missouri gun crews held little to no experience in such operation, past gunnery veterans of the Missouri were called back in by the United States Navy to train a new generation of gunners in the old ways of warfare.
The USS Missouri of 1984 was a very different vessel than the one fighting the Empire of Japan in World War 2. She now fielded various sensors and processing suites that put her on par with the latest class of surface fighting warships in service with the United States Navy. Among her new toys included an AN/SPS-49 air-search radar, the AN/SPS-67 surface search radar and the AN/SPQ-9 series surface search /gun fire control radar. For electronic warfare, the Missouri made use of the AN/SLQ-32 series system as well as the AN/SLQ-25 Nixie decoy system. Up 8 x Mark 36 SRBOC Super Rapid Bloom Rocket Launchers rounded out her self-defense protective measures.
The Iowa-class series of battleships were planned to be six in number but two were eventually cancelled and only four made up her final ranks. The class was officially ordered by the United States government for construction in 1939 as World War began to spread across Europe. The lead ship in the class became the USS Iowa (BB-61) followed by the USS New Jersey (BB-62). USS Missouri (BB-63) followed (at least numerically) and the class was complete with the arrival of the USS Wisconsin (BB-64). In fact, the USS Wisconsin was completed ahead of the Missouri, making the Missouri the final battleship to be completed for the US Navy.
The two planned yet cancelled battleships of this class would have been the USS Illinois (BB-65) and the USS Kentucky (BB-66). While construction of the two vessels was begun, they were ultimately scrapped. All four remaining battleships went on to lead successful military careers and all survive even today as preserved mothballed vessels or floating museums. USS Iowa is located at Suisun Bay, California awaiting her fate. USS New Jersey is anchored at Camden, New Jersey as a floating museum. USS Missouri is anchored as a floating museum at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. USS Wisconsin can currently be found at the Nauticus Maritime Museum at Norfolk, Virginia. The Iowa-class represented the last battleships to be constructed for the United States Navy for the focus in the Cold War now turned smaller budgets, efficient warships and high-tech nuclear submarines and larger aircraft carriers. The class went on to see combat action throughout World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War - a statistic that few other vessels can claim.
USS Missouri Basics
The USS Missouri was ordered on June 12th, 1940 and laid down on January 5th, 1941 by Brooklyn Naval Shipyard. She was launched on January 29th, 1944 and officially commissioned on June 11th, 1944. She was officially (and finally) decommissioned on March 31st, 1992 with her name struck from the Naval Register on January 12th, 1995.
Operational History - World War 2 (1944-1945)
Life any other vessel in American Navy service, the Missouri underwent the typical "shakedown", this off the coast of New York. This critical period served to iron out any deficiencies in her design and construction before being committed to active service and, ultimately, war. Gunnery practice was handled in an area at Chesapeake Bay before Missouri set sail for Norfolk, Virginia on November 11th, 1944. From there, she took the required journey through Caribbean waters before reaching the Panama Canal on November 18th. Her next stop was rounding Mexican western shores up to the port of San Francisco, California where she was set up as a fleet flagship. She departed on December 14th and made it out to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1944.
USS Missouri (BB-63) (Cont'd)
On January 13th, Missouri arrived at the Ulithi atoll of the West Caroline Islands in the Western Pacific and became the temporary HQ for Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher. On January 27th, she was given as an escort to the USS Lexington aircraft carrier as part of Task Force 58, covering the launchings of bombers from the group on February 16th. The launchings were the first offensive measures from American aircraft carriers since the fabled Doolittle Raids in April of 1942 from USS Hornet against mainland Japan.
Next stop for the force was the island of Iwo Jima. American ground forces waded ashore in a vast amphibious operation bent on retaking ground from a determined and fanatical Japanese foe. The operation began on February 19th. The Missouri's 9-inch guns pounded Japanese fortifications on the island in an attempt to "soften" up resistance. The Missouri provided direct support for the duration of the operation and, despite the pounding, US Marines fought a hard and bloody battle to retake the island. The Americans ultimately claimed victory and pushed the Japanese defenders backwards, closer to home waters.
After Iwo, USS Missouri returned with the Task Force to Ulithi on March 5th. There, she was relocated to the USS Yorktown carrier task group where she would once again operate as part of a screening force. The force left Ulithi on March 14th. The objective of the task force was now mainland Japan. The Missouri once again brought her main guns to bear on targets situated along the Inland Sea coast of Japan on March 18th. The force targeted inland positions such as Imperial Japanese Navy bases and Imperial Japanese Army airfields. The Japanese defense included attacking aircraft to which the Missouri crew downed at least four with her close-in weapon systems. The Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Franklin took battle damage in the ensuing action and it was Missouri that came to protect her as she removed herself from the scene. The force moved back to Ulithi before being sent out once more towards Okinawa.
Okinawa was another similar amphibious goal for US Marines and Army personnel to overtake Japanese positions. As such, Missouri and her mighty guns would once again be called to bear down on the enemy. Joining other battleships in the foray, Missouri shelled the southeast coast of the island beginning March 24th. The idea was to focus enemy attention on this part of the island and lessen Japanese resistance along the west coast. US Army and Marines waded ashore in another large amphibious operation on April 1st. During the fighting offshore, the Japanese battleship IJN Yamamoto - sent on a suicide mission to the battle - was stopped and sunk by US Navy warplanes. The loss of the vessel was a mighty blow to the hearts and minds of the Japanese. The Yamamoto was the most powerful and largest battleship ever constructed, fielding massive 18-inch main guns in her turret batteries.
The Missouri was credited with the destruction of various Japanese gun emplacements and value buildings set up by the Japanese military. During the fighting, she also netted another five enemy aircraft and another probable. Additionally, her gunnery crews assisted in downing a further six enemy warplanes. While supplying protection for the aircraft fleet, Missouri took part in at least twelve daylight operations and another four nighttime engagements to ensure the fleet survived, repelling enemy forces as needed. The Japanese, it seemed, could not get past the Mighty Mo.
On April 11th, the USS Missouri was targeted in a kamikaze attack. The Japanese aircraft broke through the blistering cannon defenses and, despite being damaged and her pilot possibly already killed at the controls, smashed into the Missouri along her starboard side near the aft superstructure. A gasoline-based fire quickly erupted but was controlled by the crew within time. Despite the strike, the Missouri only reported light damage. On April 17th, Missouri formed part of a US Navy contingent sent to find and destroy a Japanese submarine. Missouri detected the enemy sub and the force recorded the official sinking of IJN submarine I-56. On May 5th, Missouri was relieved of her task force duty and headed back to Ulithi, arriving there on May 9th.
It was on to Guam on May 18th where Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. came aboard. Missouri departed on May 21st and assisted in offshore bombardment of Japanese forces at Okinawa once more. From June 2nd through June 3rd, the Japanese mainland island of Kyushu was targeted. June 5th through June 6th brought forth a major storm at sea but Missouri rode through unscathed. Kyushu was the target of heavy bombardment once more on June 8th before the Missouri headed back to Leyte in the Philippines, arriving there on June 13th.
The Missouri was back in the water by July 8th with the target of Honshu, another mainland Japanese island. Fleet actions began on July 10th and continued into July 14th. Missouri took part in actions on July 15th and lay waste to the Wanishi Ironworks and Nihon Steel Company at Muroran, Hokkaido. Night actions by the Missouri were undertaken on July 17th and July 18th against targets at Honshu. Navy air attacks continued into July 25th at the Inland Sea with the Missouri on guard against an aerial Japanese reprisal. At this point in the war, the Japanese military was essentially sequestered to their mainland territory - all its gains now in control of the Allies. The stranglehold was in place and the inevitable invasion of the Japanese mainland was in the works - owing much to the bravery of US Navy ships and their crews like the exhibited by the Missouri and the USN air arm - all this to make history possible for the Free World.
However, to prevent further bloodshed in yet another large amphibious assault - this time against the Japanese mainland - US President Truman ordered the use of the Atomic bomb. The first bomb was dropped on August 6th, 1945 against the city of Hiroshima. Still without a Japanese surrender in place, a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945. It was only then that the Empire of Japan agreed to its surrender. Admiral Halsey received the Knight of the British Empire honor from Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, commander of the British Pacific Fleet, on August 16th aboard the deck of the Missouri. An occupation force was pieced together and Japan was now under the will of the victors. USS Missouri made her way into Tokyo Bay on August 29th, 1945, with General MacArthur's "show of force" display on water and overhead to ensure complete cooperation from the Japanese.
The final surrender was prepared and enacted on September 2nd, 1945. Called to attend were several high-ranking personnel from both sides of the war in the Pacific. This included representatives from participating World War 2 nations including as General Hsu Yung-Ch'ang of China, Admiral-of-the-Fleet Sir Bruce Fraser of Britain, Lieutenant-General Kuzma Nikolaevich Derevyanko of the Soviet Union, General Sir Thomas Blamey of Australia, Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave of Canada, General d'Armee Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque of France, Vice Admiral Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich of Denmark and Air Vice Admiral Marshal Leonard M. Isitt of New Zealand. The US was represented by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur - the latter acting as Supreme Command for the Allies. The Empire of Japan was represented by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu.
Knowing the Japanese to be sticklers for discipline, General MacArthur purposely decided to delay the his appearance at the ceremony by some four minutes. He later delivered a 23-minute speech signifying the end of the war under the 31-star flag used by Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 upon the American visit to Tokyo Bay nearly a century earlier. The ceremony concluded by 9:30 and Missouri left Tokyo Bay on September 6th.
With the war over, "Operation Magic Carpet" - the returning of G.I.s to the American mainland - was put into action. As such, the Missouri made a stop at Guam to pick up passengers and made her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, arriving there on September 20th, 1945. On September 29th, she made her way to the American east coast, once again traversing the Panama Canal before reaching New York City on October 23rd. There, President Harry Truman came aboard on October 27th during Navy Day. The Missouri then underwent a much-needed overhaul and took a crew to training off of Cuban waters before returning to New York. From there, she embarked the remains of the deceased Turkish Ambassador. She then left on March 22nd, 1946 before reaching Istanbul on April 5th to return the ambassador to his homeland, delivering full honors to the head-of-state in the process.
After a stop in Greece to maximize American support in the region (essentially a show of force against the spread of Communism) and stops at Algiers and Tangiers, Missouri returned to Norfolk on May 9th before joining the 8th Fleet for training in the Atlantic on May 12th, 1946. Back to New York City on May 27th, Missouri then spent time in the Atlantic, incurring a non-fatal direct hit from a star shell during target practice.
President Truman came aboard the Missouri once more on September 2nd, 1947 at Rio de Janeiro and was joined by his whole family on the 7th, heading back to Norfolk. Missouri then headed to New York for another overhaul until March 10th, 1948. During the year, Missouri was offered provision to host helicopter platforms with the installation of a flight deck at her stern. This involved the obsolete catapult launch and seaplane systems being removed. In doing so, she became the first battleship in history to allow landing of helicopters along her decks. Several years of cruising greeted the Mighty Mo until yet another overhaul from September 23rd, 1949 through January 17th, 1950. While her three sister ships were decommissioned, Missouri was kept active at the behest of President Truman (the vessel was commissioned by his daughter, Margaret Truman).
As such, the Missouri was left in service and continued as the only active American battleship. She ran aground accidentally on January 17th, 1950 near Old Point Comfort. She was not put to sea again until February 1st, 1950 after an operation involving tugboats and luck with the incoming tide lodged the large vessel loose.
The Korean War (1950-1953)
Before tensions on the Korean War peninsula broke out in 1950, Korea was a whole nation. In 1910, belligerent forces of the Empire of Japan exercised control over the country and introduced Japanese culture into the fold. However, following Japan's loss in World War 2, the Korean peninsula was divided into a North and South Korea along the 38th Parallel. The North was controlled by communist Soviet Union with the United States controlling the South. Though free elections were scheduled to be held, the North - led by Kim Il-sung, with the blessings of Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong of China - invaded the South in an effort to unite the region under the Communist banner. This, of course, forced the new United Nations into direct conflict with the North, beginning the Korean War on June 25th, 1950. The United Nations was formed by a large contingent of forces from the United States led by General Douglas MacArthur. Many nations were simply caught by surprise by the invasion and many had already curtailed military spending after World War 2 substantially.
American forces that had remained in Japan during the occupation of the conquered nation were immediately pressed into service. Missouri was called to action and sent towards Korean waters on August 19th, 1950. She arrived in Kyushu, Japan on September 14th and was immediately set up as Rear Admiral A.E. Smith's flagship. On September 15th, the guns of the Missouri went active once more as they shelled North Korean positions at Samchock during the UN amphibious landings at Incheon.
On October 10th, the Missouri became the flagship of Rear Admiral J.M. Higgins and on the 14th, the flagship of Vice Admiral A.D. Struble. Bombardment of North Korean positions continued on October 12th and ran through the 26th. The UN offensive was proving successful and North Korean elements were in full retreat, bringing the attention of a wary Communist China into the fold. On October 19th, 1950, Chinese forces came to the support of North Korea and officially entered the war. The offensive pushed the UN into retreat with the Missouri in support throughout most of 1951. On October 18th, 1951, Missouri was back in Norfolk for a much needed overhaul. She would not be back in service until late January of 1952. During the lull in her stay, she worked to train new crews before returning to Yokosuka on October 17th, 1952. There, Vice Admiral Joseph J. Clark was put in her command and shelling of enemy positions at across the peninsula resumed. March 25th, 1953 would see the last off-shore shelling of Korean positions from the Missouri and she was officially relieved by sister-ship USS New Jersey on April 6th. She was back in Norfolk on May 4th. The Korean War never officially ended though a truce was signed on July 27th, 1953 establishing the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) across the 38th Parallel. Technically, the North and South are still in an active state of war with one another even today. In a follow-up training cruise, the Missouri was joined by her three sisters - the only time the four ships would ever sail together in their history - before returning to Norfolk in August 3rd.
The end of the road for the Missouri was in sight. She began a long journey to the American West coast by way of the Panama Canal on August 23rd to undergo decommissioning. This became official on February 26th, 1955 as the Missouri joined other mothballed ships of the Pacific Reserve Fleet at Bremerton, Washington.
Calm Before the Storm
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan was entrenched as Commander-in-Chief of the United States. His administration devised a modernization program to make the US Navy a 600-strong force that would help to keep the peace and support American interests throughout the world during some very contentious years of the Cold War against an old adversary, the Soviet Union. As such, the USS Missouri was called back into action. Obviously, her World War 2 origins were beginning to lose their luster and the old girl was in need of a face lift. She was moved to the Long Beach Naval Yard for due work. During this time, she lost much of her close-in defensive cannons in favor of advanced missile systems such as the Tomahawk cruise missile and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Close-in defense was now being handled by computerized 20mm Phalanx Gatling cannons. Missouri mounted 32 x BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles with 16 x AGM-84 Harpoon systems. 4 x Phalanx systems were installed about her superstructure, noted for their white "R2-D2" type domes. In addition to these weapon systems, the Missouri was given all-new fire control systems, radar and electronic warfare countermeasures. "Big Mo" was recommissioned on May 10th, 1986 at San Francisco Bay, California. Margaret Truman, daughter to the former American president, was in attendance once more.
A world tour soon followed for the Missouri and her crew. For a short time, the Missouri was stationed in the Persian Gulf to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers from belligerent Iranian gunboats in the region. Another world tour was on the itinerary soon after and the Missouri set sail once more before returning to Long Beach Naval Shipyard for refitting.
The Gulf War (1991)
On August 2nd, 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of neighboring Kuwait in an effort to control a vast portion of the region's oil supply. A coalition force responded with the United States in the lead and Missouri was called to the region on November 13th, 1990. On January 17th, 1991, the USS Missouri let loose the first of 27 Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets inside of Iraqi territory. Her guns, quiet since the Korean War, were once again active and shelling inland enemy positions at will. She accounted for 112 x 16-inch projectiles before being relieved by sister USS Wisconsin. Now relocated, the Missouri guns opened fire against Iraqi positions, playing a part in the false amphibious action along the Kuwaiti shoreline in an effort to draw Iraqi attention from elsewhere. At least two HY-2 Silkworm missiles were fired at Missouri with the first one harmlessly crashing away from the ship and the other being intercepted by a Sea Dart missile from the British destroyer HMS Gloucester.
The USS Missouri was involved in a friendly fire incident when a Phalanx system onboard the USS Jarrett engaged the Missouri on accident, apparently tracking and firing at a chaff countermeasure launched by Missouri in response to an enemy missile. The action resulting in the injuring of one of Missouri's crew and little damage other than an embedded 20mm shell in a hallway.
Once the fighting had moved inland away from the Missouri's gun reach, the vessel's time in the Gulf War was coming to a close. She further added the destruction of 15 enemy naval mines to her resume before leaving for home on March 21, 1991. She arrived stateside in April and preceded to train new crew and was used at the 50th Anniversary celebrations marking the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack in Hawaii with then-President and World War 2 veteran George H.W. Bush in attendance.
The Official End of the Road for Missouri
In 1989, the Cold War was more or less over. The Berlin Wall dividing democratic and Communist Germany had fallen and the Soviet Empire broke apart, leaving the former Cold War adversary in shambles militarily and economically. As such, defense budgets around the world were cut to the point that the USS Missouri became one such casualty. The cost in fuel, oil and manpower involved in keeping the armored island-city afloat was astronomical. USS Missouri was decommissioned for the final time on March 31st, 1992 with Captain Albert L. Kaiss at the helm - her last acting commander. She was struck from the Naval Register on January 12th, 1995 and, in 1998, given to the USS Missouri Memorial Association of Honolulu, Hawaii. She was towed to Pearl Harbor on June 22nd and became a floating museum near the USS Arizona Memorial on January 29th, 1999. While the Arizona Memorial represented the beginning of direct American involvement in World War 2, the USS Missouri became the symbol of its final involvement in the world conflict. The "surrender deck" has since become a large part of what draws tourists from all over the world to her preserved deck.
USS Missouri Miscellaneous
The USS Missouri fought under the nicknames of "Big Mo" and "Mighty Mo". She earned 11 Battle Stars for her service in World War 2, the Korean War and the Gulf War. She is one of the most decorated US Navy ships in history, having earned over fifteen ribbons during her tenure. The "surrender deck" used in the September 2nd, 1945 ceremony is located along the starboard bow side of the superstructure and is commemorated with a plaque on the floor deck. On the plaque are the words "OVER THIS SPOT ON 2 SEPTEMBER 1945 THE INSTRUMENT OF FORMAL SURRENDER OF JAPAN TO THE ALLIED POWERS WAS SIGNED THUS BRINGING TO A CLOSE THE SECOND WORLD WAR. THE SHIP AT THAT TIME WAS AT ANCHOR IN TOKYO BAY". The Missouri Memorial Association runs a "Battlestations Tour" covering 90 minutes and taking visitors to decks below than those allowed through the standard tour. According to Missouri experts, the vessel is still wholly sea worthy and would need much attention to make her active if need be. However, the resources required to make her active ensure that the vessel will most likely never see combat action again.
The Kamikaze Attack
The scars of the kamikaze strike along the starboard side are still slightly noticeable on the Missouri even today (decorated with an information plaque at the site of the attack). Dents can clearly be seen in the Missouri structure. In the aftermath of the attack, the pilot's body was recovered from the wreckage. Acting Captain William M. Callaghan, recognizing the act from an honorable military perspective, ordered a full military funeral with honors for the deceased pilot. Despite the grumblings of the crew, the Japanese airman was given honorably to the sea.
A Hollywood Star
The USS Missouri played a starring role in the 1992 Steven Seagal motion picture "Under Siege", detailing a fictional terrorist takeover of the vessel for her valuable Tomahawk cruise missiles. Despite her showcasing in the movie, much of sequences used were actually filmed using the USS Alabama museum ship with the USS Drum filling in for a North Korean submarine of French origin.
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