USS Battleship Missouri Memorial
USS Battleship Missouri Memorial
The fourth Missouri (BB-B3), the last battleship completed by the United States, was commissioned June 11, 1944, with Capt. William M. Callaghan in command. After trials off New York and shakedown and battle practice in Chesapeake Bay, Missouri departed Norfolk and steamed to San Francisco for final fitting out as fleet flagship. She left San Francisco Bay December 14 and arrived in Ulithi, West Caroline Islands, January 13, 1945. There she was temporary headquarters ship for Vice Adm. Mitscher. The battleship put to sea January 27 to serve in the screen of the Lexington carrier task group of Mitscher's TF 58, and on February 16, her flattops launched the first air strikes against Japan since the famed Doolittle raid that had been launched from the carrier Hornet in April 1942.
Missouri then steamed with the carriers to Iwo Jima where her Mighty guns provided direct and continuous support to the invasion landings on February 19, 1945. After TF 58 returned to Ulithi, Missouri was assigned to the Yorktown carrier task group. Missouri departed Ulithi in the screen of the fast carriers and steamed to the Japanese mainland. During strikes against targets along the coast of the Inland Sea of Japan, Missouri splashed four Japanese aircraft. The Missouri was kept busy throughout the war. She was involved in many of the battles in the seas around Japan.
During the night of July 17-18, 1945 Missouri bombarded industrial targets in the Hichiti area, Honshu. Inland Sea aerial strikes continued through July 25, and Missouri guarded the carriers as they struck hard blows at the Japanese capital. As July ended the Japanese no longer had any home waters. Missouri had led her fleet to gain control of the air and sea approaches to the very shores of Japan.
Strikes on Hokkaido and northern Honshu resumed August 9, the day the second atomic bomb was dropped. Next day, at 8:54 pm Missouri's men were electrified by the unofficial news that Japan was ready to surrender, provided that the Emperor's prerogatives as a sovereign ruler were not compromised. Not until 7:45 am, August 15, was word received that President Truman had announced Japan's acceptance of unconditional surrender.
Adm. Sir Bruce Fraser, RN (Commander, British Pacific Fleet) boarded Missouri August 16, and conferred the order Knight of the British Empire upon Admiral Halsey. Missouri transferred a landing party of 200 officers and men to battleship Iowa for temporary duty with the initial occupation force for Tokyo August 21. Missouri herself entered Tokyo Bay early August 29 to prepare for the formal surrender ceremony.
High-ranking military officials of all the Allied Powers were received on board September 2. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz boarded shortly after 8:00 am, and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander for the Allies) came on board at 8:43 am. The Japanese representatives, headed by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, arrived at 8:56 am. At 9:02 am General MacArthur stepped before a battery of microphones and the 23-minute surrender ceremony was broadcast to the waiting world. By 9:30 am the Japanese emissaries had departed.
Early September 7, 1945 Missouri departed Tokyo Bay to receive homeward bound passengers at Guam, then sailed unescorted for Hawaii. She arrived in Pearl Harbor September 20.
The voyage of Missouri to the eastern Mediterranean in 1946 gave comfort to both Greece and Turkey. News media proclaimed her a symbol of U.S. interest in preserving Greek and Turkish liberty. With an August decision to deploy a strong fleet to the Mediterranean, it became obvious that the United States intended to use her naval sea and air power to stand firm against the tide of Soviet subversion.
Missouri arrived Rio de Janeiro August 30, 1947 for the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Hemisphere Peace and Security. President Truman boarded on September 2 to celebrate the signing of the Rio Treaty which broadened the Monroe Doctrine, stipulating that an attack on one of the signatory American States would be considered an attack on all.
Missouri was overhauled at Norfolk Naval Shipyard September 23, 1949 to February 17, 1950. Now the only U.S. battleship in commission, Missouri was proceeding seaward on a training mission from Hampton Roads early January 17 when she ran aground at a point 1.6 miles from Thimble Shoals Light, near Old Point Comfort. She traversed shoal water a distance of three ship lengths from the main channel. Lifted some 7 feet above waterline, she struck hard and fast. With the aid of tugs, pontoons, and an incoming tide, she was re-floated February 1.
Missouri departed Norfolk August 19,1950 to support U.N. forces in their fight against Communist aggression in Korea. Missouri joined the U.N. just west of Kyushu September 14, becoming flagship of Rear Adm. A. E. Smith. The first American battleship to reach Korean waters, she bombarded Samchok September 15 in a diversionary move coordinated with the Inchon landings. In company with cruiser Helena and two destroyers, she helped prepare the way for the 8th Army offensive.
Missouri conducted additional operations with carriers and systematic shore bombardments off the east coast of Korea until March 19, 1951. She arrived Yokosuka March 24, and 4 days later was relieved of duty in the Far East. She departed Yokosuka and upon arrival Norfolk April 27 became flagship of Rear Adm. J. L. Holloway, Jr., commander, Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet. Summer 1951 she engaged in two midshipman training cruises to northern Europe. Missouri entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul until January 30, 1952.
She returned to Norfolk August 4 and entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard to prepare for a second tour in the Korean Combat Zone. Her primary mission was to provide seagoing artillery support by bombarding enemy targets, in the Chaho-Tanchon area, at Chongjin, in the Tanchon-Sonjin area, and at Chaho, Wonsan, Hamhung, and Hungnam during the period October 15 through January 2, 1953. She was relieved as 7th Fleet flagship April 6 by battleship New Jersey.
MISSOURI departed Yokosuka 7 April and arrived Norfolk 4 May, to become flagship for Rear Adm. E. T. Woolridge, commander, Battleship-Cruisers, Atlantic Fleet, 14 May. She departed 8 June on a midshipman training cruise, returned to Norfolk 4 August, and was overhauled in Norfolk Naval Shipyard 20 November to 2 April 1954.
Missouri arrived Seattle September 15,1954. Three days later she entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where she was decommissioned February 26, 1955, entering the Bremerton group, Pacific Reserve Fleet. In reserve, "Mighty Mo" remained very much a part of the Navy and was a popular center of attention at Bremerton. Each year approximately 100,000 visitors boarded her by a once-daily, weekday, 75-minute guided bus tour of the Pacific Fleet at Bremerton.
In May 1984, the sleeping giant once again heard the call to arms. The United States Navy was recalling its dreadnoughts for modernization and updating. These weapons platforms were needed for an expanded 600-ship Navy to lead battle groups and help establish the U.S. naval presence around the globe. USS Missouri was recommissioned in San Francisco May 10, 1986. "This is a day to celebrate the rebirth of American sea power." said then-Secretary of Defense Casper W. Weinberger to an audience of 10,000 witnessing the historic ceremony. He admonished the crew to "listen for the footsteps of those who have gone before you. They speak to you of honor and the importance of duty. They remind you of your own traditions."
On July 25, 1987, the crew of Missouri was ordered for duty in the troubled waters of the Persian Gulf and departed on a six- month deployment to the Indian Ocean and North Arabian Sea. The ship spent more than 100 continuous days at sea in a hot, tense environment. As the centerpiece for Battlegroup Echo, Missouri steamed into the volatile operating arena and maintained a level of peace in the Middle East, which remained fragile and vital.
On August 2, 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded the tiny emirate of Kuwait. In the middle of the month, President George Bush sent the first of several hundred thousand troops, along with a strong force of naval support to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf area to support a multi-national force in a standoff with the Iraqi dictator. Missouri was put on hold in anticipation of being called to support the still-growing force in the Middle East.
The word came. Missouri departed in mid-November for the troubled waters of the Arabian Gulf. Amid the press coverage that a ship the stature of Missouri is used to receiving, the mighty dreadnought pulled away from Pier 6 at Long Beach and headed for Hawaii, first stop on the long journey to the Gulf. Missouri's crew celebrated Thanksgiving in Pearl Harbor, then headed for the Philippines for more work-ups en route to the Persian Gulf. Missouri arrived in the Gulf a few days into the new year of 1991, and immediately answered a distress call from a ship on fire in Gulf waters. Missouri dispatched fire fighting experts to help, and then journeyed onto the island emirate of Bahrain.
After a very short liberty in Bahrain, Missouri was called on to begin heading north for operations. It was a few days after that, on January 17, 1991, the ship fired Tomahawk missiles at Iraqi-held targets. The early morning fireworks helped mark the start of the war.
While the United States and other countries around the world heard the words "The liberation of Kuwait has begun," Missouri continued to fire Tomahawks — 28 in all. The war continued as Allied air superiority continued to dominate the demoralized Iraqi army. In February 1991, Missouri fired her 16-inch guns — the first firing of her guns in anger since the Korean conflict in the 1950's. Firing at targets just north of Khafji, Saudi Arabia, the ship assisted shore-based ground units in their tasks. Missouri shared gunnery duties with USS Wisconsin (BB 64) and the two battleships continued to hammer at their targets with 16-inch gunnery. Near the end of the month, Missouri turned her big guns on Faylaka Island and Kuwait City in support of the ground offensive. Iraq agreed to a cease fire agreement on February 28, 1991.
Missouri, veteran of four wars, was decommissioned for the final time on March 31, 1992 at Long Beach, Calif. Her final commanding officer, Capt. A. L. Kaiss, wrote this final note for the ship's last Plan of the Day:
"Our final day has arrived. Today the final chapter in battleship Missouri's history will be written. It's often said that the crew makes the command. There is no truer statement ... for it's the crew of this great ship that made this a great command. You are a special breed of sailors and Marines and I am proud to have served with each and every one of you. To you who have made the painful journey of putting this great lady to sleep, I thank you. For you have had the toughest job. To put away a ship that has become as much a part of you as you are to her is a sad ending to a great tour. But take solace in this — you have lived up to the history of the ship and those who sailed her before us. We took her to war, performed magnificently and added another chapter in her history, standing side by side our forerunners in true naval tradition. God bless you all."
Missouri is tied to pier F-5 on "Battleship Row", 300 yards behind the Arizona Memorial. She will be there for about of three years before moving to a permanent site at the most seaward end of "Battleship Row" at piers F-2 and F-3. Missouri opened as a memorial and museum on January 29, 1999.
Missouri received three battle stars for World War II service and five for Korean service.
Pictures and information were provided by USS Missouri Memorial Association
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