The Mighty Mo. USS Missouri. ( BB 63 ) A Brief History
USS Missouri was the fourth and last battleship to carry the proud name Missouri. She was sponsored by Margaret Truman, the daughter of the then, Senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman.
The ship had a long working life in the United States Navy to wind up in Honolulu, signed over to the USS Missouri Memorial Association, sitting close to the Arizona memorial. These two old fighting ships representing the start and end of the Pacific War for the US.
Laid down, Launched, and then Commissioned.
This battleship ( BB 63 ) was laid down on the 6th. of January in 1941 at the New York Naval Shipyard, to be launched on the 29th. of January 1944, and then commissioned with her first Commanding Officer, Captain William M. Callagan USN on the 11th. of June 1944.
Displacement. 45,000 tons.
Length. 887 feet 3 inches.
Beam. 108 feet 2 inches.
Draught. 28 feet 11 inches.
Armament., Nine by 16 inch guns in three triple turrets. Twenty by 5 inch guns.
Speed. 33 knots.
After her trials and shakedown cruise, Missouri transited the Panama Canal on the 18th. of November 1944 to steam to San Fransisco for fitting out as the Fleet Flagship. The new ship arrived at Ulithi in the Caroline Islands in January 1945, to put to sea on the 27th. of that month in support of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's carriers.
Then, on the 16th. of February the first air strike against Japan since the Doolittle raid in 1942 was launched from the Fleet Carriers.
The dreaded Kamikaze aircraft were much in evidence, the Carriers Wasp, and Franklin both victims. The cruiser Pittsburgh took Franklin under tow until she could make 14 knots, and Missouri provided support until the 22nd. of March 1945, as the damaged ships limped towards Ulithi, then the Mighty Mo set off to lead the pre invasion bombardment at Okinawa.
The mighty 16 inch guns of USS Missouri
Missouri now under Kamikaze attack.
On the 11th. of April 1945, Missouri was hit by an incoming Japanese aircraft just below her main gun deck, and the starboard wing of this plane started a petrol blaze at No.3, five inch gun mounting, but the fire was soon contained.
During the Okinawa campaign, five Japanese aircraft were shot down, and the battleship's main armament destroyed enemy gun emplacements.
Missouri's railing caused by the Japanese Kamikaze crashing on board.
Photo courtesy Bob Meade.
Back to Ulithi.
In May, Missouri was back at Ulithi, and the Commander of the Third Fleet, Admiral William ( Bull ) Halsey hoisted his flag in his new battleship.
Okinawa and Kyushu.
Bombardments were undertaken at Ohi, and come June, the flagship led the Third Fleet with their carrier aircraft striking Kysuhu airfields. A fierce storm struck the fleet, and Pittsburgh had her bow torn away, but Missouri was able to ride it out.
In July, Third Fleet aircraft raided the capital Tokyo, taking it completely by suprise, and during the month, Missouri used her 16 inch main armament to pound both Muroran on Hokkaido, and industrial targets in the Hichati area of Honshu.
Dropping of the Second Atomic Bomb forces Japan to surrender.
When the second Atomic bomb was unleashed on the 9th. of August 1945, the fleet was again in action against Hokkaido and northern Honshu. The very next day, the crew of the flagship were both suprised and elated to hear the news, that Japan at long last was ready to throw in the towel and surrender.
It was a sweet moment for anyone involved in the long haul from Pearl Harbor on the 7th. of December 1941, through the bloody Guadalcanal campaign, and the associated Solomons Sea Battles of 1942 when it would have been so easy to give up, withdraw, but tough to keep punching at the Imperial Japanese Navy, but we just knew we must, and could not falter, and give in, for, in the long haul we
Now at last that moment was as hand, is it any wonder that sailors, marines, seabees, army and airforce personnel anywhere in the Pacific were delighted and suprised at the fact that the enemy had catipulated? It would soon be officially over, and we could GO HOME!!
It took until 0745 ( 7.45 AM ) on the 15th. of August for President Harry Truman to announce that Japan had unconditionally surrendered.
US sailors on board USS Missouri, seek a vantage point, as the Japanese delegates come on board
for the Surrender ceremony on the morning of Sunday the 2nd. of September 1945, in Tokyo Bay.
Admiral Halsey Knighted by the British.
On the 16th. of August, Admiral Bruce Fraser RN. Commander of the British Pacific Fleet went onboard Missouri to confer the Order of Knight of the British Empire upon Admiral Halsey.
On the 29th. of August in 1945, USS Missouri entered Tokyo Bay and came to anchor.
Sunday the 2nd. of September 1945, an Historic Day.
On board USS Missouri, at 0902 ( 9.02 AM ) on Sunday the 2nd. of September 1945, General Douglas MacArthur stepped up to a battery of microphones to set off the 23 minute ceremony that would end the Pacific War that had raged since the cowardly and unprovoked Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the 7th. of December 1945.
For me, present in Tokyo Bay in my heavy 8 inch Cruiser, HMAS Shropshire, it was a wonderful, happy moment, I had been either at sea, or overseas, continually since August 1939, and that, on occasions over that 6 years I had cause to think I might never live to enjoy. I had survived, I would soon go home to Australia, I felt free, and in my elation, that I could almost fly, just like the 450 Carrier planes streaming in formation over Missouri at that very moment.
By 0930 ( 9.30 ) it was all over, and the Japanese emisseries had departed.
The fly past USS Missouri, Tokyo Bay Sunday the 2nd. of September 1945
Missouri sails from Japan.
On the 6th. of September Missouri sailed from Japan for Guam and Hawaii ( Admiral Halsey having transferred his flag to USS South Dakota )
By the 23rd. of October, Missouri was in New York, and then fired a 21 gun salute as the US President Harry S. Truman boarded on the 27th. in his speech he said:
"Control of our sea approaches and the skies above them is still the key to our freedom and our ability to help enforce the peace of the world."
In hindsight, prophetic words, given the planes crashed by Terrorists into the World Trade Centre, and the Pentagon on 9/11.
To Turkey in 1946.
In March 1946 Missouri carried the body of the Turkish Ambassador to the US, Mehmet Munir Ertegun home to Istambul for burial. Thence to the Mediterranean for a spell of showing her might in that troubled area, to finally come home to Norfolk in May.
The President and his family were returned from Rio to the States in September 1947 after the signing of the Rio Treaty.
USS Missouri unloading her 16 inch ammunition, with USS Denver alongside, December, 1945
Summer cruises with Midshipmen on board for training followed, then the battleship was stranded on the 17th. of June 1950, when she ran aground 1.6 miles off the Thimble Shoals Light. It took tugs and a high tide to refloat her at last on the 1st. of February, an embarassing event.
The Korean War calls.
On the 19th. of August, being the only US battleship at that time in commission, the Korean War rearing its ugly head, Missouri was off to Korea to support the battle against rising communism in that arena.
The ship stayed in those waters until March 1951 when she sailed back to Norfolk Navy Yard for refitting, which took until the 30th. of January 1952 to complete.
Back to Korea.
In September 1952 it was the lot of Missouri to once more sail for Korean duties, needed for her deadly bombardment abilities. It was on this tour of duty, that her CO, Captain Warner R. Edsell, whilst conning his command through the Submarine safety net at Sasebo suffered a fatal heart attack.
With the passing of the 25th. of March 1953 came the last broadside fired by Missouri in the Korean conflict.
Home to Decommision.
It was now time in April of 1953 to exit the FarEast and set off for home, and the Norfolk Navy Yard, the ship doing one more training cruise for Midshipmen, taking them off to Spain, Then on the 26th. of February 1955, Missouri decommissioned to enter the Pacific Reserve Fleet for the long spell of over 30 years.
May of 1986 and the Year 1987.
On the 10th. of May 1986, Missouri recommissioned at San Fransisco, to once again become an active seagoing ship of the United States Navy. Four months later she sailed on a world cruise taking her
"Strength from Freedom." to eight nations, Australia,
Diego Garcia, Egypt, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Panama."
A six months stint from July 1987 was then carried out in the Indian Ocean and the North Arabian Sea.
Early on in 1988, Missouri was back in the States, only to return to Hawaii some months later for the Rim of the Pacific ( RIMPAC ) exercises involving 50,000 of the Armed Forces and Navies of Australia, Canada, Japan. and the US.
Early this year, Cher made a rock movie video using the forecastle of the Battleship as the backdrop, plus several hundred of her crew participating. There was something of an outcry at the time over the very scanty costume that Cher had worn at her performance, but I am certain that none of Missouri's crew ever uttered a word of protest. The song " If I could turn back time." scurried up the song list to top the pop charts. Then back to the Pacific for PAC EX 89, plus a visit to Pusan in Korea.
Another RIMPAC exercise with ships from Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea and the US. In mid November, with Iraq invading tiny Kuwait, the UN took action, and off went Missouri to the Gulf to arrive in January 1991. She fired 28 Tomahawk Missiles over that campaign.
By the 28th. of February 1991, the Desert War was all over, and once more Missouri sailed for the US West Coast and home, steaming via the Australian cities of Perth and Hobart.
50th. Anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Missouri headed west out of San Fransisco for Hawaii to be there in December 1991 to take part in the 50th. Anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Thence back to the United States mainland to disembark 1,000 by 16 inch shells, 6,000 by 5 inch projectiles, 16 Harpoon missile cannisters, and her remaining Tomahawk Cruise missiles.
On the 31st. of March 1992, at Long Beach in California, the final page in the last chapter
of this Battleship's illustrious record was written, and the back cover of her service book was closed.
Her last Commanding Officer, Captain A. A. Kaiss, in his final Plan of the Day wrote:
"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."
USS Missouri ends her journey from the US to reach her final destination, close to the Arizona Memorial.
Two symbols representing the beginning and end of the Pacific War.
USS Missouri Memorial Association in Honolulu.
On the 4th. of May 1998, the then Secretary of the Navy, John H. Dalton signed off on the donation contract, which transferred this historic ship to the USS Missouri Memorial Association.
The battleship sailed off to Honolulu and on the 29th. of June docking at Pearl Harbor to open as a Museum on the 29th. of January 1999.
Closing the Ring.
On Friday the 2nd. of September 2005, the USS Missouri Memorial Association will host an historic event, the celebration of the 60th. Anniversary of signing the Japanese Surrender on the deck of USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay with General Douglas MacArthur orchestrating the ceremony.
My wife Denise, and myself have been delighted to receive an invitation from the USS Missouri Memorial Association to attend that day. As I was present in Tokyo Bay back in September 1945, the ring will finally have gone full circle to be closed on that morning.