This blog looks at our Rotary Peace Forum visit to the USS Missouri. I record my reflections as I step onto the boat and then the history as recorded by Wikipedia.
We caught the bus from the Rotary Peace forum in Honolulu to Pearl Harbour to look at the USS Missouri.
On the bus I met a Rotoractor from Mexico, I found during the course of our conversation that she was such a wise young woman. We spoke of the drug lords in Mexico, she didn’t think the drug issue could be solved given its history and how embedded it is in Mexican society. I told her answers are always there just be open. I said what about looking at case studies of Mafia and if they had been stopped in places. To look for what works. To look for why it starts, who demands it, what sustains it and how it can be changed. She explained she was not wanting to know about it for a long time until she met a guy and went out with him, he lived in the worst place in Mexico and knew well the drug cartels. She learned through him they threw elaborate parties, they were deeply loyal to each other, they were not educated (never went to school) just enjoyed the money and spent it like there was no tomorrow. They had no empathy for the people killed who they saw as betraying them, nor the victims of the drugs they peddled. They lived in their illusion and others felt drawn to their lifestyle as they seemed so happy. As police were receiving kick backs the drug lords were supported and the community had to accept it. There were other parts of Mexico where they were not approved of but it seems that they accepted the drug trade as part of life and were powerless to stop it. She was a delightful woman and so interesting.
I met an Italian mediator living in New York on the bus and had a good discussion. She learned much from disputes and enjoyed getting people to see each other’s sides. It must be wonderful to do this work as you look through the eyes of an impartial third party and find ways to have the parties discuss the problem, listen to the other, and then resolve the problem. She was looking at where to progress her career and came to the Rotary Peace Forum. I sensed she would want to mediate overseas, she agreed that is what she wants and perhaps to look at which country, dispute etc to get involved in. She and I connected and when we got to the USS Missouri we hung out together exploring the ship.
My first impression was that it is a huge ship and I saw the guns, I saw them as huge and tried to imagine the sound of them and how a person would feel when they were fired. I see the ship as a vessel designed for killing. I imagined those on the receiving end. I don’t have the romantic idea of a battleship, yes it is impressive structurally, lots of buttons, wheels, turrets, steel, decking and huge chains for the anchors, but ultimately my heart goes to the intent of its use and I find myself reflecting in a sober manner. However, I am open to those who see it differently and I understand why there is grandeur associated as well. I am not American so haven’t grown up with the history nor an identity with it.
Our presenter was animated and I did admire the enthusiasm of Americans and how out going they are. They are similar to Australians and there is a natural warmth between our countries. However, I saw the aggrandisement of a war machine. I also listened with great interest to all the descriptions of the dimensions, weights, structure, features and function of the warship. What was interesting was to learn that the Americans consciously sought to create a sense of superiority during the peace signing ceremony through having tall soldiers appearing physically larger and having the Japanese delegation walk around the gun turrets. I noted the issue of the first surrender was not mentioned whereby the Japanese had already agreed to surrender before the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When I quietly asked the presenter about it, he showed genuine surprise, he didn’t know that information and was a former naval man/vietnam veteran. He talked about the unconditional surrender and saw that as the end of the war and the beginning of peace. What was interesting about the conditional surrender of the Japanese was the fact that they refused to give up Emperor Hirohito as he was seen as a god in Japan. The unconditional surrender included his surrender without any Japanese conditions, hence unconditional. However, I was to find out from this tour guide that Emperor Hirohito remained in Japan after the surrender. What concerned me was the fact that the US Government ordered the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which in hindsight appears was unnecessarily, as Hirohito remained in Japan. Of course there could be much more to this than I know but this is my initial impression. When I discussed this with my mediator friend she indicated that she viewed the issue of this bombing as a determination to end the war and that there would have been a fear of the Japanese not surrendering. I do agree with that point. However, the people of Japan (civilians) were not in power it was the elites in Japan and US that were at war. I suddenly saw revenge as the motive and I wondered about the testing of these weapons on innocent men, women and children. This feeling moves us into the ethical field, not the historical negotiations, military decisions, rationale, but the human cost and whether this can be justifiable on any grounds given our own societies punish those who kill others.
In any historical appraisal what I would like to hear is the history on the Japanese side, the American side, the Europeans and so on. So I can get a view of the big picture. What I heard was an American view of the ending of the war and as a peace educator I can’t determine the truth without all sides being mentioned and the courage of that truth, as all participated in the atrocities of the Second World War. How do we learn from war if we do not know all sides. If we glorify it then we are cheering on our side and seeing the other as the enemy still. I always feel there are many sides and much we don’t know.
I reflected on the fact that 50 million died in the WWII and I am sure by the end they wanted it over, everyone was fatigued. But this is the moment of truth, this is the true test of democracy and human rights, it is in these moments that who we are, at that time, is revealed. My interest was the unnecessary suffering of innocent people and the generations that will never be as they were literally dissolved on the pavements of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there were literally shadows of bodies can you believe, the foliage of trees was completely burned and turned these cities into skeletons. The radiation and fall out would have affected hundreds of thousands. My concern is not only in Japan but the carnage of innocent civilians in Europe, in Pearl Harbour and so on. My query refers to the implications of the use of such violence as a means to an end. That we can walk away from these atrocities as winners/losers and that is okay in the eyes of history. The reason it concerns me as a civilian is that civilians are mostly the ones killed (90%). Thus it is civilians that must ensure the peace, we have a real responsibility to protect civilians by ensuring we create a Culture of Peace, in my view. I wonder at how we can move towards this new culture where perhaps we create Departments of Peace or Conflict Resolution or Harmony. My view is reinforced by Aung San Suu Kyi’s lecture at the Rotary Peace forum, where she speaks of the drastic social problems caused by unfetted military occupation of a country and their rule being absolute, where there is no room for negotiation. In fact in the Burmese case the citizens were used as slave labour by the Military Junta. So the civilians are impacted by those who see black and white, not shades of gray, they see domination rather than power sharing and these are real issues for governance and world peace, in my view.
I told this guide we were peacemakers and he confessed he had real conflict in Vietnam, I asked why? he said he didn’t agree with the war. I asked him what kept him there, he said he wanted to serve his country. I could see his pain and dilemma there. I felt a deep sense of empathy for his conflict. I also realised I must be gentle with people as there are always two sides to all stories and those engaged in the violence are also feeling human beings. I wish I had time to tell him life is as it is, and we are here to learn from our lives, in retrospect we see more, but it is not to carry the guilt but to learn from the experience and become a wise elder to show the next generation the way to peace. Sadly I couldn’t do that for him as we were running out of time.
As I was leaving I felt to say to the tour guide that the war hasn’t ended until we make peace within. Until we look inside at the inner conflict which becomes outer conflict the war is not over. I told him about The Work by Byron Katie and recommended he visit www.thework.com. I see all war as starting within, thus to have real peace in the world we must start to work on our beliefs, that are mostly unquestioned. We are prepared to die for beliefs, perhaps if we question them we may be prepared to live for love.
We had to go as the ship was closing. Myself and mediator friend gave this guy a hug and another soldier. I jokingly said to him ‘don’t you get love from your mum?’. He came back for a second hug so I said ‘don’t you get love from you dad?’, he laughed as he just loved hugging women. I love Americans. They were warm and kind. We are all learning, each and every one of us. Any time we think negatively we are the soldier at war or creating an enemy so I cannot look at a soldier as the ‘other’ he or she is me. So let’s hold hands and learn from the past and recreate our future that is nonviolent.
USS Missouri (BB-63) (“Mighty Mo” or “Big Mo“) is a United States Navy Iowa-class battleship and was the third ship of the U.S. Navy to be named in honor of the US state of Missouri. Missouri was the last battleship built by the United States and was the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II.
Missouri was ordered in 1940 and commissioned in June 1944. In the Pacific Theater of World War II she fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and shelled the Japanese home islands, and she fought in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. She was decommissioned in 1955 into the United States Navy reserve fleets (the “Mothball Fleet”), but reactivated and modernized in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan, and provided fire support during Operation Desert Storm in January/February 1991.
Missouri received a total of 11 battle stars for service in World War II, Korea, and the Persian Gulf, and was finally decommissioned on 31 March 1992, but remained on the Naval Vessel Register until her name was struck in January 1995. In 1998, she was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and became a museum ship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Missouri was one of the Iowa-class “fast battleship” designs planned in 1938 by the Preliminary Design Branch at the Bureau of Construction and Repair. She was laid down at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 6 January 1941, launched on 29 January 1944 and commissioned on 11 June with Captain William Callaghan in command. The ship was the third of the Iowa class, but the fourth and final Iowa-class ship commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The ship was christened at her launching by Mary Margaret Truman, daughter of Harry S. Truman, then a United States Senator from Missouri.
Missouri‘s main battery consisted of nine 16 in (406 mm)/50 cal Mark 7 guns, which could fire 2,700 lb (1,200 kg) armor-piercing shells some 20 mi (32.2 km). Her secondary battery consisted of twenty 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal guns in twin turrets, with a range of about 10 mi (16 km). With the advent of air power and the need to gain and maintain air superiority came a need to protect the growing fleet of allied aircraft carriers; to this end, Missouri was fitted with an array of Oerlikon 20 mm and Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns to defend allied carriers from enemy airstrikes. When reactivated in 1984 Missouri had her 20 mm and 40 mm AA guns removed, and was outfitted with Phalanx CIWS mounts for protection against enemy missiles and aircraft, and Armored Box Launchers and Quad Cell Launchers designed to fire Tomahawk missiles and Harpoon missiles, respectively.
Missouri was the last U.S. battleship to be completed. Wisconsin, the highest-numbered U.S. battleship built, was completed before Missouri; BB-65 to BB-71 were ordered but cancelled.
World War II (1944–1945)
Shakedown and service with Task Force 58, Admiral Mitscher
After trials off New York and shakedown and battle practice in the Chesapeake Bay, Missouri departed Norfolk, Virginia on 11 November 1944, transited the Panama Canal on 18 November and steamed to San Francisco for final fitting out as fleet flagship. She stood out of San Francisco Bay on 14 December and arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 24 December 1944. She departed Hawaii on 2 January 1945 and arrived in Ulithi, West Caroline Islands on 13 January. There she was temporary headquarters ship for Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher. The battleship put to sea on 27 January to serve in the screen of the Lexington carrier task group of Mitscher’s TF 58, and on 16 February the task force’s aircraft carriers launched the first air strikes against Japan since the famed Doolittle raid, which had been launched from the carrier Hornet in April 1942.
Missouri then steamed with the carriers to Iwo Jima where her main guns provided direct and continuous support to the invasion landings begun on 19 February. After TF 58 returned to Ulithi on 5 March, Missouri was assigned to the Yorktown carrier task group. On 14 March, 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 beginning on 18 March, Missouri shot down four Japanese aircraft.
Raids against airfields and naval bases near the Inland Sea and southwestern Honshū continued. When the carrier Franklin incurred battle damage, the Missouri‘s carrier task group provided cover for the Franklin’s retirement toward Ulithi until 22 March, then set course for pre-invasion strikes and bombardment of Okinawa.
Missouri joined the fast battleships of TF 58 in bombarding the southeast coast of Okinawa on 24 March, an action intended to draw enemy strength from the west coast beaches that would be the actual site of invasion landings. Missouri rejoined the screen of the carriers as Marine and Army units stormed the shores of Okinawa on the morning of 1 April. An attack by Japanese forces was repulsed successfully.
A Japanese Zero about to hit the Missouri 11 April 1945
On 11 April, a low-flying kamikaze, although fired on, crashed on Missouri‘s starboard side, just below her main deck level. The starboard wing of the plane was thrown far forward, starting a gasoline fire at 5 in (127 mm) Gun Mount No. 3. The battleship suffered only superficial damage, and the fire was brought quickly under control. The remains of the pilot were recovered on board the ship just aft of one of the 40 mm gun tubs. Captain Callaghan decided that the young Japanese pilot had done his job to the best of his ability, and with honor, so he should be given a military funeral. The following day he was buried at sea with military honors. The dent in the side of the ship remains to this day.
About 2305 on 17 April, Missouri detected an enemy submarine 12 mi (19 km) from her formation. Her report set off a hunter-killer operation by the light carrier Bataan and four destroyers, which sank the Japanese submarine I-56.
Missouri was detached from the carrier task force off Okinawa on 5 May and sailed for Ulithi. During the Okinawa campaign she had shot down five enemy planes, assisted in the destruction of six others, and scored one probable kill. She helped repel 12 daylight attacks of enemy raiders and fought off four night attacks on her carrier task group. Her shore bombardment destroyed several gun emplacements and many other military, governmental, and industrial structures.
Service with the Third Fleet, Admiral Halsey
Missouri arrived at Ulithi on 9 May and then proceeded to Apra Harbor, Guam, arriving on 18 May. That afternoon Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander Third Fleet, brought his command into the Missouri. She passed out of the harbor on 21 May, and by 27 May was again conducting shore bombardment against Japanese positions on Okinawa. Missouri now led the 3rd Fleet in strikes on airfields and installations on Kyūshū on 2–3 June. She rode out a fierce storm on 5 and 6 June that wrenched the bow off the cruiser Pittsburgh. Some topside fittings were smashed, but Missouri suffered no major damage. Her fleet again struck Kyūshū on 8 June, then hit hard in a coordinated air-surface bombardment before retiring towards Leyte. She arrived at San Pedro, Leyte on 13 June, after almost three months of continuous operations in support of the Okinawa campaign.
Here she rejoined the powerful 3rd Fleet in strikes at the heart of Japan from within its home waters. The fleet set a northerly course on 8 July to approach the Japanese main island, Honshū. Raids took Tokyo by surprise on 10 July, followed by more devastation at the juncture of Honshū and Hokkaidō, the second-largest Japanese island, on 13–14 July. For the first time, naval gunfire destroyed a major installation within the home islands when Missouri joined in a shore bombardment on 15 July that severely damaged the Nihon Steel Co. and the Wanishi Ironworks at Muroran, Hokkaido.
During the nights of 17 and 18 July, Missouri bombarded industrial targets in Honshū. Inland Sea aerial strikes continued through 25 July, and Missouri guarded the carriers as they attacked the Japanese capital. As July ended, the Japanese no longer had any home waters.
Signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender
The Missouri (left) transfers personnel to the Iowa in advance of the surrender ceremony planned for 2 September.
Allied sailors and officers watch General of the Army Douglas MacArthur sign documents during the surrender ceremony aboard Missouri on 2 September 1945. The unconditional surrender of the Japanese to the Allies officially ended the Second World War.
Strikes on Hokkaidō and northern Honshū resumed on 9 August, the day the second atomic bomb was dropped.
After the Japanese agreed to surrender, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser of the Royal Navy, the Commander of the British Pacific Fleet, boarded Missouri on 16 August and conferred the honour of Knight of the British Empire upon Admiral Halsey. Missouri transferred a landing party of 200 officers and men to the battleship Iowa for temporary duty with the initial occupation force for Tokyo on 21 August. Missouri herself entered Tokyo Bay early on 29 August to prepare for the signing by Japan of the official instrument of surrender.
High-ranking military officials of all the Allied Powers were received on board on 2 September, including Chinese General Hsu Yung-Ch’ang, British Admiral-of-the-Fleet Sir Bruce Fraser, Soviet Lieutenant-General Kuzma Nikolaevich Derevyanko, Australian General Sir Thomas Blamey, Canadian Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave, French Général d’Armée Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque, Dutch Vice Admiral Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich, and New Zealand Air Vice Marshal Leonard M. Isitt.
Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz boarded shortly after 0800, and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allies, came on board at 0843. The Japanese representatives, headed by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, arrived at 0856. At 0902, General MacArthur stepped before a battery of microphones and opened the 23-minute surrender ceremony to the waiting world by stating, “It is my earnest hope—indeed the hope of all mankind—that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.”
During the surrender ceremony, the deck of Missouri was decorated with a 31-star American flag that had been taken ashore by Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 after his squadron of “Black Ships” sailed into Tokyo Bay to force the opening of Japan’s ports to foreign trade. This flag was actually displayed with the reverse side showing, i.e., stars in the upper right corner: the historic flag was so fragile that the conservator at the Naval Academy Museum had sewn a protective linen backing to one side to help secure the fabric from deteriorating, leaving its “wrong side” visible. The flag was displayed in a wood-framed case secured to the bulkhead overlooking the surrender ceremony. Another U.S. flag was raised and flown during the occasion, a flag that some sources have indicated was in fact that flag which had flown over the U.S. Capitol on 7 December 1941. This is not true; it was a flag taken from the ship’s stock, according to Missouri’s Commanding Officer, Captain Stuart “Sunshine” Murray, and it was “…just a plain ordinary GI-issue flag”.
By 09:30 the Japanese emissaries had departed. In the afternoon of 5 September, Admiral Halsey transferred his flag to the battleship South Dakota, and early the next day Missouri departed Tokyo Bay. As part of the ongoing Operation Magic Carpet she received homeward bound passengers at Guam, then sailed unescorted for Hawaii. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 20 September and flew Admiral Nimitz’s flag on the afternoon of 28 September for a reception.
Missouri moves through the Panama Canal en route to the United States in October 1945.
The next day, Missouri departed Pearl Harbor bound for the eastern seaboard of the United States. She reached New York City on 23 October and hoisted the flag of Atlantic Fleet commander Admiral Jonas Ingram. Four days later, Missouri boomed out a 21-gun salute as President Truman boarded for Navy Day ceremonies.
After an overhaul in the New York Naval Shipyard and a training cruise to Cuba, Missouri returned to New York. During the afternoon of 21 March 1946, she received the remains of the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, Münir Ertegün. She departed on 22 March for Gibraltar, and on 5 April anchored in the Bosphorus off Istanbul. She rendered full honors, including the firing of 19-gun salutes during the transfer of the remains of the late ambassador and again during the funeral ashore.
Missouri departed Istanbul on 9 April and entered Phaleron Bay, Piraeus, Greece, the following day for an overwhelming welcome by Greek government officials and anti-communist citizens. Greece had become the scene of a civil war between the communist World War II resistance movement and the returning Greek government-in-exile. The United States saw this as an important test case for its new doctrine of containment of the Soviet Union. The Soviets were also pushing for concessions in the Dodecanese to be included in the peace treaty with Italy and for access through the Dardanelles strait between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The voyage of Missouri to the eastern Mediterranean symbolized America’s strategic commitment to the region. News media proclaimed her a symbol of U.S. interest in preserving both nations’ independence.
Missouri departed Piraeus on 26 April, touching at Algiers and Tangiers before arriving at Norfolk on 9 May. She departed for Culebra Island on 12 May to join Admiral Mitscher’s 8th Fleet in the Navy’s first large-scale postwar Atlantic training maneuvers. The battleship returned to New York City on 27 May, and spent the next year steaming Atlantic coastal waters north to the Davis Strait and south to the Caribbean on various Atlantic command training exercises. On 13 December, during a target practice exercise in the North Atlantic, a star shell accidentally struck the battleship, but without causing injuries.
Missouri was accidentally grounded early on the morning of 17 January 1950.
Missouri arrived at Rio de Janeiro on 30 August 1947 for the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Hemisphere Peace and Security. President Truman boarded on 2 September to celebrate the signing of the Rio Treaty, which broadened the Monroe Doctrine by stipulating that an attack on any one of the signatory American states would be considered an attack on all.
The Truman family boarded Missouri on 7 September 1947 to return to the United States and debarked at Norfolk on 19 September. Her overhaul in New York—which lasted from 23 September to 10 March 1948—was followed by refresher training at Guantanamo Bay. The summer of 1948 was devoted to midshipman and reserve training cruises. Also in 1948, the Big Mo became the first battleship to host a helicopter detachment, operating two Sikorsky HO3S-1 machines for utility and rescue work. The battleship departed Norfolk on 1 November 1948 for a second three-week Arctic cold-weather training cruise to the Davis Strait. During the next two years, Missouri participated in Atlantic command exercises from the New England coast to the Caribbean, alternated with two midshipman summer training cruises. She was overhauled at Norfolk Naval Shipyard from 23 September 1949 to 17 January 1950.
Throughout the latter half of the 1940s, the various service branches of the United States had been downsizing their inventories from their World War II levels. In the Navy, this resulted in several vessels of various types being decommissioned and either sold for scrap or placed in one of the various United States Navy reserve fleets scattered along the East and West Coast of the United States. As part of this drawdown, three of the Iowa-class battleships had been de-activated and decommissioned; however, President Truman refused to allow Missouri to be decommissioned. Against the advice of Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan, and Chief of Naval Operations Louis E. Denfeld, Truman ordered Missouri to be maintained with the active fleet partly because of his fondness for the battleship and partly because the battleship had been christened by his daughter Margaret Truman.
Then the only U.S. battleship in commission, Missouri was proceeding seaward on a training mission from Hampton Roads early on 17 January 1950 when she ran aground 1.6 mi (2.6 km) from Thimble Shoal Light, near Old Point Comfort. She hit shoal water a distance of three ship-lengths from the main channel. Lifted some 7 feet (2.1 m) above waterline, she stuck hard and fast. With the aid of tugboats, pontoons, and an incoming tide, she was refloated on 1 February 1950 and repaired.
The Korean War (1950–1955)
In 1950, the Korean War broke out, prompting the United States to intervene in the name of the United Nations. President Truman was caught off guard when the invasion struck, but quickly ordered U.S. forces stationed in Japan into South Korea. Truman also sent U.S.-based troops, tanks, fighter and bomber aircraft, and a strong naval force to Korea to support the Republic of Korea. As part of the naval mobilization Missouri was called up from the Atlantic Fleet and dispatched from Norfolk on 19 August to support UN forces on the Korean peninsula.
Missouri arrived just west of Kyūshū on 14 September, where she became the flagship of Rear Admiral A. E. Smith. The first American battleship to reach Korean waters, she bombarded Samchok on 15 September 1950 in an attempt to divert troops and attention from the Incheon landings. This was the first time since World War II that Missouri had fired her guns in anger, and in company with the cruiser Helena and two destroyers, she helped prepare the way for the U.S. Eighth Army offensive.
Missouri arrived at Incheon on 19 September, and on 10 October became flagship of Rear Admiral J. M. Higgins, commander, Cruiser Division 5 (CruDiv 5). She arrived at Sasebo on 14 October, where she became flagship of Vice Admiral A. D. Struble, Commander, 7th Fleet. After screening the aircraft carrier Valley Forge along the east coast of Korea, she conducted bombardment missions from 12 to 26 October in the Chongjin and Tanchon areas, and at Wonsan where she again screened carriers eastward of Wonsan.
MacArthur’s amphibious landings at Incheon had severed the North Korean Army’s supply lines; as a result, North Korea’s army had begun a lengthy retreat from South Korea into North Korea. This retreat was closely monitored by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) out of fear that the UN offensive against Korea would create a US-backed enemy on China’s border, and out of concern that the UN offensive in Korea could evolve into a UN war against China. The latter of these two threats had already manifested itself during the Korea War: U.S. F-86 Sabres on patrol in “MiG Alley” frequently crossed into China while pursuing Communist MiGs operating out of Chinese airbases.
Moreover, there was talk among the U.N. commanders—notably General Douglas MacArthur—about a potential campaign against the People’s Republic of China. In an effort to dissuade UN forces from completely overrunning North Korea the People’s Republic of China issued diplomatic warnings that they would use force to protect the PRC, but these warnings were not taken seriously for a number of reasons, among them the fact that China lacked air cover to conduct such an attack. This changed abruptly on 19 October 1950, when the first of an eventual total of 380,000 People’s Liberation Army soldiers under the command of General Peng Dehuai crossed into North Korea, launching a full scale assault against advancing U.N. troops. The PRC offensive caught the UN completely by surprise; UN forces realized they would have to fall back, and quickly executed an emergency retreat. UN assets were shuffled in order to cover this retreat, and as part of the force tasked with covering the UN retreat Missouri was moved into Hungnam on 23 December to provide gunfire support about the Hungnam defense perimeter until the last UN troops, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, were evacuated by way of the sea on 24 December 1950.
Missouri fires her guns against enemy positions during the Korean War. Notice the effect on the seawater under the guns.
Missouri conducted additional operations with carriers and shore bombardments off the east coast of Korea until 19 March 1951. She arrived at Yokosuka on 24 March, and 4 days later was relieved of duty in the Far East. She departed Yokosuka on 28 March, and upon arrival at Norfolk on 27 April became the flagship of Rear Admiral James L. Holloway, Jr., commander, Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet. During the summer of 1951, she engaged in two midshipman training cruises to northern Europe. Under the command of Captain John Sylvester, Missouri entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard 18 October 1951 for an overhaul, which lasted until 30 January 1952.
Following winter and spring training out of Guantanamo Bay, Missouri visited New York, then set course from Norfolk on 9 June 1952 for another midshipman cruise. She returned to Norfolk on 4 August and entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard to prepare for a second tour in the Korean combat zone.
Missouri stood out of Hampton Roads on 11 September 1952 and arrived at Yokosuka on 17 October. Vice Admiral Joseph J. Clark, commander of the 7th Fleet, brought his command onboard on 19 October. 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 25 October through 2 January 1953.
Missouri put in to Incheon on 5 January 1953 and sailed thence to Sasebo, Japan. General Mark W. Clark, Commander in Chief, U.N. Command, and Admiral Sir Guy Russell, the Royal Navy commander of the British Far East Station, visited the battleship on 23 January. In the following weeks, Missouri resumed “Cobra” patrol along the east coast of Korea to support troops ashore. Repeated bombardment of Wonsan, Tanehon, Hungnam, and Kojo destroyed main supply routes along the eastern seaboard of Korea.
The last bombardment mission by Missouri was against the Kojo area on 25 March. On 6 March, her commanding officer–Captain Warner R. Edsall–suffered a fatal heart attack while conning her through the submarine net at Sasebo. She was relieved as the 7th Fleet flagship on 6 April by her older sister New Jersey.
Missouri departed Yokosuka on 7 April and arrived at Norfolk on 4 May to become flagship for Rear Admiral E. T. Woolridge, commander, Battleships-Cruisers, Atlantic Fleet, on 14 May. She departed on 8 June on a midshipman training cruise, returned to Norfolk on 4 August, and was overhauled in Norfolk Naval Shipyard from 20 November 1953 to 2 April 1954. Now the flagship of Rear Admiral R. E. Kirby, who had relieved Admiral Woolridge, Missouri departed Norfolk on 7 June as flagship of the midshipman training cruise to Lisbon and Cherbourg. During this voyage Missouri was joined by the other three battleships of her class, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Iowa, the only time the four ships sailed together. She returned to Norfolk on 3 August and departed on 23 August for inactivation on the West Coast. After calls at Long Beach and San Francisco, Missouri arrived in Seattle on 15 September. Three days later she entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where she was decommissioned on 26 February 1955, entering the Bremerton group, Pacific Reserve Fleet.
Upon arrival in Bremerton, Missouri was moored at the last pier of the reserve fleet berthing. This placed her very close to the mainland, and she served as a popular tourist attraction, logging about 180,000 visitors per year, who came to view the “surrender deck” where a bronze plaque memorialized the spot where Japan surrendered to the Allies, and the accompanying historical display that included copies of the surrender documents and photos. A small cottage industry grew in the civilian community just outside the gates, selling souvenirs and other memorabilia. Nearly thirty years passed before Missouri next returned to active duty.
Reactivation (1984 to 1990)
Under the Reagan Administration’s program to build a 600-ship Navy, led by Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman, Missouri was reactivated and towed by the salvage ship Beaufort to the Long Beach Naval Yard in the summer of 1984 to undergo modernization in advance of her scheduled recommissioning. In preparation for the move, a skeleton crew of 20 spent three weeks working 12-to-16 hour days preparing the battleship for her tow. During the modernization Missouri had her obsolete armament removed: 20 mm and 40 mm anti-aircraft guns, and four of her ten 5-inch (130 mm) gun mounts.
Missouri in dry dock during her modernization at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in 1985
Over the next several months, the ship was upgraded with the most advanced weaponry available; among the new weapons systems installed were four MK 141 quad cell launchers for 16 AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, eight Armored Box Launcher (ABL) mounts for 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles, and a quartet of Phalanx Close In Weapon System (CIWS) gatling guns for defense against enemy anti-ship missiles and enemy aircraft. Also included in her modernization were upgrades to radar and fire control systems for her guns and missiles, and improved electronic warfare capabilities. During the modernization Missouri‘s 800 lb (360 kg) bell, which had been removed from the battleship and sent to Jefferson City, Missouri for sesquicentennial celebrations in the state, was formally returned to the battleship in advance of her recommissioning. Missouri was formally recommissioned in San Francisco on 10 May 1986. “This is a day to celebrate the rebirth of American sea power”, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger told an audience of 10,000 at the recommissioning ceremony, instructing 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.” Also present at the recommissioning ceremony was Missouri governor John Ashcroft, U.S. Senator Pete Wilson, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein, and Margaret Truman.
Four months later Missouri departed from her new home port of Long Beach for an around-the-world cruise, visiting Pearl Harbor Hawaii; Sydney, Hobart, and Perth, Australia; Diego Garcia; the Suez Canal; Istanbul, Turkey; Naples, Italy; Rota, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; and the Panama Canal. Missouri became the first American battleship to circumnavigate the globe since Theodore Roosevelt‘s “Great White Fleet” 80 years before – a fleet which included the first battleship named USS Missouri (BB-11).
Crewmen man the rails as Missouri formally recommissions in San Francisco, California
In 1987, Missouri was outfitted with 40 mm grenade launchers and 25 mm chain guns and sent to take part in Operation Earnest Will, the escorting of reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. These smaller-caliber weapons were installed due to the threat of Iranian-manned, Swedish-made Boghammar cigarette boats operating in the Persian Gulf at the time. On 25 July, the ship departed on a six-month deployment to the Indian Ocean and North Arabian Sea. She spent more than 100 continuous days at sea in a hot, tense environment – a striking contrast to her world cruise months earlier. As the centerpiece for Battlegroup Echo, Missouri escorted tanker convoys into the Strait of Hormuz, keeping her fire control system trained on land-based Iranian Silkworm missile launchers.
Missouri returned to the United States via Diego Garcia, Australia and Hawaii in early 1988. Several months later, Missouri‘s crew again headed for Hawaiian waters for the Rim of the Pacific (RimPac) exercises, which involved more than 50,000 troops and ships from the navies of Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States. Port visits in 1988 included Vancouver and Victoria in Canada, San Diego, Seattle, and Bremerton.
In the early months of 1989, Missouri was in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for routine maintenance. On 1 July 1989, while berthed at Pier D, the music video for Cher‘s If I Could Turn Back Time was filmed aboard Missouri and featured the ship’s crew. A few months later she departed for Pacific Exercise (PacEx) ’89, where she and New Jersey performed a simultaneous gunfire demonstration for the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Nimitz. The highlight of PacEx was a port visit in Pusan, Republic of Korea. In 1990, Missouri again took part in the RimPac Exercise with ships from Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, and the U.S.
Gulf War (January–February 1991)
On 2 August 1990 Iraq, led by President Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. In the middle of the month U.S. President George H. W. Bush, in keeping with the Carter Doctrine, sent the first of several hundred thousand troops, along with a strong force of naval support, to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf area to support a multinational force in a standoff with Iraq.
Missouri‘s scheduled four-month Western Pacific port-to-port cruise set to begin in September was canceled just a few days before the ship was to leave. She had been placed on hold in anticipation of being mobilized as forces continued to mass in the Middle East. Missouri departed on 13 November 1990 for the troubled waters of the Persian Gulf. She departed from Pier 6 at Long Beach, with extensive press coverage, and headed for Hawaii and the Philippines for more work-ups en route to the Persian Gulf. Along the way she made stops at Subic Bay and Pattaya Beach, Thailand, before transiting the Strait of Hormuz on 3 January 1991. During subsequent operations leading up to Operation Desert Storm, Missouri prepared to launch Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) and provide naval gunfire support as required.
Missouri fired her first Tomahawk missile at Iraqi targets at 01:40 am on 17 January 1991, followed by 27 additional missiles over the next five days.
On 29 January, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate Curts led Missouri northward, using advanced mine-avoidance sonar. In her first naval fire support action of Desert Storm she shelled an Iraqi command and control bunker near the Saudi border, the first time her 16 in (410 mm) guns had been fired in combat since March 1953 off Korea. The battleship bombarded Iraqi beach defenses in occupied Kuwait on the night of 3 February, firing 112 16 in (410 mm) rounds over the next three days until relieved by Wisconsin. Missouri then fired another 60 rounds off Khafji on 11–12 February before steaming north to Faylaka Island. After minesweepers cleared a lane through Iraqi defenses, Missouri fired 133 rounds during four shore bombardment missions as part of the amphibious landing feint against the Kuwaiti shore line the morning of 23 February. The heavy pounding attracted Iraqi attention; in response to the battleship’s artillery strike, the Iraqis fired two HY-2 Silkworm missiles at the battleship, one of which missed, while the other was intercepted by a GWS-30 Sea Dart missile launched from the British air defence destroyer HMS Gloucester within 90 seconds and crashed into the sea roughly 700 yd (640 m) in front of Missouri.
Missouri firing her 16″ guns during Desert Storm, 6 February 1991.
During the campaign, Missouri was involved in a friendly fire incident with the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate Jarrett. According to the official report, on 25 February, Jarrett‘s Phalanx engaged the chaff fired by Missouri as a countermeasure against enemy missiles, and stray rounds from the firing struck Missouri, one penetrating through a bulkhead and becoming embedded in an interior passageway of the ship. Another round struck the ship on the forward funnel, passing completely through it. One sailor aboard Missouri was struck in the neck by flying shrapnel and suffered minor injuries. Those familiar with the incident are skeptical of this account, however, as Jarrett was reportedly over 2 mi (3.2 km) away at the time and the characteristics of chaff are such that a Phalanx would not normally regard it as a threat and engage it. There is no dispute that the rounds that struck Missouri did come from Jarrett, and that it was an accident. The suspicion is that a Phalanx operator on Jarrett may have accidentally fired off a few rounds manually, although there is no evidence to support this.
During the operation, Missouri also assisted coalition forces engaged in clearing Iraqi naval mines in the Persian Gulf. By the time the war ended, Missouri had destroyed at least 15 naval mines.
With combat operations out of range of the battleship’s weapons on 26 February, Missouri had fired a total 759 rounds of 16 in (410 mm) shells and launched 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles during the campaign, and commenced to conduct patrol and armistice enforcement operations in the northern Persian Gulf until sailing for home on 21 March. Following stops at Fremantle and Hobart, Australia, the warship visited Pearl Harbor before arriving home in April. She spent the remainder of the year conducting type training and other local operations, the latter including the 7 December “voyage of remembrance” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. During that ceremony, Missouri hosted President George H. W. Bush, the first such presidential visit for the warship since Harry S. Truman boarded the battleship in September 1947.
Museum ship (1998 to present)
Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; aft deck and 16-inch (410 mm) gun turret
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the absence of a perceived threat to the United States came drastic cuts in the defense budget, and the high cost of maintaining and operating battleships as part of the United States Navy’s active fleet became uneconomical; as a result, Missouri was decommissioned on 31 March 1992 at Long Beach, California. Her last commanding officer, Captain Albert L. Kaiss, wrote in the ship’s final 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.
—Captain Albert L. Kaiss
Missouri facing the sunken Arizona.
Missouri remained part of the reserve fleet at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington, until 12 January 1995, when she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. On 4 May 1998, Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton signed the donation contract that transferred her to the nonprofit USS Missouri Memorial Association (MMA) of Honolulu, Hawaii. She was towed from Bremerton on 23 May to Astoria, Oregon, where she sat in fresh water at the mouth of the Columbia River to kill and drop the saltwater barnacles and sea grasses that had grown on her hull in Bremerton, then towed across the eastern Pacific, and docked at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor on 22 June, just 500 yd (460 m) from the Arizona Memorial. Less than a year later, on 29 January 1999, Missouri was opened as a museum operated by the MMA.
Plaque commemorating the surrender of Japan to end World War II
Originally, the decision to move Missouri to Pearl Harbor was met with some resistance. The National Park Service expressed concern that the battleship, whose name has become synonymous with the end of World War II, would overshadow the battleship Arizona, whose dramatic explosion and subsequent sinking on 7 December 1941 has since become synonymous with the attack on Pearl Harbor. To help guard against this perception Missouri was placed well back from and facing the Arizona Memorial, so that those participating in military ceremonies on Missouri‘s aft decks would not have sight of the Arizona Memorial. The decision to have Missouri‘s bow face the Arizona Memorial was intended to convey that Missouri now watches over the remains of Arizona so that those interred within Arizona‘s hull may rest in peace.
Missouri was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 14 May 1971 for hosting the signing of the instrument of Japanese surrender that ended World War II. She is not eligible for designation as a National Historic Landmark because she was extensively modernized in the years following the surrender.
On 14 October 2009, Missouri was moved from her berthing station on Battleship Row to a drydock at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard to undergo a three month overhaul. The work, priced at $18 million, included installing a new anti-corrosion system, repainting the hull, and upgrading the internal mechanisms. Drydock workers reported that the ship was leaking at some points on the starboard side. The repairs were completed the first week of January 2010 and the ship was returned to her berthing station on Battleship Row on 7 January 2010. The ship’s grand reopening occurred on 30 January.
Missouri received three battle stars for her service in World War II, five for her service during the Korean War, and three for her service during the Gulf War. Missouri also received numerous awards for her service in World War II, Korea, and the Persian Gulf.