Edited by Gerald Boerner
In 1944, as World War II was grinding on, The D-Day landings, the Battle of the Bulge, fight for Iwo Jima & Okinawa were ahead and years of fighting were expected, especially in the Pacific Theater. The USS Missouri, the “Mighty Mo”, was launched at the Brooklyn Naval Yard on this day in 1944. This would be the last Battleship to be built in not only the United States, but in the World. This Iowa-class battleships was equipped with 16” guns that could hurl a 2700 lb. shell 20 miles. Sea battles would be fought beyond the horizon!
This ship fought proudly in several wars and serve as the stage for the final surrender of the Japanese to end World War II. It would go on to fight in the Korean War and the Persian Gulf War. It served with distinction throughout these engagements. But there had been changes in naval warfare; the focus had changed from “ships of the line” of the days of the sailing vessels of the 18th and 19th centuries to the dreadnoughts , named after the HMS Dreadnought battleship, of the early 20th century. But during the inter-war years, the large Battleships were shown to be vulnerable to the new airplanes.
Billy Mitchell had demonstrated in the early 1920s that these battleships could be sunk by bombs dropped from the air. This shocked the Naval establishment the viewed the giant gun platforms as the “showcase” ship. The British had the HMS Hood, the Germans had the Bismarck, the Japanese had the Yamamoto, and the U.S. had the Iowa-class ships like the USS Missouri. The aircraft carrier became more important, especially in the Pacific Theater and the efficacy of the submarine was established, especially during the Battle of the Atlantic. These subs would become even more important during the Cold War when they acquired nuclear power and the ability to launch long-range missiles.
But enough context. It’s time to start our exploration of the proud history and record of the USS Missouri… GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 4184 Words ]
Quotations Related to BATTLESHIP:
“If we had less statesmanship we could get along with fewer battleships.”
— Mark Twain
“He’s going to the battleship? Well, I guess he’s getting mentally ready, huh?.”
— Bernie Bickerstaff
“The Melvin probably was the only destroyer to sink a battleship in World War II.”
— Jack Green
“If any foreign minister begins to defend to the death a "peace conference," you can be sure his government has already placed its orders for new battleships and airplanes.”
— Joseph Stalin
“We think a lot less will be spent on battleships and a lot more on things like radar and the intelligence of defense. It seems like locating the bad guys is the hard part.”
— Kevin Landis
“It’s improving, but they’re turning around a battleship here. It’s taking a long time to improve confidence. There are still a lot of investors out there who feel like they were let down by Janus during the bursting of the bubble.”
— Rachel Barnard
“When (Gen.) Douglas MacArthur said, on board the Battleship Missouri, ‘These proceedings are closed,’ it was the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts of modern times. The celebrations of course were enormous. It marked the end of the Pacific war.”
— Bob Wilson
“I don’t expect this economy to show any signs of slowing down. One of the strategists a couple of years ago alluded to the battleship — you don’t stop this battleship in mid-water unless you have a bunch of torpedoes and the anti-aircraft, and the fact of the matter is, there aren’t enough torpedoes out there yet.”
— Larry Rice
The USS Missouri: the Navy’s Last Battleship Launched
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a nation’s naval power from the 19th century up until World War II. With the rise of air power and guided missiles, large guns were no longer deemed necessary to establish naval superiority, and as a result there are no battleships in active service today.
Battleship design evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge. The word battleship was coined around 1794 and is a contraction of the phrase line-of-battle ship, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail. The term came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, now referred to as pre-dreadnought battleships. In 1906, the commissioning of HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design. Following battleship designs that were influenced by HMS Dreadnought were referred to as "dreadnoughts".
USS Missouri (BB-63) ("Mighty Mo" or "Big Mo") is a United States Navy Iowa-class battleship, and was the fourth ship of the U.S. Navy to be named in honor of the U.S. 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.
World War II (1944–1945)
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, broke his flag in 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 June 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 prepared to lead 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 July 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. Missouri had led the fleet to gain control of the air and sea approaches to the shores of the Japanese main island.
Signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender
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 honor 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.
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 urge 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 December 7, 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.
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 broke 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. [MORE…]
The Korean War (1950–1955)
In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, 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 October 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 capitalist country 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. [MORE…]
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.
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, California 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 Hawaii, Australia and Tasmania, Diego Garcia, Egypt, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Panama. Missouri became the first 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). [MORE…]
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 0140 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.
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. [MORE…]
Museum Ship (1998 to Present)
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 this note 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
Please take time to further explore more about USS MISSOURI,
BATTLESHIP, DREADNOUGHT, MUSEUM SHIP, and SEA BATTLES
by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below…
Other Events on this Day:
William McKinley, the twenty-fifth U.L. president, is born in Niles, Ohio.
Edgar Allen Poe’s macabre poem “The Raven” is first published in the New York Evening Mirror. Depicting the haunting interaction between a grieving man and a prophetic raven who says only “Nevermore,” Poe’s poem will bring him great popularity and remains one of the most famous in American literature.
Kansas becomes the thirty-fourth state.
The American League is organized in Philadelphia with eight baseball teams.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America elects five baseball superstars, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, to be the first members of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. They will be formally inducted when the museum is dedicated on June 12, 1939.
The USS Missouri is launched in New York City at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. 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.
In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush labels North Korea, Iran and Iraq the “axis of evil,” implying that those nations conspired against the United States to support terrorist activities.
Dates and events based on:
William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: USS Missouri (BB-63)…
Wikipedia: Museum Ship…
Think Exist: BATTLESHIP Quotes…
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Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: John Paul Jones & The Bonhomme Richard…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: USS Alfred: First U.S. Naval Ship…