USS Missouri History

Mighty Mo memorial re-creates a powerful history
by: Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin

It’s common knowledge that World War II formally ended with the signing of the Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. Less known are the following facts about the famed battleship, which is now a nonprofit floating museum known as the Battleship Missouri Memorial.

Mo is Mighty
True to its nickname, Mighty Mo is three football fields long and more than 20 stories high. Steel armor plating — more than 17 inches thick in some places — lines the hull.

Constructing Mo required 90 miles of piping, 15,000 valves and 900 electric motors. Its arsenal included nine 16-inch guns, each equipped with a 65-foot-long, 116-ton barrel that could fire a 2,700-pound shell 23 miles in 50 seconds with pinpoint accuracy.

The other Missouris

Mo wasn’t the first battleship named Missouri. That distinction belongs to a 10-gun side-wheel frigate launched in 1842. One of the first steam warships in the Navy, it was destroyed the following year in a fire.

In 1863 the Confederate Navy christened the second Missouri, a paddle-wheel ironclad, as a minelayer and for troop transport during the Civil War.

The third Missouri, which set sail in 1901, was America’s 11th battleship. It was a member of the Great White Fleet of 16 new battleships that President Theodore Roosevelt sent around the world from Dec. 16, 1907, to Feb. 22, 1909, to demonstrate America’s sea power.

A 4-foot model of that ship and a 9-foot model of Mo, the fourth Missouri, are displayed in the Ward Room. They showcase the incredible craftsmanship of John Haynes, deemed one of the best builders of ship models in the world.

Haynes, who hails from England, used the two battleships’ original blueprints to build the model, which includes minute details down to the rigging, signal flags and anti-aircraft gun mounts.

In the Captain’s Cabin
Since the Missouri opened in 1999, many private dinners and meetings have been held in the Captain’s Cabin, including President Bush’s briefing to military leaders during his October 2003 visit to Hawaii.

Radio enthusiasts
Large even by current Navy standards, 560-square-foot Radio Central handled communications ranging from routine news bulletins to encoded top-secret orders. Today it also serves as the headquarters for the Battleship Missouri Amateur Radio Club.

When the club was organized in 2000, nearly all of the major electronics equipment in Mo’s radio compartments was missing. Over the next few years, members managed to find replacements (mostly from the mothballed fleet in Pearl Harbor) and reinstall them, including an exhibit of Mo’s communications system during World War II and the Korean War.

BMARC members operate an amateur radio station (KH6BB) from Radio Central a few days a week. If you’re interested in joining the club (you don’t have to have an amateur radio license), call Edward Conklin at (808) 923-6133 or visit the Web site www.kh6bb.org.

The signing error
Two Instruments of Surrender were signed — one for the Allies, the other for Japan. Replicas of those documents are displayed on Mo’s Surrender Deck where the ceremony took place 62 years ago.

How can you tell them apart? As they were originally, the replica of the Allied version is safeguarded in a leather portfolio, while the Japanese replica is kept in a canvas one. Also, look at the 12 signatures representing 10 nations on the documents and you’ll notice Col. Lawrence Moore Cosgrave from Canada signed his name on the wrong line on the Japanese version.

Because of that, the subsequent three officials (representing France, the Netherlands and New Zealand) had to sign on the lines below their names. To verify that the Japanese version included all the signatures, a sailor was assigned to initial each one.

The backward flag
Mounted on a wall on the Surrender Deck is an American flag with its reverse side showing (stars in the upper right corner). Here’s why.

Two American flags were hoisted on the deck for the surrender ceremony in 1945. One had flown on the mast of Commodore Matthew Perry’s ship when he sailed into Tokyo Bay in 1853 to encourage Japan to open its ports to foreign trade.

Nearly a century later, that flag was so fragile that the conservator at the Naval Academy Museum directed that a protective backing be sewn on it, leaving its “wrong side” visible. The flag was flown that way for the surrender ceremony, and that’s why its replica appears that way on the Missouri today.

Commemorating a historic moment
A free ceremony Sept. 2 on board the Battleship Missouri Memorial will commemorate the end of World War II. Open to the public, the hour-long event will begin at 8:45 a.m.

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, will be the keynote speaker, and the ceremony will also include a talk by Edwin P. Ogonowski, a World War II veteran who served aboard the Mighty Mo and witnessed the surrender ceremony.

The program also will feature a military rifle volley salute and the performance of echo taps by Navy personnel in honor of members of the U.S. armed forces who died during the war.

If you’d like to attend the ceremony but do not have Department of Defense vehicle access to Ford Island, free round-trip transportation will be available. Board the shuttle between 7:45 and 8:30 a.m. at the station near the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park.

For more information, call 423-2263 and press 7 after the greeting.

The cabin was restored to the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War period, when it was the quarters of Mo’s last commanding officer, Capt. Albert Lee Kaiss. Among the artifacts on view is an embroidered hat worn and signed by Adm. William “Bull” Halsey (Missouri was his flagship during World War II) and a telephone that Halsey used.

The Captain’s Cabin is available for public functions. It accommodates up to 22 guests.

Battleship Missouri Memorial
Location: Pier Foxtrot-5, Ford Island, Pearl Harbor

Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Admission: $16 for adults, $8 for ages 4 through 12 for self-guided tours. Kamaaina and military personnel and their dependents pay $10 for adults and $5 for children. Military personnel in uniform are admitted free. Guided tours, which take visitors to closed areas of the ship, are available for an additional fee.

Call: 973-2494 on Oahu and (877) 644-4896 on other islands

E-mail: reservations@ussmissouri.org

Web site: www.ussmissouri.org

Notes: Dress appropriately to ascend and descend vertical ladders. Dresses, skirts, platform shoes and heels are not recommended. Security measures prohibit purses, fanny packs, backpacks, camera bags, diaper bags and luggage. Cameras and camcorders are allowed. A storage facility at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park is available for visitors’ use from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, with a fee of $3 per bag. Shuttle buses provide free transportation between the parking lot and the Missouri for visitors.