USS Missouri (BB-63)
USS Missouri (BB-63) was the last battleship completed and commissioned in the United States Navy, seeing service in the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm, but is best known as the site of the Japanese surrender ending World War II.
World War II service
The fourth ship to bear the name, and the fourth battleship of the Iowa-class, Missouri was laid down 6 January 1941 by New York Naval Shipyard and launched 29 January 1944. She was sponsored by Miss Margaret Truman, daughter of then-Senator from Missouri (and future president) Harry S Truman, and commissioned 11 June 1944, Capt. William M. Callaghan in command.
After trials off New York and shakedown and battle practice in Chesapeake Bay, Missouri departed Norfolk 11 November 1944, transited the Panama Canal 18 November and steamed to San Francisco for final fitting out as fleet flagship. She stood out of San Francisco Bay 14 December and arrived Ulithi, West Caroline Islands, 13 January 1945. There she was temporary headquarters ship for Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher. The battleship put to sea 27 January to serve in the screen of the Lexington carrier task group of Mitscher’s TF 58, and on 16 February her flattops launched the first airstrikes against Japan since the famed Doolittle raid that had been launched from carrier Hornet in April 1942.
Missouri then steamed with the carriers to Iwo Jima where her 16-inch guns provided direct and continuous support to the invasion landings begun 19 February. After TF 58 returned to Ulithi 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 18 March, Missouri helped splash four Japanese aircraft.
Raids against airfields and naval bases near the Inland Sea and southwestern Honshu continued, provoking a savage response by Japanese aircraft. While carrier Wasp, crashed by an enemy suicide plane on 19 March, resumed flight operations within an hour, a separate attack penetrated Franklin's hangar deck with two bombs, setting off explosions that left the warship dead in the water a mere 50 miles of the Japanese mainland. Cruiser Pittsburgh took Franklin in tow until she gained speed to 14 knots. Missouri’s carrier task group provided cover for Franklin’s retirement toward Ulithi until 22 March, then set course for preinvasion strikes and bombardment of Okinawa.
Missouri joined the fast battleships of TF 58 in bombarding the southeast coast of Okinawa 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 landed on the morning of 1 April. Following a sortie by a Japanese surface force led by battleship Yamato, carrier aircraft sank the huge battleship as well as a cruiser and four destroyers. Four remaining destroyers, sole survivors of the attacking fleet, were damaged and retired to Sasebo.
On 11 April Missouri opened fire on a low‑flying suicide plane which penetrated the curtain of her shells to crash just below her main deck level. The starboard wing of the plane was thrown far forward, starting a gasoline fire at 5‑inch Gunmount No. 3. Yet the battleship suffered only superficial damage, and the fire was brought quickly under control.
About 2305 on 17 April, Missouri detected an enemy submarine 12 miles from her formation. Her report set off a hunter‑killer operation by carrier Bataan and four destroyers which sank Japanese submarine I‑56.
Missouri was detached from the carrier task force off Okinawa 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.
Missouri arrived Ulithi 9 May and thence proceeded to Apra Harbor, Guam, 18 May. That afternoon Admiral William F. Halsey, Commander 3d Fleet, broke his flag in Missouri. She passed out of the harbor 21 May, and by 27 May was again conducting shore bombardment against Japanese positions on Okinawa. Missouri now led the mighty 3d Fleet in strikes on airfields and installations on Kyushu 2 and 3 June. She rode out a fierce storm 5 and 6 June that wrenched off the bow of cruiser Pittsburgh. Some topside fittings were smashed, but Missouri suffered no major damage. Her task force again struck Kyushu 8 June, then hit hard in a coordinated air‑surface bombardment before retiring towards Leyte. She arrived San Pedro, Leyte, 13 June, after almost three months of continuous operations in support of the Okinawa campaign.
Bombardment of Japan
Missouri then prepared to lead the 3d Fleet in strikes at the heart of Japan from within its home waters. The task force set a northerly course 8 July to approach the Japanese mainland. Raids took Tokyo by surprise 10 July, followed by more devastation at the juncture of Honshu and Hokkaido 13 and 14 July. For the first time, a naval gunfire force wrought destruction on a major installation within the home islands when Missouri closed the shore to join in a bombardment 15 July that damaged the Nihon Steel Company and the Wanishi Ironworks at Muroran, Hokkaido.
During the night of 17‑18 July Missouri bombarded industrial targets in the Hichiti area. Honshu. Inland Sea aerial strikes continued through 25 July, and Missouri guarded the carriers as they struck hard blows at the Japanese capital. Strikes on Hokkaido and northern Honshu resumed 9 August, the day the second atomic bomb was dropped. Next day, at 2054, Missouri’s men were electrified by the unofficial news that Japan was ready to surrender, provided that the Emperor’s prerogatives as a sovereign ruler were not compromised. Not until 0745, 15 August, was word received that President Truman had announced Japan’s acceptance of unconditional surrender.
Surrender of Japan
Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, RN (Commander, British Pacific Fleet) boarded Missouri 16 August, and conferred the order Knight of the British Empire upon Admiral Halsey. Missouri transferred a landing party of 200 officers and men to battleship Iowa for temporary duty with the initial occupation force for Tokyo 21 August. Missouri herself entered Tokyo Bay early 29 August to prepare for the normal surrender ceremony.
High‑ranking military officials of all the Allied Powers were received on board 2 September. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz boarded shortly after 0800, and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (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 the 23‑minute surrender ceremony was broadcast to the waiting world. By 0930 the Japanese emissaries had departed.
The afternoon of 5 September Admiral Halsey transferred his flag to battleship South Dakota. Early next day Missouri departed Tokyo Bay to receive homeward bound passengers at Guam, thence sailed unescorted for Hawaii. She arrived Pearl Harbor 20 September and flew Admiral Nimitz’ 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 23 October and broke the flag of Admiral Jonas Ingram, commander in chief, Atlantic Fleet, Missouri boomed out a 21‑gun salute 27 October as President Truman boarded for Navy day ceremonies. In his address the President stated that “control of our sea approaches and of the skies above them is still the key to our freedom and to our ability to help enforce the peace of the world.”
Between the wars
After overhaul in the New York Naval Shipyard and a training cruise to Cuba, Missouri returned to New York. The afternoon of 21 March 1946 she received the remains of the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, Melmet Munir Ertegun. She departed 22 March for Gibraltar and 5 April anchored in the Bosphorus off Istanbul. She rendered full honors, including the firing of a 19‑gun salute during both the transfer of the remains of the late Ambassador and the funeral ashore.
Preventing communism in Greece
Missouri departed Istanbul 9 April and entered Phaleron Bay, Piraeus, Greece, the following day for an overwhelming welcome by Greek government officials and people. She had arrived in a year when there were ominous Soviet activities in the entire Balkan area. Greece had become the scene of a communist‑inspired civil war, as Russia sought every possible extension of Soviet influence throughout the Mediterranean region. Demands were made that Turkey grant the Soviets a base of seapower in the Dodecanese Islands and joint control of the Turkish Straits leading from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean.
The voyage of Missouri to the eastern Mediterranean gave comfort to both Greece and Turkey. News media proclaimed her a symbol of U.S. interest in preserving Greek and Turkish liberty. With an August decision to deploy a strong fleet to the Mediterranean, it became obvious that the United States intended to use her naval sea and air power to stand firm against the tide of Soviet subversion.
Missouri departed Piraeus 26 April, touching at Algiers and Tangiers before arriving Norfolk 9 May. She departed for Culebra Island 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 27 May, and spent the next year steaming Atlantic coastal waters north to the Davis Straits and south to the Caribbean on various Atlantic command training exercises.
Missouri arrived at Rio de Janeiro 30 August 1947 for the Inter‑American Conference for the Maintenance of Hemisphere Peace and Security. President Truman boarded 2 September to celebrate the signing of the Rio Treaty which broadened the Monroe Doctrine, stipulating that an attack on one of the signatory American States would be considered an attack on all.
The Truman family boarded Missouri 7 September to return to the United States and debarked at Norfolk 19 September. Overhaul in New York (23 September to 10 March 1948) was followed by refresher training at Guantanamo Bay. Summer 1948 was devoted to midshipman and reserve training cruises. The battleship departed Norfolk I November for a second 3‑week Arctic cold weather training cruise to the Davis Straits. The next 2 years Missouri participated in Atlantic command exercises ranging from the New England coast to the Caribbean, alternated with two midshipman summer training cruises. She was overhauled at Norfolk Naval Shipyard 23 September 1949 to 17 January 1950.
Now the only U.S. battleship in commission, Missouri was proceeding seaward on a training mission from Hampton Roads early 17 January when she ran aground at a point 1.6 miles from Thimble Shoals Light, near Old Point Comfort. She traversed shoal water a distance of three ship lengths from the main channel. Lifted some 7 feet above waterline, she stuck hard and fast. With the aid of tugs, pontoons, and an incoming tide, she was refloated 1 February.
From mid‑February until 15 August Missouri conducted midshipman and reserve training cruises out of Norfolk. She departed Norfolk 19 August to support U.N. forces in their fight against Communist aggression in Korea.
Missouri joined the U.N. just west of Kyushu 14 September, becoming flagship of Rear Admiral A. E. Smith. The first American battleship to reach Korean waters, she bombarded Samchok 15 September in a diversionary move coordinated with the Inchon landings. In company with cruiser Helena and two destroyers, she helped prepare the way for the 8th Army offensive.
Missouri arrived Inchon 19 September, and 10 October became flagship of Rear Admiral J. M. Higgins, commander, Cruiser Division 5. She arrived Sasebo 14 October, where she became flagship of Vice Admiral A. D. Struble, Commander, 7th Fleet. After screening carrier Valley Forge along the east coast of Korea, she conducted bombardment missions 12 to 26 October in the Chonjin and Tanchon areas, and at Wonsan. After again screening carriers eastward of Wonsan she moved into Hungnam 23 December to provide gunfire support about the Hungnam defense perimeter until the last U.N. troops, the U.S. 3d Infantry Division, were evacuated by way of the sea on Christmas Eve.
Missouri conducted additional operations with carriers and systematic shore bombardments off the east coast of Korea until 19 March 1951. She arrived Yokosuka 24 March, and 4 days later was relieved of duty in the Far East. She departed Yokosuka 28 March, and upon arrival Norfolk 27 April became flagship of Rear Admiral J. L. Holloway, Jr., commander, Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet. Summer 1951 she engaged in two midshipman training cruises to northern Europe. Missouri entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard 18 October for overhaul until 30 January 1952.
Following winter and spring training out of Guantanamo Bay, Missouri visited New York, then set course from Norfolk 9 June for another midshipman cruise. She returned to Norfolk 4 August and entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard to prepare for a second tour in the Korean Combat Zone.
Missouri stood out of Hampton Roads 11 September and arrived Yokosuka 17 October. She broke the flag of Vice Admiral J. J. Clark, commander of the 7th Fleet, 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 Inchon 5 January 1953 and sailed thence to Sasebo, Japan. General Mark Clark, Commander in Chief, U.N. Command, and Admiral Sir Guy Russell, RN, commander of the British Far East Station, visited the battleship 23 January. In the following weeks, Missouri resumed “Cobra” patrol along the east coast of Korea in direct support of troops ashore. Repeated strikes against Wonsan, Tanchon, Hungnam, and Kojo destroyed main supply routes along the eastern seaboard.
The last gunstrike mission by Missouri was against the Kojo area 25 March. She sustained a grievous casualty 26 March, when 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 7th Fleet flagship 6 April by battleship New Jersey.
Missouri departed Yokosuka 7 April and arrived Norfolk 4 May, to become flagship for Rear Admiral E. T. Woolridge, commander, Battleships‑Cruisers, Atlantic Fleet. 14 May. She departed 8 June on a midshipman training cruise, returned to Norfolk 4 August, and was overhauled in Norfolk Naval Shipyard 20 November to 2 April 1954.
Now the flagship of Rear Admiral R. E. Kirby, Missouri departed Norfolk 7 June as flagship of the midshipman training cruise to Lisbon and Cherbourg. She returned Norfolk 3 August and departed the 23d for inactivation on the west coast. After calls at Long Beach and San Francisco, Missouri arrived Seattle 15 September. Three days later she entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where she decommissioned 26 February 1955, entering the Bremerton group, Pacific Reserve Fleet. The battleship remained in reserve for the next thirty years, visited by 100,000 people on an annual basis.
As the Cold War heated up in the 1980s, the battleship received a new lease on life and was modernized and recommissioned at San Francisco on 10 May 1986, Captain Albert L. Kaiss in command.
Activated as part of the Navy's new maritime strategy—which was intended to send offense-oriented aircraft carrier and battleship task groups into Soviet waters in the event of a future global conflict -- Missouri conducted refresher and fleet operations training until departing 10 September for a circumnavigation of the world, the first voyage by an American battleship since the Great White Fleet of 1907-09. Following a stop at Pearl Harbor, Missouri visited Sydney, Hobart, Albany and Fremantle in Australia in October before sailing on to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The battleship then transited the Suez Canal on 7 November and sailed north to Istanbul, Turkey, arriving there 11 November to mark the 40th anniversary of her previous trip to that city in 1947. The battleship then made diplomatic port visits at Naples, Italy; Palma, Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal; before crossing the Atlantic in early December. She transited the Panama Canal on the 10th and arrived home in Long Beach on 19 December.
Following local operations and battle group training in early 1987, the battleship got underway on 25 July for a western Pacific and Indian Ocean deployment. She stopped at Subic Bay in the Philippines before conducting an exercise with Singapore Navy units in mid-August. Transiting the Strait of Malacca on 25–26 August, Missouri sailed to the north Arabian Sea for operations with the Ranger (CV-61) battlegroup. The battleship operated in support of tanker convoy operations in the region for the next three months, pausing only for short port visits for maintenance at Masirah, Oman. After turnover on 24 November, Missouri steamed home via Diego Garcia, Fremantle, Sydney and Pearl Harbor, arriving at Long Beach on 19 January 1988.
In early March, the battleship visited Vancouver, British Columbia, before shifting south to San Diego for gunnery, cruise missile and other war at sea evolutions. The crew also conducted the first Tomahawk cruise missile launch from the battleship on 25 May. Missouri then participated in Rim Pac '88, a large 40-ship multi-national exercise in Hawaiian waters in July, before spending the rest of the year conducting various inspections and readiness exercises out of Long Beach. After a dry dock maintenance period between February and April 1989, the battleship prepared for another deployment, and departed California for the western Pacific on 18 September. After a voyage north to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, the battleship dropped down for exercises in Japanese and Korean waters, visiting the port of Pusan 21–25 October before returning home on 9 November. Missouri then conducted a short cruise to Mazatlan, Mexico, in early December.
Her next major operation took place in March 1990, when she sailed to Hawaii on the 27th to take part in Rim Pac '90, remaining in Hawaiian waters until returning home on 23 May. After local operations during the summer, and the news that Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Army had invaded Kuwait in August, the battleship's crew conducted security drills, installed more point defense weapons and began preparations for a Persian Gulf deployment, including familiarizing the crew with a newly embarked remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) drone.
Underway 13 November, the battleship conducted intensive training in between stops at Pearl Harbor, Subic Bay and a liberty port visit to 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 missiles and provide on-call naval gunfore support. She fired her first Tomahawk missile at Iraqi targets at 0140 on 17 January, followed by 27 additional missiles over the next five days. In addition, the battleship bombarded Iraqi beach defenses in occupied Kuwait on the night of 3 February, firing 112 16-inch rounds over the next three days until relieved by Wisconsin (BB-64). Missouri then fired another 60 rounds off Khafji on 11–12 February before steaming north to near 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, who fired an HY-2 Silkworm missile at the battleship. The cruise missile was then shot down by GWS-30 Sea Dart missiles launched from the British frigate HMS Gloucester.
With combat operations past the reach of the battleship's guns on the 26th, Missouri conducted 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 1941 "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 Truman boarded the battleship in September 1947.
After returning to Long Beach on 20 December, the battleship's crew began the long process of deactivating the battleship. Missouri decommissioned on 31 March 1992 and was laid up as part of the inactive fleet at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington. She remained part of the reserve fleet until 12 January 1995 when she was struck from the Navy list. Donated as a museum and memorial ship on 4 May 1998, she was later transferred to Pearl Harbor where she rests near the Arizona memorial and is open for tours by the public.
Missouri received three battle stars for World War II service and five for Korean service.
- Personal video posted on YouTube, taken prior to 1991
- USS Missouri in action during the Persian Gulf War of 1991
- Vidio including scenes of the 1945 Japanese surrender
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