USS Missouri Battleship
The USS Missouri was an Iowa-class battleship launched on January 29, 1944, under the sponsorship of Miss Mary Margaret Truman, daughter of then Missouri Senator, Harry S. Truman. The fourth ship to be named after the 24th state of the union and the last U.S. battleship to be completed, the USS Missouri was fitted with the latest anti-aircraft guns and was commissioned on June 11, 1944.
After battle practice in Chesapeake Bay, the ship was fitted as a flagship in San Francisco Bay on November 18, 1944. By February 16 of the following year, the USS Missouri had joined Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s Task Force 58 and went on to become the first U.S. ship to launch air strikes against the Japanese since the famed Doolittle Raid of April 1942. The ship then steamed to Iwo Jima to assist in the invasion attacks.
On March 24, the USS Missouri, along with Task Force 58, began bombarding southeast Okinawa, which assisted carrier planes in launching an aerial attack that sank the Japanese Yamato, the world’s largest battleship. A damaged kamikaze struck the battleship’s starboard side on April 11, starting a superficial gasoline fire that was quickly controlled. Captain William Callaghan, deciding that the Japanese pilot had acted honorably and in accordance with the rules of war, commanded that he be given a military burial at sea.
The USS Missouri participated in the invasion of Guam in May 1945, the Okinawa campaign in June and in the bombardment of Honshu in July. By the end of July, there were no waters that the Japanese could call home territory. In late August, the battleship escorted 200 officers into Tokyo Bay to prepare for Japan’s surrender. In September, the USS Missouri partook in Operation Magic Carpet, charged with bringing home Americans in Guam.
After being overhauled at the New York Naval Shipyard, the USS Arizona headed to Istanbul on March 22, 1946, to return the remains of Münir Ertegün, the Turkish Ambassador to the United States. The ship then sailed to Greece on a strategic mission of the United States to declare support of anti-communist citizens in Greece and to enact a new doctrine of containment of the Soviet Union. On September 2, the USS Missouri escorted President Truman and his family to Rio de Janeiro to sign the Rio Treaty, which broadened the scope and power of the Monroe Doctrine.
In the late 1940s, when all branches of the U.S. military were required to downsize their inventories, the Navy put many of its ships in reserve fleets or decommissioned them and sold them for scrapping. President Truman refused to let the USS Missouri be decommissioned, however, and ordered that the ship remain with the active fleet. It was then the only U.S. battleship in commission, and on January 17, 1950, during an unfortunate accident during a training mission, the USS Missouri was grounded at Old Point Comfort in the Virginia Peninsula.
The ship was refloated and repaired in February 1950, and several months later, when North Korea invaded South Korea, it became the first battleship to enter Korean waters and participated in crucial bombardment campaigns from September 15, 1950 to March 19, 1951. The USS Missouri was overhauled at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard from October 1951 to the end of January 1952, and after a training mission in Guantanamo Bay, the ship returned to Korea in October 1952 for a second tour.
After a strenuous, lengthy battle in Korea, the USS Missouri entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Washington State and on February 26, 1955, was decommissioned and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
Under orders of the Reagan administration, the battleship began to undergo a full-scale modernization in 1984, and on May 10, 1986, was fully recommissioned. Four months later, the USS Missouri departed for an around-the-world cruise designed to showcase the United States’ naval prowess. In 1987, the battleship took part in Operation Earnest Will, which involved escorting Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Persian Gulf. During the first gulf war, the USS Missouri played a crucial role in Operation Desert Storm, preventing Iraqi ships from landing on Kuwait’s shoreline and in clearing Iraqi naval mines in the Persian Gulf.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, it no longer seemed crucial or economical for the United States Navy to maintain and operate battleships. The USS Missouri was decommissioned on March 31, 1992, in Long Beach, California, after which it spent some time in the reserve fleet at Puget Sound before being struck from the naval registrar on January 12, 1995. After some initial resistance from die-hard fans of the USS Arizona Memorial, in January 1999, the USS Missouri was moved to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where it now operates as a museum.