Albert L. Kaiss, Last Commander of the Mighty Mo, Dies at 78
On July 25, 2018, at the age of 78, Albert L. Kaiss passed away in his hometown of Hagerstown, MD.
On March 31, 1992, in Long Beach, CA, Captain Kaiss stepped off the USS Missouri (BB-63) for the final time. He had served as the Mighty Mo’s commanding officer in two separate tours of duty, and became famous for being the last man to captain a battleship in the United States Navy.
In 1985, USS Missouri was brought back into service as part of a plan to bolster the US Navy, and Captain Albert L. Kaiss was put in command of the iconic battleship. a little over a year later, however, he suffered a heart attack and was forced to relinquish command while he recovered. He survived the medical emergency and returned to the captain’s quarters of the Mighty Mo in 1990. Soon afterward, he and his ship would find themselves in the Persian Gulf, where Missouri launched Tomahawk missiles and sea-based gunfire during Operation Desert Storm.
USS Missouri was given the opportunity to serve a bit longer under orders of President George H.W. Bush. On December 7, 1991, the United States would be recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack and President Bush wanted the Mighty Mo to be present there.
Captain Albert L. Kaiss wasn't present during the attack on Pearl Harbor, but he was able to take part in the 50th anniversary commemoration by bringing the Mighty Mo to the harbor. He attended the milestone anniversary in Oahu as captain during the final act of service of any US battleship.
Three months later, USS Missouri was decommissioned for the last time. In the ship’s final Plan of the Day, Captain Albert L. Kaiss wrote a tribute to the vessel and the crew with whom he had the pleasure of working. “It’s often said that the crew makes the command. There is no truer statement,” he wrote. Kaiss continued, addressing his crew. “You are a special breed of sailors and Marines and I am proud to have served with each and every one of you.”
Not only was Kaiss the last commander of USS Missouri, when he stepped off the gangway onto the pier, he became the last active duty service member to serve on a battleship. Two days after Missouri was decommissioned, Kaiss followed her into retirement.
Though Kaiss was only a year old when the attack on Pearl Harbor unfolded, his name will forever be associated with USS Missouri, which now stands proudly in Pearl Harbor as a museum ship.
Albert L. Kaiss was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Sharpsburg, MD. His family, including his daughter Julie Laing and son Andrew Lee Kaiss, requested that donations be made to the USS Missouri Memorial Association in lieu of flowers. Donations go to preservation efforts of the Battleship Missouri Memorial, one of Pearl Harbor’s many exhibits dedicated to World War II-era battleships and the War in the Pacific.