Lesser-Known Facts About USS Missouri

May 14, 2021
by Chris 

A tour of the Battleship Missouri at Pearl Harbor brings with it an abundance of information. While schools teach the main events of World War II, it’s unlikely that the curriculum calls for an in-depth look at the USS Missouri (BB-63), one of the most iconic ships of the conflict. While nothing beats an in-person visit and docent-led tour, here are some lesser-known facts about USS Missouri that the history books often leave out.

Missouri Almost Wasn’t the Last Battleship

The Battleship Missouri is known for being the last battleship to be built for the US Navy. Although her sister-ship, USS Wisconsin, had a higher hull number (BB-64), she was completed before MIssouri. Two more Iowa-class battleships, as well as the entire Montana class, were cancelled. The Montana-class battleships were expected to be slower and bigger, with better armor and superior firepower. During World War II, five were planned for construction, but priorities shifted to the Essex-class aircraft carrier. No Montana-class keels were laid, and Missouri ended up being the last battleship ever completed for the US Navy.

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) Underway at sea.
USS Wisconsin (BB-64)

USS Missouri’s Media Appearances

Like other vessels of the US Navy, Missouri has played a role in several productions. One of her most prominent appearances was in Battleship, the 2012 sci-fi film based on the popular board game. Though she hasn't sailed under her own steam since 1992, Missouri was depicted as out to sea for the movie. To accomplish this, three tugboats were used to make it look like she was sailing on her own.

Along with Battleship, the Mighty Mo appeared in 1992’s Under Siege and served as the filming location for Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” music video. After its release, the Navy had a few regrets about approving the music video.

Missouri Acquires a Historic Blemish

A view over the rail of the USS Missouri, moments before being struck by a Kamikaze aircraft.
Kamikaze plane just before hitting USS Missouri (BB-63)

Having joined the fight late in the war, USS Missouri faced a new threat from the skies: kamikaze pilots. The suicidal Japanese pilots were ordered to slam their plane directly into their target to guarantee maximum damage. On April 11, 1945, the battleship became a target when a kamikaze plane shifted course and headed toward her.

The Zero fighter struck the battleship on her starboard side, starting a gasoline fire in Gun Mount No. 3. The crew was able to put out the fire before it spread, and Missouri sustained only minimal damage: on the starboard side just below the level of the main deck, there is a dent that shows exactly where the Zero struck.

Other Facts About USS Missouri - A Ship of Firsts

USS Missouri is a vessel with many “firsts” in her history. She was the first:

  • American ship to destroy a major installation on Japan's main islands – During the July 15th, 1945 air strikes, she disabled the Nihon Steel Co. and Wanishi Ironworks.
  • Battleship to host a helicopter detachment – Two Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopters were stored on the battleship in 1948.
  • American battleship to reach Korean waters during the Korean conflict.
  • American battleship to circumnavigate the globe since the “Great White Fleet” 80 years prior – interestingly, the Maine-class battleship USS Missouri (BB-11) was part of that fleet.

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