Preserving the Museum Ships of Pearl Harbor

January 18, 2020
by Chris 

The Battleship Missouri and Bowfin submarine are each more than 75 years old. The War in the Pacific put plenty of wear on each vessel, yet when visitors gaze up at these historic beauties, they don’t see aging warships. Bowfin and Missouri may not look like they were just launched yesterday, but these Pearl Harbor museum ships certainly don’t look as if they had endured decades of life at sea. In fact, visitors are impressed that every surface gleams, without a trace of rust to be seen.

Upkeep on these vessels is no simple task, but it’s one that’s undertaken for the sake of the more than one million visitors who visit Pearl Harbor each year. Though they haven't seen military action in decades and don’t leave their current mooring points at Pearl Harbor, the ships are still susceptible to the elements and the typical wear and tear of being boarded by thousands of visitors each month.

Keeping the Pearl Harbor Museum Ships in Pristine Condition

To keep the Battleship Missouri and the Bowfin submarine looking as good as they do is a continuous process. So long as they serve as highlights of Pearl Harbor tours, the vessels will continue to show the effects of time. That means there must be someone to oversee and care for them throughout the years. In the case of the mighty Mo, it’s the USS Missouri Memorial Association, a non-profit corporation established in 1994 to be responsible for the historic battleship.

The USS Missouri Memorial Association keeps the ship looking her best through regular cleaning, maintenance, and restoration. Missouri has seen several major overhauls, including a 2017 project that focused on the battleship’s superstructure. The work included repairs completed on 05 level and above. In 2009, she was brought into drydock at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for three months of maintenance preservation work.

Every surface aboard the Bowfin submarine shines like new
Every surface aboard the Bowfin submarine shines like new

The same processes are in place for the Bowfin, as well. The World War II-era submarine—and current focus of Pearl Harbor’s submarine memorial—has undergone its own restorations and ongoing maintenance to prevent her from showing the effects of time.

All of this work and money spent on preserving and restoring the two Pearl Harbor museum ships ensures that they’ll be in top shape for future generations to explore and learn from.

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