USS Missouri – From Warship to Museum Ship

December 21, 2017

On June 11, 1944, the USS Missouri (BB-63) joined the hundreds of other ships on the US Naval Vessel Register. For the next 15 months, she would serve in the Pacific Theater, battling the persistent Imperial Japanese Navy as the Allies started to dominate in the Pacific. At the end of her service—which came 47 years after the end of World War II—she was highly decorated, earning eight battle stars along with more than a dozen other awards for her time in World War II, the Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm.

Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender

Even with all her medals and awards, the Missouri, affectionately known as the Mighty Mo, has always been best known for one thing: it was on her deck that Japan officially surrendered, finally ending World War II.

She quickly became a symbol of the Allied victory in the Pacific Theater. All through her subsequent years at sea, it was her part in that victory that made her a highly revered ship of the US Navy. It’s also the reason why, today, she is permanently berthed at the Pearl Harbor naval base, as one of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.




The Mighty Mo's Long Journey to Pearl Harbor

Though she could have been sold for scrap after the war like many of her fellow battleships, the Missouri was instead added to the collection of museum ships scattered around the country. Though it seems perfectly logical today, the decision to send her to Pearl Harbor was initially met with some resistance. The process of getting her to Hawaii started on May 4, 1998, when Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton donated her to the USS Missouri Memorial Association of Honolulu.

Prior to being signed over, the Missouri was moored at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, although she wasn’t open to the public as a museum ship. Officials from the Navy finally decided to use her symbolism as the “end of World War II” and move her to the place that was considered the “beginning” – Pearl Harbor.

Gathering of USS Missouri veterans, September 2003

Initially, the National Park Service, which oversees the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor, was hesitant to allow the Mighty Mo to be displayed in the harbor. At the time, the USS Arizona Memorial—which is dedicated to the 1,177 sailors who died in the sinking of the ship—was the stand-out attraction that people traveled to Pearl Harbor to see. Concerns arose that adding the Missouri would somehow overshadow the Arizona Memorial.

Eventually, the Missouri was brought to Pearl Harbor under the stipulation that she would be away from the Arizona Memorial but would face the sunken ship. This was done so that any military ceremonies on the Mighty Mo’s aft decks would not have a view of the more somber memorial. It was also symbolic in that the Missouri would watch over the men who were entombed within the Arizona, where they remain to this day.

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