Life on a World War II Battleship

By: Alison

Today Pearl Harbor represents more than just the brave crewmen who lost their lives in the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. For thousands of visitors, it also represents a window to the past, a learning experience about what life what like aboard a World War II battleship.

For the sailors aboard the USS Missouri and other World War II battleships, life wasn’t quite all work and no play. Keep reading to learn how sailors lived and worked on a World War II battleship.

Daily Life

When working on a battleship, most sailors had a strict routine to follow. Every day, certain tasks needed to be completed in order to maintain the ship. Sailors helped cook, clean, and perform routine maintenance.

World War II battleship Sleeping

Most mornings, the crew would receive a wake-up call—usually in the form of reveille from the boatswain onboard—at about 5:45 a.m. The exact time varied from one ship to another, but on the USS North Carolina, for example, that was the wake-up time for the sailors.

Once awake, sailors would have to make their beds and fold blankets. On most battleships, the bed would fold up so they could be moved out of the way. Sailors were responsible for completing this task as well as airing out their bedding. On most World War II battleships, crewmen of the same division slept in the same room, which meant that over a hundred men from the same division could be sleeping in one room together. Space was hard to come by on a World War II battleship, but somehow, the crewmen made the best of it.

At 8 a.m., sailors would meet for Assembly Call and Chow in the mess hall. A half-hour later, they would report to their division leaders who would assign tasks and projects for the day. Crewmen could have several different types of jobs. One day, a division might be in charge of cleaning the top deck. On another day, they might have to perform routine checks on the artillery to ensure its good condition.

Battleship Mess Hall

At noon, sailors would have a lunch break, and then it was back to work until 4:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., dinner would be served.

Down Time

Once the day’s work was completed, sailors had free time to relax and have a little fun. Most sailors brought board games and cards from home to pass the time. Sometimes, the crew would have movie nights.

One of the favorite pastimes was writing letters home. Many sailors had wives and families back home, and they wrote long letters describing their work and their hopes for the future.

Because all the men worked so closely together, they formed tight-knit bonds in their divisions. They formed baseball teams and practiced during their down time.

World War II battleship downtime

It’s hard to imagine living in such close quarters with so many people, but the crewmen aboard a World War II Battleship made it work. Today, you can visit the Battleship Missouri at Pearl Harbor and see for yourself how these crewmen lived.

So tell us, what do you think would have been the hardest part of working or living on a World War II battleship?

2 thoughts on “Life on a World War II Battleship

  1. Michael Rohan says:

    I was stationed on the USS New Jersey during Viet Nam. Once in awhile a group of Marines would come on board for a couple days of relaxation from the battle field. What looked like cramped quarters to everyone else, was a pleasant change for the Marines. Who made us feel like we were living in a luxurious hotel

    1. Visit Pearl Harbor says:

      Aloha Michael!
      Thanks for sharing this reminder that everything is a matter of perspective. Also, thank you for your service in a difficult conflict.

Comments are closed.

Recommended Articles