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World War II: USS Missouri (BB-63)

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World War II: USS Missouri (BB-63)

USS Missouri

Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval Historical Center

USS Missouri - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: New York Navy Yard
  • Laid Down: January 6, 1941
  • Launched: January 29, 1944
  • Commissioned: June 11, 1944
  • Fate: Museum Ship at Pearl Harbor, HI

USS Missouri - Specifications:

  • Displacement: 45,000 tons
  • Length: 887 ft., 3 in.
  • Beam: 108 ft. 2 in.
  • Draft: 28 ft. 11 in.
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Complement: 2,700 men

USS Missouri - Armament (1944):

Guns

  • 9 x 16 in. (406 mm) 50 cal. Mark 7 guns (3 turrets of 3 guns each)
  • 20 × 5 in. (127 mm) 38 cal. Mark 12 guns
  • 80 x 40 mm 56 cal. anti-aircraft guns
  • 49 x 20 mm 70 cal. anti-aircraft guns

USS Missouri - Design & Construction:

Ordered on June 20, 1940, USS Missouri (BB-63) was the fourth ship of the Iowa-class of battleships. Intended as "fast battleships" capable of serving as escorts for the new Essex-class aircraft carriers then being designed, the Iowas were longer and faster than the earlier North Carolina and South Dakota-classes. Laid down at the New York Navy Yard on January 6, 1941, work on Missouri proceeded through the early years of World War II. As the importance of aircraft carriers increased, the US Navy shifted its building priorities to those Essex-class ships then under construction.

As a result, Missouri was not launched until January 29, 1944. Christened by Margaret Truman, the daughter of then-Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, the ship moved to the fitting out piers for completion. Missouri's armament centered on nine Mark 7 16" guns which were mounted in three triple turrets. These were supplemented by 20 5" guns, 80 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns, and 49 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns. Completed by mid-1944, the battleship was commissioned on June 11 with Captain William M. Callaghan in command. It was the last battleship commissioned by the US Navy.

USS Missouri - Operational History:

Steaming out of New York, Missouri completed its sea trials and then conducted battle training in the Chesapeake Bay. This done, the battleship departed Norfolk on November 11, 1944, and, after a stop in San Francisco to be fitted out as a fleet flagship, arrived at Pearl Harbor on December 24. Assigned to Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher's Task Force 58, Missouri soon departed for Ulithi where it was attached to the screening force for the carrier USS Lexington. In February 1945, Missouri sailed with TF58 when it began launching air strikes against the Japanese home islands.

Turning south, the battleship arrived off Iwo Jima where it provided direct fire support for the landings on February 19. Re-assigned to protect USS Yorktown, Missouri and TF58 returned to the waters off Japan in early March where the battleship downed four Japanese aircraft. Later that month, Missouri struck at targets on Okinawa in support of Allied operations on the island. While offshore, the ship was struck by a Japanese kamikaze, however the damage inflicted was largely superficial. Transferred to Admiral William "Bull" Halsey's Third Fleet, Missouri became the admiral's flagship on May 18.

Moving north, the battleship again struck targets on Okinawa before Halsey's ships shifted their attention to Kyushu, Japan. Enduring a typhoon, Third Fleet spent June and July hitting targets across Japan, with aircraft striking the Inland Sea and the surface ships bombarding shore targets. With the surrender of Japan, Missouri entered Tokyo Bay with other Allied ships on August 29. Selected to host the surrender ceremony, Allied commanders, led by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur received the Japanese delegation aboard Missouri on September 2, 1945.

With the surrender concluded, Halsey transferred his flag to South Dakota and Missouri was ordered aid in bringing home American servicemen as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Completing this mission, the ship transited the Panama Canal and took part in Navy Day celebrations in New York where it was boarded by President Harry S. Truman. Following a brief refit in early 1946, the ship undertook a good will tour of the Mediterranean before sailing to Rio de Janeiro in August 1947, to bring the Truman family back to the US after the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Hemisphere Peace and Security.

At Truman's personal request, the battleship was not deactivated along with the other Iowa-class ships as a part of the postwar downsizing of the navy. Following a grounding incident in 1950, Missouri was sent to the Far East to aid United Nations troops in Korea. Fulfilling a shore bombardment role, the battleship also aided in screening US carriers in the area. In December 1950, Missouri moved into position to provide naval gunfire support during the evacuation of Hungnam. Returning to the US for a refit in early 1951, it resumed its duties off Korea in October 1952. After five months in the warzone, Missouri sailed for Norfolk. In the summer of 1953, the battleship served as the flagship for the US Naval Academy's midshipman training cruise. Sailing to Lisbon and Cherbourg, the voyage was the only time the four Iowa-class battleships cruised together.

Upon its return, Missouri was prepared for mothballs and was placed in storage at Bremerton, WA in February 1955. In the 1980s, the ship and its sisters received new life as part of the Reagan Administration's 600-ship navy initiative. Recalled from the reserve fleet, Missouri underwent a massive overhaul which saw the installation of four MK 141 quad cell missile launchers, eight Armored Box Launchers for Tomahawk cruise missiles, and four Phalanx CIWS guns. In addition, the ship was fitted with the latest electronics and combat control systems. The ship was formally recommissioned on May 10, 1986, at San Francisco, CA.

The next year, it traveled to the Persian Gulf to aid in Operation Earnest Will where it escorted re-flagged Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Straits of Hormuz. After several routine assignments, the ship returned to the Middle East in January 1991, and played an active role in Operation Desert Storm. Sailing in the Persian Gulf, Missouri supported coalition efforts by serving as a launch platform for cruise missiles and providing direct gunfire support. With the end of the Cold War, Missouri was again decommissioned on March 31, 1992. After six years in the reserve fleet, the ship was towed to Pearl Harbor where it opened as a museum ship in 1999.

Selected Sources

 

 

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