There are three other ships in the United States Navy which were named after the state of Missouri besides the battleship USS Missouri (BB 63), and although she became associated with the history of the Japanese raid at Pearl Harbor, she never took part in the event. So, why is she known by so many around the world?
Missouri, a.k.a. “Mighty Mo” stands out in the history of the Second World War not just as the last battleship of the U.S. Navy, but also as the battleship which hosted the end of the Second World War in the Pacific.
The life of Mighty Mo began after her commissioning on 11 June 1944 as the last Iowa-class battleship of the U.S. Navy. She had a full-load displacement of 58,000 long tons, a length of 887.2 feet and a beam that measured about 108 feet. At her maximum speed of 33 knots, she possessed a range of about 14,900 miles.
Just like the rest of the Iowa-class battleships, her main armament comprised nine 16-inch .50 caliber Mark 7 guns which could fire shells that weighed up to 2,700 lb at a target 20 miles away. Subordinate armament comprised twenty 5-inch .30 caliber Mark 12 guns that could hit a target 10 miles away. She was also fitted with anti-aircraft guns to defend Allied aircraft carriers from air attacks.
Missouri was one of the battleships that took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima, which is known as the fiercest battle of the war’s Pacific theater.
On 18 March 1945, she was part of the battleship group that struck airfields and naval bases along the coast of Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. During this event, she gunned down four enemy planes and provided cover for the badly damaged carrier Franklin.
On March 24 and April 1, Mighty Mo was with the Task Force 58 battleship group during the raids at Okinawa. She shot down five airplanes, provided support in the downing of another six, helped repel numerous waves of attacks during the day and night of the invasion, and destroyed military and government infrastructure. Also, the sinking of the Japanese submarine I-56 was initiated by Missouri, whose radar had detected it.
After her contributions at Okinawa, she took part in the bombardment of the Japanese home islands. Her battle group devastated Japanese infrastructure such as the Nihon Steel Company and the Wanishi Ironworks, in Hokkaido, and several other industrial targets in Honshū, before the release of the second atomic bomb which would lead to Japan’s surrender in 1945.
The signing of the official instrument of surrender was done aboard Missouri, and thus, the end of the war was marked onboard this ship, the main fact for which she is remembered.
The outbreak of the Korean War saw Missouri back in action, providing support and going on bombardment missions. Her last of such missions was the bombardment of Kojo on 25 March 1953.
On 26 February 1955, she was decommissioned. Following her decommissioning, one idea to move Missouri to Pearl Harbor as a museum ship was thwarted by the National Park Service because of fears that with her towering popularity she would overshadow Arizona, the battleship that had become a symbol of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor following her very dramatic end.
Missouri was instead mothballed in Bremerton, west of Seattle, Washington. However, more than 30 years later, she was reactivated and modified during the 600-ship Navy project.
The resurrected version was equipped with Quad Cell Launchers to fire Harpoon missiles and Armored-box launchers for firing Tomahawk missiles. For protection against enemy missiles, a Phalanx CIWS was installed on the ship.
In 1991, during the Gulf War, she was back in combat again, serving until 31 March 1992, when she saw her final decommissioning. Missouri received 11 battle stars throughout her lifetime of service, and was used by the USS Missouri Memorial Association as a museum ship at Pearl Harbor after her retirement.