Thursday, March 29, 2018

26 Years Ago...

March 31 marks the 26th anniversary since the USS Missouri decommissioned for the final time. On March 31, 1992, America’s last and greatest battleship was decommissioned for the second and final time in Long Beach, California. The United States suffered from defense budget cuts and the cost of maintaining and operating battleships became uneconomical.

The Missouri crew mans the rails during the USS Missouri’s decommissioning ceremony at NAVSTA Long Beach, California.

Captain Albert Lee Kaiss was the Battleship Missouri’s last commanding officer. He also served as the first commanding officer after the Missouri’s recommissioning in 1986.

We’ve gathered some memories and thoughts from the former crew of the USS Missouri who remember this significant day.

As an introduction, I was a member of the recommissioning crew, serving from June 1985-June 1987. I went aboard the ship one last time for ‘Operation Remembrance’, the trip to Pearl Harbor in 1991 (that is another story). I was also a member of the ship check team that traveled to Bremerton in 1997 to lay the initial groundwork for the ship going to Pearl Harbor (a really LONG story). Lastly, I spent a week TAD onboard in the spring of 1999 while my ship, USS Bonhomme Richard was undergoing degaussing at Pearl Harbor. It is in that vein that I write these words. During the trip to Pearl, we all knew the end was near. I took a night shot with Missouri in the foreground and the Arizona Memorial in the background at about 3 am early in the morning of December 7th and before the decommissioning I wanted to give a copy to Captain Kaiss and Captain Jones (he was my boss when I was onboard, serving as the Chief Engineer). I remember sitting in Captain Kaiss’ stateroom, visiting. He asked me (more like told me) ‘you are coming to the decommissioning ceremony, aren’t you?’
The next morning I put on my blues and went to the shipyard. It was great to see so many good friends and shipmates there. It was almost like a reunion as I hadn’t seen some of these guys for five years or more.
The ceremony got underway with the usual brass in attendance, some in the crowd and some on the dais. If I recall correctly, the only one there that was at the recommissioning was Congressman Ike Skelton from Missouri. For reasons unknown, Margaret Truman was not there.
I don’t remember much of the words that day, but I do remember Captain Kaiss commending the current crew for their conduct during the Gulf War and how they added another chapter to Missouri’s distinguished history.
Then the inevitable happened. It had to. We all knew it but we weren’t prepared for it. After reading his orders, the Captain turned to the Commander of Naval Surface Group Long Beach and saluted. He ordered the flags hauled down and the crew to leave the ship.
At this point, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place, including me. I managed to get a photo of Captain Kaiss leaving the ship for the last time. I was devastated. I was angry. I was heartbroken.
One of Missouri’s Chiefs, EMC Bob Webber (who was on the ship the entire time she was in commission) invited me to the Chief’s Club for a beer and I was happy to take him up on his offer. Several BB-63 vets from World War II and Korea were there. More stories were told, backs slapped, tears shed. We were the last of a breed …. Battleship Sailors. I took my leave and began the drive back to San Diego. I quite literally cried the whole time as I felt I had just lost one of the most important members of family. Still feel that way.
It is hard to believe it has been so long since this all passed. It seems like yesterday that we were having squirt gun fights, preparing for the world cruise, and having fun everywhere we went. We were proud. Arrogant. Brothers.
In one of the first pamphlets published by the USS Missouri Memorial was a quote from me; 'There’s a battleship and then there’s everything else.' I’m sure my shipmates will agree, after all, there are only two kinds of sailors in the Navy: those who are battleship sailors and those who wish they could have been.
Captain Robert Peniston, CO of our sister USS New Jersey said these words and I’d like to alter them slightly for our ship. ‘Rest well, yet sleep lightly; and hear the call, if again sounded, to provide strength for freedom.’
John Lewis
Years: 1985 to 1986
Rate: YN2
Department: Engineering Department

“I found that day to be very somber and sad, yet proud and inspiring,” said Larry Doong, the USS Missouri’s last Chief Engineer. “As a crewmember, it was difficult to face the fact that they were decommissioning a beautiful, trustworthy ship but we all understood the financial rationale behind it all.”

Larry Doong
Years: 1990 to 1992
Rate: CDR
Department: Engineering Department

 I remember decommissioning day out in Pier Echo in Long Beach, California. It was the end of an era and a sad day for the Navy. There's nothing like an Iowa Class battleship. Being a Battleship Sailor was the highlight of my navy career.”
Kevin R. Kilgore
Years: 1989 to 1992
Rate: PN2
Division: X-2 Division
: Administration Department

As a member of the Pre-Com and Recommissioning crew, it was the a very sad day to hear that she was being removed and stricken from Active Duty in the fleet. But she's on Eternal Watch over the USS Arizona and our Brothers and that's Ok with me. Take good care of our Grand Lady. I plan on coming back to see her once I'm fully retired.”

Melvin McCullough Jr 
Years: 1985 to 1989
Rate: HT1
Division: R Division
Department: Engineering Department

"That day didn't become reality until Capt. Kaiss walked off across the brow. I couldn't hold back. 26 years later I'm still hurt and long to cruise on her one more time, just one more time."

Rodney E. Feilds
Years: 1989 to 1992
Rate: SN
Division: S-3 Division
Department: Supply Department

"I remember that day. The time spent on the Missouri I have seen and met some good people from all walks of life. Still to this day I'm still in touch with some of my brothers that I still call my shipmates. (You know who you are.) But, having to prepare her for this day was sad and to walk off that ship for the last time made it even harder to say goodbye. The days following her decommissioning I watched her as she began her journey to Bremerton under tow around the Palos Verdes peninsula. I didn't leave that spot until she was completely out of sight. I have to say it was an honor to have served with a great bunch of people who I can call my "Battleship Brother's."

Michael A. Brown
Years: 1990 to 1992
Rate: SN
Division: 6th Division
: Deck Department

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What’s in a Name? The 4 USS Missouri Vessels

Over the course of U.S. Naval history there have been five ships named for the “Show Me” state. The first Missouri was a 10-gun side-wheel frigate that was launched on 7 January 1841. It was one of the first steam warships in the Navy commissioned very early in 1842 to Capt. John Newton.

This first Missouri set out on 6 August 1843 on a mission to negotiate the first commercial treaty with China. Unfortunately while anchored in Gibraltar, the forward magazine blew up and the ship was set ablaze, which destroyed the ship.

The second Missouri was a Maine class battleship built in Newport News, Virginia, and was commissioned on 1 December 1903. She was armed with a main battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns and could steam at a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).  Missouri spent her entire career in the Atlantic with the North Atlantic Fleet, later renamed the Atlantic Fleet. In late 1907, she and the rest of the Atlantic Fleet circumnavigated the globe as the “Great White Fleet,” which ended in February 1909. After America entered World War I in April 1917, Missouri was brought back into service to train personnel for the expanding wartime Navy. She served briefly as a troopship in 1919, carrying American soldiers back from France, before being decommissioned in September that year. Ultimately, she was sold for scrapping in January 1922.

The third Missouri is our very own (BB 63), an Iowa class battleship built from 1941-1944 in the New York Navy Ship Yard. The battleship Missouri served during WWII, the Korea War and the Gulf War and is most famous for hosting the Japanese Surrender on 2 September 1945. She was decommissioned for the second time on 31 March 1992.

The fourth Missouri is a Virginia class submarine that was commissioned on 31 July 2010. She currently serves in the United States Navy. With a crew of 140 Sailors and officers, the 377-foot long, Missouri is slightly longer than a football field. She has a 34-foot beam, and can dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operates at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged.

On Saturday January 27, 2018 the Battleship Missouri and the state of Hawaii had the great pleasure of welcoming the newest Virginia-class submarine, USS Missouri SSN-780 to its new home port in Pearl Harbor.
The Pacific Submarine Force, headquartered at Pearl Harbor, includes fast attack, ballistic missile, auxiliary submarines, submarine tenders, floating submarine docks, deep submergence vehicles and submarine rescue vehicles throughout the West Coast and Pacific.
It was a glorious moment when two Mighty Mo vessels floated side by side.
Above: Photo taken on 1/29/2018 as the USS Missouri (SSN-780) came into home port in Pearl Harbor and rendered its honors next to the historic Battleship. USS Missouri (BB-63) with a HOOYAH Mighty Mo

Friday, January 12, 2018

The View from Above

The view from the Navigation Bridge (04 Level) and the Open Bridge (05 Level) is eye-opening and magnificent. From here the USS Arizona Memorial can be seen unlike any other viewpoint and the majesty of the 16in guns of turrets 1 and 2 looking over the memorial, protecting those entombed, is unmatched.

View of the harbor from the 05 Level.
(Photo Source: Megan Plaumann)

The Battleship Missouri’s Navigation Bridge has seen 20 Commanding Officers (CO) look out over the bow to the vast oceans of the world remaining steadfast and true to her motto VIS AD LIBERTATEM, meaning Strength for Freedom. From the 04 level these COs have steered the Missouri to the waters of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, to the coast of the Korean peninsula, around the world tours, and to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm. The restoration of the Navigation Bridge and Open Bridge will give our visitors a unique perspective on what happens on the bridge of a U.S. Navy warship.

CAPT Callaghan on the bridge of the Missouri during the summer 1944 shakedown period.
(Photo Source: USN Photo, USNHC # 80-ZG-K-4600)

CAPT Kaiss takes a break on the starboard bridge wing during initial weapons trials in 1985.
(Photo Source: USS Missouri Cruise Book 1985-1986)

The restoration of the Navigation Bridge, which includes the Chart House, Captain’s At-Sea Cabin, Pilot House and Conning Tower, and the Open Bridge on the 05 Level, was an ongoing project over the course of 2017 that involved many departments here at the Battleship Missouri. The Curatorial Department was in charge of restoring and displaying the bridge as historically accurate as possible based on primary sources from the 1980s and 1990s. It was decided that the bridge would look and sound as it did when the Missouri entered Pearl Harbor for the 50th Anniversary of the attack on the Hawaiian Islands.

Using Cruise Books from our collection, and the knowledge and expertise of prior crewmembers such as CAPT A.L. Kaiss (first and last CO of the second commissioning era) and CAPT Ken Jordan (XO during the second commissioning era), we were able to recreate the 1991 look and feel of the Navigation Bridge. We also sought first-hand knowledge from the Harbor Pilots at Pearl Harbor on the procedures ships follow when entering port.

Left to right, LT Watt, LTJG Reese, LTJG Russell, and LT Jaech, 1987.
(Photo Source: USS Missouri Cruise Book 1987-1988)

The Navigation Bridge and the Open Bridge will have new exhibit text panels featuring four languages, English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, making the Battleship Missouri Memorial one of the first museums in the state of Hawaii to incorporate four languages on exhibit text panels. This space will also incorporate an immersive audio experience, recorded with the help of active duty Sailors, which will allow visitors a glimpse into what it might have sounded like on the Navigation Bridge when the ship entered port.

 We hope that our visitors will enjoy the restored Navigation Bridge and Open Bridge, and that they will leave having learned something new about life aboard a battleship.

Written by guest author Megan Plaumann, Project Manager for the historical restoration of the Navigation Bridge, Curatorial Department

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 A Year in Review

What a year it’s been! Join us as we look back on some of the mighty milestones that happened at the Battleship Missouri Memorial in 2017!

Living History Day: Celebrating the anniversary week of the USS Missouri’s launching in 1944, Living History Day provides an opportunity to invite the local community for a sun-filled day of fun and history. Welcoming over 200 participants in 2017, this event includes band performances, vendor learning booths and even a General MacArthur presentation in the ship’s Captain’s Cabin. Free admission was offered to Hawaii residents and members of the Armed Forces.

Superstructure Preservation - January also kicked off our Superstructure preservation project, the biggest preservation effort since the Missouri’s dry docking in 2010. This one year project helped to restore and preserve the ship’s superstructure from damaged and rusted metal. With a price tag of 3.5 million dollars, over 25,000 man hours logged, 17,000 pounds of steel replaced and 700 gallons of paint used, we have our visitors to thank.  Through the purchase of tickets to tour the Mighty Mo, we were able to fund this project, a necessary preservation effort that helps preserve the historic Mighty Mo for generations to come.

Picnic on the Pier - In June we kicked off our Summer Picnic Series with a twisted finale in August. The June event welcomed The Fresh Preps who provided a super fun evening just before the Father’s Day weekend with some fun rock and roll tunes. In July, we hosted our annual 4th of July Picnic with over 1,500 guests in attendance. Patriotic fireworks lit up the skies over Pearl Harbor as we celebrated America’s Independence Day! New to the Mighty Mo, was a Silent Disco hosted for our August event on the Fantail of the Battleship – it was such a success that we plan to hold one again in 2018.


Overseas - During the fall, we participated in an overseas effort visiting many cities in Japan and including the Mamoru Shigemitsu Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Yamato Museum. The trip culminated in the city of Nagaoka where the Battleship Missouri Memorial returned a Yamamoto flag that once flew over the Battleship Nagato. This flag symbolizes a hope for our future and reminds us not to forget the past.
From the Mamoru Shigemitsu Museum, historic artifacts were exchanged that had ties to the landmark ceremony and lasting friendship that evolved following the wars conclusion.  

USS Indianapolis Screening - In August, a team of civilian researchers led by Microsoft co-found, Paul Allen, discovered the USS Indianapolis wreckage on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, 18,000 feet below the water’s surface. The discovery brings closure to one of the most tragic maritime disasters in U.S. naval history.  The Battleship Missouri Memorial was honored to host a special screening of USS Indianapolis: The Legacy, a film directed and produced by Sara Vladic and Melanie Johnson. The screening welcomed nearly 300 guests who came to learn the historic tragedy USS Indianapolis and her crew. A story that needs to be told and shared to honor those that endured the horrific experience firsthand. Special guests included the producers and John Woolston, a survivor of the USS Indianapolis who welcomed a Q & A Panel with the audience after the film was over.

End of WWII Commemoration - Come September, we celebrated the 72nd anniversary of the End of World War II on September 2, 2017.  A beautiful morning ceremony on the ship’s Fantail. The ceremony started exactly at 9:02am aboard the historic Mighty Mo, the same time that the formal ceremonies began on that day in 1945. This year’s theme honored the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal. Free and open to the public, we had the honor of welcoming keynote speaker, Lieutenant General David H. Berger, Commander, US Marine Corps Force Pacific.

Veterans Day - In November, we held our special Veterans Day Sunset Ceremony on board the Battleship Missouri. The ceremony honored all veterans and held special tribute woman veterans of all generations. Jacqueline Ashwell, Superintendent for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, served as our Distinguished Guest Speaker with Rear Admiral Alma M. Grocki, USN (Ret.) providing the opening address. Our keynote speaker was Colonel Kara A. Gormont, Commander, 15th Medical Group JBPHH.  


Monday, November 20, 2017

Veterans Day Sunset Ceremony

Veterans Day observances across our nation came to a close with a sunset ceremony held on-board the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

This year’s ceremony featured a special tribute to women veterans both past and present who served in our Armed Forces. The theme, “Honoring Our Brave Women Veterans of All Generations” recognizes the vast contributions our women veterans have made to ensure America’s freedom, dates back to the American War of Independence. Currently, women veterans represent more than two million of our total veteran population nationwide.
“The importance of women serving our armed forces has grown in stature through the years and with each battle,” said Michael Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, caretaker of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. “The achievements of our women veterans have helped to make the U.S. Military one of the most diverse organizations in America.”

Every year, the Battleship Missouri Memorial honors and pay homage to all those that have served and are serving for the United States of America not only on Veterans Day but every day. It is important that we never forget the men and woman that fought for our freedom.

Surrounded by the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor, our Veterans Day sunset ceremony included a moment of silence to remember America’s fallen heroes followed by the playing of Taps by the 25th Infantry Division Band.

USS Missouri Veteran Spotlight: Art C. Albert Sr.
Born in Hattisburg, Missouri, Art is currently 90 years young. He was in the engineering department on the USS Missouri (BB-63). Art Albert is an original USS Missouri crewmember and World War II veteran, who witnessed the Surrender Ceremony onboard the Mighty Mo 72 years go. Albert served on the Missouri for four years, and retired from the Navy over 50 years ago. He has visited the ship many times since then.
"It's just like when you're away from home and then you go back, (the Missouri) was home to me," Albert said. "I left home and the ship was my first home away from home."
Art is one of few crewmembers that continue to come to the Battleship Missouri for our annual End of WWII Commemoration Ceremony and our organization cannot thank him enough for his involvement even after the Missouri’s retirement.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Happy Birthday U.S. Navy!

This year the United States Navy turned 242 years old, and though we usually talk about many of the famous Sailors who have served our nation or famous battles that took place, this year we want to focus on how the Navy came into being. For that, we have to go back to the year 1775 when the Navy was first created. The Navy can trace its heritage back to the Continental Navy that was set up during the American Revolution.
On 12 June 1775 Rhode Island became the first colony to create its own Navy of armed ships to protect its coasts from the British. It was from their example that the need for a strong Navy became obvious in order to protect the colonies. Thus, on 13 October 1775 the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution for the creation of the Continental Navy and Congress authorized the building of thirteen frigates to help protect the newly forming Republic. In 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed and the American Revolutionary War was over and by 1785 the Continental Navy was disbanded.

After the American Revolution, the founding fathers met in Philadelphia for what has become known as the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It was at this meeting that the U.S. Constitution was written. While writing the document, many officials believed that having a standing Army was a trait of a monarchy which they used to enforce their rule over the people. The founding fathers did not want this to happen in the newly established United States so they put restrictions in the Constitution regarding the Army, but were confident that a strong Navy would only benefit the country. Constitution Article 1, Section 8 Clause 12 and 13 states, “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy.” So it is from the Constitution that our current Navy truly stems from, but without the success of the Continental Navy, our current Navy would never have become what it is today.
The U.S. Navy has a long and proud history in the U.S. and we wouldn’t be the same country we are today without their Honor, Courage, and Commitment to our great nation. Knowing their history and heritage helps us as citizens to better understand our nation and what our founding fathers wanted this country to become.
Fair winds and following seas!
Author: Megan Plaumann (Archival Assistant)

Friday, September 15, 2017

72nd Anniversary of the End of WWII- Highlighting Harry's Violin

In May 1954, a collection of 50 musical instruments was donated to the Bayonne Public Library by Joseph Keinath. The collection included a violin with catalog records indicating that it had belonged to Harry William Ware, Gunners Mate Second Class (GM2/c), Gunnery Department, 8th Division. GM2/cWare was present aboard Missouri to witness the Surrender Ceremony in Toky o Bay that formally ended World War II. 
On January 20, 2017, the Ware violin was sent to Jaroslaw Powichrowski of Princeton Violins for conservation. He replaced missing strings and keys, tuned the violin and provided a period violin case to protect the instrument during storage and transportation.
On February 7, 2017, the Board of Trustees of the Bayonne Public Library & Cultural Center voted unanimously to send the Ware violin to the Battleship Missouri Memorial in Hawaii on indefinite loan so that visitors to the Pearl Harbor could see the violin on display in the officers’ Wardroom where it had originally been played during evening meals and other occasions.
After conservation efforts were completed, Jarek Powichrowski played the Ware violin on the evening of Saturday, February 25, 2017, and it had retained its deep rich beautiful sound!
Gerard Nowicki, a Vice President for JPMorgan Chase in Bayonne, New Jersey, who initially recognized the significance of the violin and contacted our curator, hand carried the violin to Pearl Harbor in time for our September 2 commemoration this year. 
Saturday, September 2, 2017, The ceremony started at 9:02AM; the very same time the surrender deck was signed. With clear skies, the ceremony also highlighted the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Guadacanal.