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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

VJ Day and its National Significance

VJ Day stands for “Victory over Japan Day.” On the afternoon of August 15, 1945, the Empire of Japan made the announcement of its surrender. While August 15th is the official VJ Day, September 2nd is when the official signing of the surrender documents happened on board the Battleship Missouri (BB-63), officially ending the deadliest war of our time. 

As the nation found out about their victory, it rejoiced- “as if joy had been rationed and saved up for the three years, eight months, and seven days since the Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.” Countless photographs were taken this day, including the very famous, “Kissing Sailor in Times Square.” Shot August 14th 1945, shortly after the much anticipated announcement by President Truman. This image is strongly associated with VJ Day, capturing the sincere joy as a symbol of victory in the war.
The famous photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt tells a bigger story than one might think. George Mendosa a sailor who was 22 at the time of this photograph is seen kissing a “nurse”, while his date, shown smiling on his left looks on.  The “nurse” who is actually a dental assistant is Greta Zimmer, a complete stranger George decided to plant an unexpected smooch on after a couple drinks and hearing of the news of the Japanese surrender. Later as luck would have it, Rita Petry (the onlooker) would become his wife.

Images from this day were taken all around the United States reflecting pure exhilaration and a giant sense of relief.

During the 50th anniversary of VJ Day, President Bill Clinton referred not to VJ Day but to the “End of the Pacific War” in the official remembrance ceremonies. These remarks sparked much controversy as some thought it to be insensitive for the Veterans of WWII.

Here at the Battleship Missouri Memorial, we are fortunate to have the iconic VJ Day kissing statue on our pier. This statue symbolizes VJ Day 3 weeks prior to the official signing of the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945.

Often imitated but never duplicated because we will never know the exact genuine happiness of what these two strangers felt in that moment.

“Lest We Forget.” We honor those that fought for America not only today, but every day.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Admiral Roscoe Henry Hillenkoetter: Pearl Harbor Survivor to CIA Director

There were twenty commanding officers of the USS Missouri during the course of her career as an active ship. Three of them served as commanding officer twice, one witnessed the signing of the Instruments of Surrender, and one went on to be the first director of the CIA. 

Admiral Roscoe Henry Hillenkoetter wanted to be a baseball player when he grew up, but his appointment to the Naval Academy changed the course of his life. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri on May 8, 1897 and graduated from the United States Naval Academy, class of 1920. In 1918, during WWI, he served as a Midshipman on the USS Minnesota (BB-22) earning him the WWI Victory Medal. In 1932 he was sent to Nicaragua where he served during the Banana Wars and specifically the Second Nicaraguan Campaign. He was there to help facilitate with the elections happening in Nicaragua at the time. For his actions in Nicaragua he was presented the Nicaraguan Medal of Merit.

Later in the 1930s Hillenkoetter served at the American Embassy in Paris as an Assistant Naval Attaché, and in 1940 was appointed as the Naval Attaché in Vichy, France. His time in France is where he really developed his knowledge of Naval Intelligence. One interesting story of Hillenkoetter’s time as attaché took place not long after the Nazi’s marched into France. Hillenkoetter and assistant to the American Ambassador , Robert Murphy were instructed by Ambassador William Bullitt to pay a formal visit to the German Provisional military governor, Generalleutnant Bogislav von Studnitz. As luck would have it, Generalleutnant von Studnitz set up his headquarters at a hotel across the street from the U.S. Embassy. Hillenkoetter and Murphy had only been expecting to meet with the Generalleutnant for a few minutes, but to the benefit of the Americans, the general had previously ordered champagne from the Crillion’s excellent cellars and was in a mood to answer all the questions the military and naval attachés had. Hillenkoetter was able to use the intelligence gathered from Generalleutnant von Studnitz to help the allies before the U.S. had entered the war.

In the summer of 1941 Hillenkoetter left France and joined the crew of the USS West Virginia (BB-48) as Executive Officer. Ironically, he and his fellow sailors and military service members were the first to be impacted by America’s fractured intelligence apparatus, because the USS West Virginia was in port at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On that fateful day the USS West Virginia was moored outboard of the USS Tennessee (BB-43) at berth F-6. Since the USS West Virginia was moored outboard the ship was hit badly by Japanese torpedoes and only through the courageous and quick actions of the West Virginia crew was the ship prevented from capsizing like the USS Oklahoma (BB-37). Hillenkoetter was the most senior surviving crewmember of the West Virginia and received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the attack.

In October 1945 Hillenkoetter assumed command of the USS Missouri (BB-63), the famed surrender ship. In the spring of 1946 the Missouri was chosen for a diplomatic assignment to Turkey to repatriate the body of Ambassador Mehmet Munir Ertegun. Ambassador Ertegun had passed away in 1944 while posted in the U.S. but due to the war it was unsafe to return him any sooner. Normally a cruiser would be chosen for this type of mission, but the Missouri, being one of the largest battleships ever built by the U.S. and the surrender ship, showed the strength of the U.S. to the Eastern European countries. Not only was the Missouri to repatriate the Ambassador, but the U.S. government had intended to demonstrate the U.S.’s resolve against communism. During this cruise the ship visited Istanbul, Athens, Rome and Algeria. While on board the Missouri the crew drew a picture of him riding on a magic carpet, which we proudly house in our museum collection.

In 1947 Hillenkoetter was appointed the first director of the newly established C.I.A., where he served for three years. When the Korean War broke out in June 1950 he decided to return to active duty. Hillenkoetter was given command of Cruiser Division One, with his flagship being the USS St. Paul (CA-73). While serving in the Korean War he commanded the naval gunfire which covered the South Korean advance up the east coast almost to China; then commanded the Marine evacuation southward again from Wonsan and Hungnam; and later commanded the Navy’s recapture of Seoul’s west coast outlet, the port of Inchon.  Hillenkoetter served as the Commander of Cruiser Division 1 in the Pacific from October 1950—August 1951. He was promoted to Vice Admiral on April 9, 1956 and served as Inspector General of the Navy until his retirement on May 1, 1957. After his retirement he was on the board of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena from 1957-1962. Hillenkoetter died on June 18, 1982 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Admiral Hillenkoetter’s naval career was out of the ordinary in many ways. He fought in three wars, served as an attaché in France during a crucial time, survived one of the most devastating blows to the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, and had the opportunity to set up the CIA which has helped to keep the U.S. safe from international threats for the past 70 years. Though he was only on the USS Missouri for a short while, his legacy will continue to inspire others who visit the famous surrender ship through our exhibit dedicated to him on the second deck.

By guest blogger: Megan Plaumann, Archival Assistant 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Schools Out, But the Learning Doesn’t Stop!

On June 17, 2017 the voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa arrived home at Magic Island after her 3 year epic voyage around the world.

The Hōkūleʻa - our Star of Gladness, is a double-hull voyaging canoe that was built to sail the seas the same way that the ancient Polynesians navigated and voyaged years ago.  After it was launched in 1975, crewmembers from the Polynesian Voyaging Society set sail for Tahiti from Maui on May 1, 1976.

From the time that she was built and launched in the 1970s, the Hōkūle’a continues to bring people together from all walks of life. She is more than a voyaging canoe—she represents the common desire shared by the people of Hawaii, the Pacific, and the World to protect our most cherished values and places from disappearing.

As the Battleship Missouri floats in the Hawaiian waters as well, the two vessels share an unconventional relationship and morale. Both vessels resemble a drive and purpose for those that cherish the beauty of sea voyage. They symbolize courage and peace for those that took on the mission to sail on them and approached different parts of the world in efforts of peace and new relationships.

The Battleship Missouri Memorial welcomes fourth grade students to take park in an interactive learning experience with its Journey with the Stars program.

The program includes pre-visit and post-visit materials and lesson plans for classroom teachers to use to help enrich the museum experience. Participation in this astronomy and history based program includes an engaging and interactive museum visit with a planetarium experience, hands-on practice with current GPS technology, observation and application of traditional celestial navigation tools,  and an overview of the discovery and settlement of Polynesia and the Polynesian Islands.

Participation in this program provides students with a greater understanding of Hawaiian history, celestial navigation and stellar astronomy, and the use of current technology for aquatic navigation. Throughout the lesson, students demonstrate critical thinking skills in math, science, language arts, history, and public speaking.

To schedule this program click below:

The potential of bringing the Hōkūleʻa into Pearl Harbor would be a very momentous and
unforgettable experience beyond our wildest dreams.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

A mix of Logic, Tradition and Romance

She fought three wars and ended one. She is the mother to over 2,000 sailors at a single time. She is the Mighty Mo. Ever wonder why ships are always referred to with a feminine pronoun?

The exact reason why is lost to history… However, a mixture of logic, tradition and romance make a good case on why a ship- and more specifically the Battleship Missouri- are always referred to as a Lady.  Here we share some of our findings, may they be fact or fiction, we hope you enjoy this little taste of history.
The above, a very infamous and chauvinistic quote often posted in the wardrooms of many U.S. Navy ships is a well-known explanation that is more than often brought up as the answer – regardless of its accuracy. Despite the offensive descriptions, the ship is relatable to a woman’s characteristics.
One other simple explanation is that the gender of the Latin word for “ship” — Navis — is feminine.
Nevertheless, people generally agree on the more romantic notion of the ‘ship as a she’ phenomenon: that it stems from the tradition of boat-owners, typically and historically male, naming their vessels after significant women in their lives — wives, sweethearts and mothers. Similarly, and more broadly, ships were once dedicated to goddesses, and later also to mortal women of national or historic significance, thereby bestowing a benevolent feminine spirit on the vessels that would carry seafarers across treacherous oceans. Likewise, people of the past have compared a ship to those nurturing characteristics of a mother. As a ship is a vessel to its sailors, a mother is a vessel to her child, naturally making a ship the mother to her sailors.
The practice of naming boats and ships after women continues today, although certainly not exclusively, as does the habit of feminizing our sailing vessels.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Labor of Love

Caring for the long-term future of America’s last battleship as its foremost priority, the USS Missouri Memorial Association has initiated many preservation efforts since the organization was entrusted with her care in 1998.

Now 25 years out of service, we can assure you that preserving this historic battleship for future generations has been an ‘all hands on deck’ effort.  Here are a few of our most memorable preservation projects.

Dry Dock
Back in 2009, a three-month, $18 million preservation effort began with an approximate two-mile journey from Pier Foxtrot 5 to dry dock in the Pearl Harbor shipyard at 6:50 a.m. The process took more than 11 hours from casting off the pier to entering Dry dock 4 and required a full evacuation of water from the facility. By sunset, the battleship's formidable hull was visible outside of the water for the first time since 1992, when she was last dry docked just after her second and final decommissioning.

BAE Systems Ship Repair workers performed maintenance and preservation work on the battleship with approximately more than 200 workers a day.

The ship’s next dry dock is currently anticipated for 2030.

World Map Mural
Time and the elements took its toll on the World Map Mural in the Wardroom of the USS Missouri. Determined to restore the mural to its former glory, the USS Missouri Memorial Association and Pace Art Conservation, LLC began a process that took 276.5 man hours to complete.

The mural was originally painted in 1945, during the voyage back to the United States after the Japanese surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri ending World War II.  The map was extended in the post-1945 restorations to incorporate the Missouri’s subsequent voyages, which necessitated the expansion of the map to include the entire circumference of the earth.

Newly restored, it can still be seen in the Wardroom for our guests to study for many years to come.

Our biggest project of 2017 is the Superstructure Preservation Project. This grandeur project three years in the planning is scheduled for completion this September following 32 weeks of repair and preservation work. With a price tag of $3 million, the repair and preservation of the superstructure is the largest and most expensive project undertaken by the Association since the battleship was placed into dry dock more than seven years ago.

An estimated 17,000 pounds of steel is being replaced as well as sandblasting nearly 27,000 square feet of steel due to corrosion. The superstructure will be completely repainted with protective coatings and the addition of a rainwater drainage system will support the long-term preservation efforts.

In addition to the repair and preservation work, the Association is installing replicas of two SLQ-32 electronic warfare antennas, as well as a radome involved in the operation of remotely piloted aircraft back onto the superstructure. With the installation of these prominent items, the Association will take a major step to meeting its historical preservation goal of restoring the USS Missouri to its overall appearance on December 7, 1991.

 In Memory
Restoration of the ship to its at service state simply would not be possible without the generous help and support of her former crew.  We want to acknowledge Herb Fahr, Jr.  who served aboard Missouri from 1954 to 1955 as an Engine Man (Diesel), Petty Officer 2nd class (END2), with the Engineering Department’s A Division working out of Aft Diesel. Herb was among Missouri’s first decommissioning crew.

With the USS Missouri (BB63) Association of former crewmembers, Herb served variously as Newsletter Editor, Corresponding Secretary, Membership Chairman, Vice-President and Reunion Chairman and President from 1997 to 2000. In those roles, Herb became a vital link between former crew and the USS Missouri Memorial Association, continuously assisting with restoration projects, putting our restoration teams in touch with former crew who could advise about function and appearance of individual compartments being restored, making possible their authentic, accurate restoration and presentation.

Herb’s contribution, as well as those of all former crew who have, and continue to share their memories and knowledge of Battleship Missouri, have been the critical factor in our accurate restoration of Battleship Missouri.

Herb Fahr, Jr. passed away in 2015. We will always remember.
All hands on deck as they say- it is the Labor of Love for the USS Missouri that she still stands proud and strong in the waters of Pearl Harbor even after 73 years after her initial commissioning.

“Preservation work that has to be done to ensure the USS Missouri is being properly maintained so that future generations can better appreciate its impact on world history,” said Michael A. Carr, President and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association.

The Association, a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, has funded most projects entirely on its own, mainly through ticket sales from guests touring the battleship and donations.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Crew's Room

The newly renovated Crew’s Room was opened late last year. The Crew’s Room serves as a dedication to all former crewmembers of the USS Missouri and is open to all guests of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. It is a reflection of the crewmembers’ experiences and showcases the keepsakes they saved in remembrance of their time aboard.

With an emphasis on preservation, the exhibit’s focus is as seen from the perspectives and personal experiences of those who constructed and served aboard the battleship from World War II through Operation Desert Storm.
The Crew's Room utilizes historic images, video and personal “keepsakes” to illustrate and enliven the story of the world’s last active-service battleship as seen through the eyes and remembered by the three generations of Americans who worked and lived aboard.

It is designed to offer visitors a clearer understanding and personal appreciation for the experience of life at sea, far from home, in times of war and peace. By the use of and focus on a careful selection of personal keepsakes donated by former crewmembers, visitors gain their own personal insight into the nature and significance of personal experience and remembrance, and a more intimate and meaningful appreciation of history.

Here are a few examples of artifacts found in the our Crew’s Room.

Program booklet for the Commissioning ceremony of USS Missouri in New York kept by S1c Stephen Pahulick, Commissioning Plankowner who served in 4th Division, Gunnery Department.

“Buster” Campbell, ship’s baker, wrote to his wife about the surrender ceremony that he watched, with camera in hand, from his vantage point in the starboard rangefinder window of turret 2 overlooking the surrender table. 

    The “souvenir of the signing of the surrender…” was provided to Pearl Harbor shipyard workers during Missouri’s stop in Hawaii enroute home from Tokyo Bay. The small piece of teak is from the deck where the surrender was signed.

Ensign John C. Barron of 2nd Division, kept this and other radio communications as vivid reminders of his war-time service abroad Missouri. Note: this original radiogram includes the abbreviated term for “Japanese” that was used in communications during the war-time propaganda, and was increasingly used in language as a racial slur. It is included here as historical reference only.

WT1c Ernest “Ernie” Thompson of B Division, found time in the midst of war to file down a stainless steel nut into this ring, a keepsake he kept as a reminder of his service aboard Missouri during World War II.

MM3 Patrick Allen, a member of M Division, spent most of his waking hours in #2 Engine Room. This letter home gives a taste of his life at sea aboard Missouri in the midst of Operation Desert Storm.