Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Return of the Mo

On this day, 29 years ago, the USS Missouri was recommissioned for the second time. The United States suffered from a sequence of events during the 1970s creating a perception that the country was weak. In response, a program was established to build a six hundred ship fleet, led by Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman. The entire project to modernize and reactivate the USS Missouri cost nearly 475 million dollars which is over four times her original cost during World War II.

Captain Lee Kaiss was reported to be the commanding officer of the USS Missouri.  On September 12, 1985, the first crew members moved onto the ship and got acquainted with her by working in stages. As time went on, the crew members developed a feeling of pride and ownership of the Mighty Mo. To display their pride, bumper stickers were made, one of the most popular being, “Battleship Sailors Do It with 16-inchers.” Bumper stickers were found in a variety of places-the shipyard, on trucks, cranes and buildings. Captain Kaiss supported his crew’s spirit and educated them by sharing the ship’s story and history. He would also remind them that, “Missouri sailors walked six inches taller than anyone else.” 

The newly modernized and freshly painted Missouri steamed into San Francisco on May 6, 1986. The recommissioning ceremony took place four days later at pier thirty-two, just near the Oakland Bay Bridge. Approximately twelve thousand spectators joined the event as the crew members lined up alongside the ship. Standing on the Surrender Deck was Captain Kaiss and several politicians who took part in the ceremony.

As Captain Kaiss concluded his speech, the crew members ran across the ship’s brow. They were found manning the main deck, climbing ladders to the decks of the superstructure while others disappeared inside of the Missouri. As the audience continued to face the Mighty Mo, her 16 inch guns and 5 inch guns turned towards them and rose to maximum elevation. The Tomahawk missiles were placed in their firing position and her Vulcan/Phalanx close-in weapon system began to rotate. The Missouri had officially returned.

Today, the USS Missouri Memorial Association serves as her caretaker with the support of daily visitors, volunteers and donors. Although no longer an active ship, she continues to serve as a symbol of peace, honor and strength. So whether you lived it, learned it or seen it, #sharemore. 

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