There’s no mistaking Pier Foxtrot-5 in Pearl Harbor. Even from a
distance, the Battleship Missouri, berthed in that spot, casts an
In Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, six years of bloodshed that spanned
the globe ended in 20 minutes on the Missouri’s teak deck. With her
mammoth guns lowered and silent, Japanese dignitaries and leaders
of the Allied forces signed the Formal Instrument of Surrender at a
cloth-draped table from the ship’s mess hall. World War II was
That momentous event took place a decade before I was born, but
just looking at the Missouri filled me with awe. This is not a
Hollywood prop, I thought. This is a real battleship that engaged
in real combat. This is where history was made.
A formidable floating fortress, there’s no question the Missouri
was built for battle. Phil Lingenfelter, who led my group’s Chief’s
Guided Tour, spouted statistics as easily as if he were reading
items on a grocery list. Launched on Jan. 29, 1944, he told us, the
Mighty MO was an extraordinary feat of engineering housing four
24,400-horsepower turbine engines, 90 miles of piping, 15,000
valves and 900 electric motors.
Nearly three football fields long and 20 stories high, she carried
enough weaponry to level a city. Steel armor more than 17 inches
thick in some areas lined her sides. It was amazing she could
float, let alone carry a crew of 2,800 sailors and marines and skim
the waves at a swift (for her size) 40 mph.
The Missouri served during the last eight months of World War
“She also completed two tours of duty in the Korean conflict and
was deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm in
1991,” Lingenfelter said. “Her current mission is one of
On our hour-long tour, he pointed out the ward room, which
features displays of wartime photos, a scale model of the Missouri
and a History Channel documentary on the ship; the Combat
Engagement Center (CEC), which houses weapons systems used during
Desert Storm; and a dent on the starboard side, the result of a
failed kamikaze attack off Okinawa in April 1945.
We walked through the enlisted men’s sleeping quarters, filled
with bunk beds stacked three high; peeked at “officers’ country,” a
handful of single staterooms reserved for the ship’s top-ranking
officers; and admired the 16-inch guns, which, Lingenfelter said,
“fired projectiles that weighed as much as a small car and could
pulverize a target 23 miles away.”
Every stop conjured up vivid images of life aboard a battleship at
war. I imagined long rows of uniformed troops standing at attention
on deck, the tension in the CEC as missiles were fired and young
men falling asleep with letters from their girlfriends clutched by
We concluded our tour on the Surrender Deck.
“When the unconditional surrender was signed,” said Lingenfelter,
“700 planes flew over the ships in Tokyo Bay in a flyby that was so
low, crew members of the Missouri later said they thought the mast
sections of the ship were going to be scraped.
“As the planes started to turn,” he continued, “the sun broke
through the skies over the bay for the first time that morning,
bathing the scene in light and warmth.
“I guarantee if you were on any of the over 200 ships that were
there, you didn’t doubt for a minute that the worst carnage in
human history had finally come to an end,” Lingenfelter said. “I’ve
told this story many times and seen people cry not just war
veterans, but young people who were born years later. I get choked
up myself because it reminds me of what Missouri symbolizes
freedom, honor, courage, truth, everything we value as
Battleship Missouri Memorial
63 Cowpens St.
Honolulu, HI 96818
The Chief’s Guided Tour is offered on demand between 9 a.m. and
4 p.m., daily, except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Cost is $22 per person; $14 for children ages 4 to 12. Missouri
also offers Explorer’s and AcoustiGuide tours (call for details).
All tours are commissionable and negotiated on an individual
|TIPS FOR VISITING THE MISSOURI|
Security measures prohibit visitors from carrying purses, fanny
packs, backpacks, camera bags, diaper bags or luggage aboard
Missouri. Cameras and camcorders are allowed. A storage facility by
the parking lot fronting the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
is available for visitors’ use from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., daily. Fee
is $3 per bag.
Shuttle buses provide transportation between this lot and the
To avoid crowds, the best time to go is between 9-10 a.m., and
2:30-4 p.m. Wear sunscreen and sturdy, comfortable walking shoes.
Dresses, skirts, platform shoes and high heels are not advisable as
tour goers have to ascend and descend vertical ladders.
Missouri has a lift that can transport wheelchairs and
mobility-impaired guests to the Main Deck where an elevator goes
one level up to the Surrender Deck. The only part of the Chief’s
Guided Tour that’s not handicapped accessible is the Combat
Engagement Center. There are no public restrooms on board.