From the Sea to the Desert

Four Iowa-class battleships were built during World War II including the USS Missouri, the keel of which was laid on January 6, 1941, at Brooklyn Navy Yard. Her armament included a main battery of nine 16 inch guns and twenty 5 inch anti-aircraft guns.

There were five mounts on each side with two guns in each. When she was modernized in the 1980’s four of the mounts were removed and were replaced by Tomahawk missile launchers, leaving only 12 now.

This has led to a tenuous connection between the great vessel and the state of Nevada.

The Missouri was launched January 29, 1944, and commissioned June 11, 1944. She was assigned to the Pacific Third Fleet and steamed into Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve 1944.

The USS Missouri was part of the force that carried out bombing raids over Tokyo and provided firepower in during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. During the war’s final month, the “Mighty Mo” served as Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s flagship for the Pacific Third Fleet.

The Mighty Mo secured its place in history as the site of Japan’s unconditional surrender September 2, 1945, thus ending World War II. The ceremony for the signing of the surrender was conducted by General Douglas MacArthur.

But her story does not end there.

The Mighty Mo’s main battery firepower became a legend in Korea, with her nine 16 inch guns hurling 1,800-pound shells as heavy as Volkswagens over 23 miles in defense of U.S. land forces at Inchon. Nearly thirty years would  pass before her next return to active duty.

In 1955, the Missouri was decommissioned and mothballed at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. However in 1986, the USS Missouri was recommissioned after undergoing an extensive modernization and refurbishment.

In 1991, the Mighty Mo was deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. The Missouri’s final operational mission occurred December 7, 1991, when the battleship led the way into Pearl Harbor marking the 50th anniversary of the attack that dragged America into World War II.

The Missouri was decommissioned for a second time in 1992 and was struck from the Navy’s ship registry three years later. By August 1996, the Navy had approved the USS Missouri Memorial Association as caretaker for the battleship and Pearl Harbor as its final resting place – making it official May 4, 1998.

At present, the Mighty Mo’s U.S. Naval Gun Factory 355 resides at Nevada’s Hawthorne Army Depot, where much of the older material’s taken from the vessel during modernization has been stored and is currently being turned into scrap metal. Factory 355 holds its own place in U.S. history – as it bore witness to the formal surrender of Japan.

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