Unfortunately, my Hawaii trip ended up being affected by the United States Federal Government shutdown earlier this month. One of the things I was looking most forward to visiting on the island of Oahu was the USS Arizona Memorial which is the final resting place of 1,102 sailors and marines that were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Arizona is of course a National Park Service site and so it was shuttered the moment the shutdown went into effect. And to add salt to the wound, the Federal Government reopened on our last day there (no, we didn’t try to go as it would have been a logistical mess).
Thankfully, at least one historic site on Ford Island was still operating due to its non-profit status-the USS Missouri. It was the last battleship built by the United States and was the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II. In the war’s Pacific Theater she fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa (two of the bloodiest battles during the war) and even went on to fight in the Korean War as well as providing fire support decades later during Operation Desert Storm (the latter after she was reactivated and modernized).
One of the neatest things we learned on the 30 minute guided tour (afterwards you could tour the confines of the ship for as long as you wanted) was the story of a kamikaze on April 11, 1945 (suicide attacks by pilots from the Empire of Japan against Allied targets in the Pacific). The pilot was flying low and although he was fired on by the crew of the Missouri, he ended up crashing on the starboard side, just below the main deck level. A gasoline fire ended up starting as a result of the crash. The ship only sustained minimal damage as the fire was quickly brought under control. The remains of the pilot ended up being recovered on board the ship and the captain of the Missouri decided that the Japanese pilot should be given a military funeral. He felt that the pilot had done his job and with honor and so he was buried at sea. Some time later, Allied soldiers decided to locate the family of the Japanese pilot. They were successful in their efforts in letting his family know that he had died heroically and with honor. They shared photos of the pilot as well as a tidbit that ever since he had been a little boy he had always wanted to fly a plane.
The USS Missouri was incredible to tour ranging from the seeing the frightening gun barrels for how INCREDIBLY large they were to the “coffins” (the areas where men slept) to even seeing the mundane things like the post office and dentist office. Battleships were truly incredible and one of the most monumental reminders of past times.
-Its length is 887. 2 feet (270.4m) with a height of 209’8″ (63.9m) from keel to mast top
-During World War II, it was the home of 134 officers and 2400 enlisted
-It’s capable of carrying up to 32 Tomahawk Anti-Surface or Land Attack missiles and up to 16 Harpoon anti-surface missiles
-In the main gun battery the rate of fire was two rounds per minute, per gun
-Its displacement is 45,000 TONS
Tips for visiting