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World War II: USS Missouri (BB-63)

Ordered on June 20, 1940, USS Missouri (BB-63) was the fourth ship of the Iowa-class of battleships.


  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: New York Navy Yard
  • Laid Down: January 6, 1941
  • Launched: January 29, 1944
  • Commissioned: June 11, 1944
  • Fate: Museum Ship at Pearl Harbor, HI


  • Displacement: 45,000 tons
  • Length: 887 ft., 3 in.
  • Beam: 108 ft. 2 in.
  • Draft: 28 ft. 11 in.
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Complement: 2,700 men

Armament (1944)


  • 9 x 16 in. (406 mm) 50 cal. Mark 7 guns (3 turrets of 3 guns each)
  • 20 × 5 in. (127 mm) 38 cal. Mark 12 guns
  • 80 x 40 mm 56 cal. anti-aircraft guns
  • 49 x 20 mm 70 cal. anti-aircraft guns

Design & Construction

Intended as “fast battleships” capable of serving as escorts for the new Essex-class aircraft carriers then being designed, the Iowas were longer and faster than the earlier North Carolina and South Dakota-classes. Laid down at the New York Navy Yard on January 6, 1941, work on Missouri proceeded through the early years of World War II. As the importance of aircraft carriers increased, the US Navy shifted its building priorities to those Essex-class ships then under construction.Black and white photo of the USS Iowa taken in the 1940s.

As a result, Missouri was not launched until January 29, 1944. Christened by Margaret Truman, the daughter of then-Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, the ship moved to the fitting out piers for completion. Missouri‘s armament centered on nine Mark 7 16″ guns which were mounted in three triple turrets. These were supplemented by 20 5″ guns, 80 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns, and 49 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns. Completed by mid-1944, the battleship was commissioned on June 11 with Captain William M. Callaghan in command. It was the last battleship commissioned by the US Navy.

Joining the Fleet

Steaming out of New York, Missouri completed its sea trials and then conducted battle training in the Chesapeake Bay. This done, the battleship departed Norfolk on November 11, 1944, and, after a stop in San Francisco to be fitted out as fleet flagship, arrived at Pearl Harbor on December 24. Assigned to Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Missouri soon departed for Ulithi where it was attached to the screening force for the carrier USS Lexington (CV-16). In February 1945, Missouri sailed with TF58 when it began launching airstrikes against the Japanese home islands.

Turning south, the battleship arrived off Iwo Jima where it provided direct fire support for the landings on February 19. Re-assigned to protect USS Yorktown (CV-10), Missouri and TF58 returned to the waters off Japan in early March where the battleship downed four Japanese aircraft. Later that month, Missouri struck at targets on Okinawa in support of Allied operations on the island. While offshore, the ship was struck by a Japanese kamikaze, however, the damage inflicted was largely superficial. Transferred to Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s Third Fleet, Missouri became the admiral’s flagship on May 18.

Japanese Surrender

Moving north, the battleship again struck targets on Okinawa before Halsey’s ships shifted their attention to Kyushu, Japan. Enduring a typhoon, Third Fleet spent June and July hitting targets across Japan, with aircraft striking the Inland Sea and the surface ships bombarding shore targets. With the surrender of Japan, Missouri entered Tokyo Bay with other Allied ships on August 29. Selected to host the surrender ceremony, Allied commanders, led by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur received the Japanese delegation aboard Missouri on September 2, 1945.


With the surrender concluded, Halsey transferred his flag to South Dakota and Missouri was ordered to aid in bringing home American servicemen as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Completing this mission, the ship transited the Panama Canal and took part in Navy Day celebrations in New York where it was boarded by President Harry S. Truman. Following a brief refit in early 1946, the ship undertook a goodwill tour of the Mediterranean before sailing to Rio de Janeiro in August 1947, to bring the Truman family back to the US after the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Hemisphere Peace and Security.

Korean War

At Truman’s personal request, the battleship was not deactivated along with the other Iowa-class ships as a part of the postwar downsizing of the navy. Following a grounding incident in 1950, Missouri was sent to the Far East to aid United Nations troops in Korea. Fulfilling a shore bombardment role, the battleship also aided in screening US carriers in the area. In December 1950, Missouri moved into position to provide naval gunfire support during the evacuation of Hungnam. Returning to the US for a refit in early 1951, it resumed its duties off Korea in October 1952. After five months in the war zone, Missouri sailed for Norfolk. In the summer of 1953, the battleship served as the flagship for the US Naval Academy’s midshipman training cruise. Sailing to Lisbon and Cherbourg, the voyage was the only time the four Iowa-class battleships cruised together.

Reactivation & Modernization

Upon its return, Missouri was prepared for mothballs and was placed in storage at Bremerton, WA in February 1955. In the 1980s, the ship and its sisters received new life as part of the Reagan Administration’s 600-ship navy initiative. Recalled from the reserve fleet, Missouri underwent a massive overhaul which saw the installation of four MK 141 quad cell missile launchers, eight Armored Box Launchers for Tomahawk cruise missiles, and four Phalanx CIWS guns. In addition, the ship was fitted with the latest electronics and combat control systems. The ship was formally recommissioned on May 10, 1986, in San Francisco, CA.

Gulf War

The next year, it traveled to the Persian Gulf to aid in Operation Earnest Will where it escorted re-flagged Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Straits of Hormuz. After several routine assignments, the ship returned to the Middle East in January 1991 and played an active role in Operation Desert Storm. Arriving in the Persian Gulf on January 3, Missouri joined coalition naval forces. With the beginning of Operation Desert Storm on January 17, the battleship commenced launching Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi targets. Twelve days later, Missouri moved inshore and used its 16″ guns to shell an Iraqi command and control facility near the Saudi Arabia-Kuwait border. Over the next several days, the battleship, along with its sister, USS Wisconsin (BB-64) attacked Iraqi beach defenses as well as targets near Khafji.

Moving north on February 23, Missouri continued striking targets ashore as part of the coalition amphibious feint against the Kuwaiti coast. In the course of the operation, the Iraqis fired two HY-2 Silkworm missiles at the battleship, neither of which found their target. As military operations ashore moved out of range of Missouri‘s guns, the battleship commenced patrolling the northern Persian Gulf. Remaining on station through the armistice of February 28, it finally departed the region on March 21. Following stops in Australia, Missouri arrived at Pearl Harbor the following month and played a role in the ceremonies honoring the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack that December.

Final Days

With the conclusion of the Cold War and the end of the threat posed by the Soviet Union, Missouri was decommissioned at Long Beach, CA on March 31, 1992. Returned to Bremerton, the battleship was struck from the Naval Vessel Register three years later. Though groups in Puget Sound desired to keep Missouri there as a museum ship, the US Navy elected to have the battleship placed in Pearl Harbor where it would serve as a symbol of the end of World War II. Towed to Hawaii in 1998, it was moored next to Ford Island and the remains of USS Arizona (BB-39). A year later, Missouri it opened as a museum ship.


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