On the 4th of July we returned to tour the Battleship Missouri since it has been closed the first time we tried. It seemed only fitting that we return on America’s birthday.
Battleships, or at least the one that I’ve now been on, are HUGE. Like, “whoa, that’s huge” huge. We started out with a tour from a very spirited guide who told us all about just how big this boat is. (And he also spent a solid 5 minutes explaining why this is a ship, not a boat, but I don’t think I’ll change my ways of interchanging the two.)
Under the deck is more than 12 inches of steel. The sides of that gun turret are 9 inches thick and the top is 18 inches of solid steel. This thing was made to be indestructible. Our tour guide said they “wanted bombs to explode on the deck”.
The attack at Pearl Harbor was aimed directly at Battleship Row, where all of the U.S. Navy Battleships were tied up. At the time they were the manifestation of U.S. Navy badassery, pretty much. At least they were until all 8 were damaged and 4 sunk on December 7, 1941.
It was pretty obvious from then on that aircraft carriers were the way to go, but that didn’t stop the U.S. from building some more. Only this time they were determined to do it right, so they built a battleship and then encased it in another battleship and sent their floating tank out to war.
Turns out the plan worked pretty well, since the Missouri did indeed survive the war and went on to serve all the way through the Gulf War. But back in WWII the U.S. had one more parting shot for the Japanese by making them come aboard a U.S. battleship (like the many Japan had destroyed) to sign the final surrender of the war.
For me, learning how the surrender went down was one of the most interesting parts of the tour. The table they used was one grabbed from the mess deck which was accidentally put back immediately after, before someone realized it probably should be sent to a museum somewhere. The crew wore their regular work uniforms because it was decided that the war had been fought in their work clothes and so would end that way. No one saluted the Japanese delegation as they boarded. And to top it all off, after the document was signed, 4500 aircraft with bomb bays open flew in formation over the Missouri, a fleet that had been given orders to flatten Tokyo if the Japanese had refused to sign in the end. Good choice, Japan. Good choice.
After the tour ended we were able to wander around the ship for a while on our own. The place has pretty much been turned into a museum, so there is a lot of curated material explaining different parts of the ship. It’s definitely worth the visit if you’re ever in the area.