View Point

By Mark W. Powell

Friday, September 6, 1996

Admit it, Bremerton,
Missouri belongs at Pearl

Editor's note: The U.S. Navy recently decided to move the battleship USS Missouri, site of the signing of Japan's 1945 surrender in World War II, from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Wash., to Pearl Harbor.

SEATTLE - She's big and beautiful, a great tour, great for kids. She wells up the most serious of personal and national memories, and patriotism. Standing over the plaque starboard amidships, where the greatest and most destructive of wars ended, brings tingling awe.

The Missouri has spent most of her life in Bremerton, berthed there after fighting off Korea and again after the 1980s refurbishment and Persian Gulf deployment. As a major tourist attraction she pumps about $2 million yearly into the local economy, and was planned as the centerpiece of a major waterfront redevelopment. Bremerton has reason to want the ship.

But to claim it, for all time, versus Pearl Harbor? Puget Sounders of conscience shouldn't be able to. The logic for resting the Missouri at Pearl Harbor is unavoidable and insuperable. With all respect - a lot - due the Pearl Harbor survivors and American Legionnaires reportedly saying the ship should remain on the U.S. mainland, they're wrong.

Displaying the ship on which we ended World War II in the harbor where we were forced into it, by the nation that later subsequently surrendered on her deck, is so compellingly symmetrical and poetic it's amazing other sites were considered.

Until now Pearl Harbor and its prominent memorials - foremost, the USS Arizona - have symbolized our initial defeat. Yet Pearl Harbor rallied quickly and remained Pacific headquarters as America fought to victory. It also should feature symbols of that victory. The Missouri is the ultimate one.

Her significance there will be deep. The Missouri, juxtaposed with the Arizona and the other wrecks, will embody our national march from surprise-attack defeat to crushing final victory, and there as nowhere else, Admiral Yamamoto's warning against waking the "sleeping giant."

Bremerton will survive as a great naval museum without the Missouri, which may star but hardly occupies the stage south of town alone. A tremendous gallery remains, including carriers, the Missouri's sister, the New Jersey, and others. Turner Joy remains open for tours downtown. That just four Iowa-class battleships exist (Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Wisconsin) also militates spreading the historic wealth.

The New Jersey, Wisconsin and Iowa - all with fine global service records but lacking a great historic event such as the Japanese surrender - should eventually take permanent rest where they have the most relevance and/or appeal. Perhaps, as with Massachusetts at Fall River and Alabama at Mobile, that will be to the shores of their namesake states. (The Jersey shore has many suitable places. Wisconsin and Iowa would have to get up the St. Lawrence and Mississippi, respectively.) But the Missouri, by virtue of its special day in history, belongs permanently at Pearl Harbor.

Shame on those bemoaning Bremerton's loss and Pearl Harbor's gain, wanting the ship at Bremerton just because it's nice to have and a cash cow. Mighty Mo belongs at Pearl Harbor; the very patriotism she inspires tells us so.

Mark W. Powell, of Seattle, is a freelance columnist.
The opinions in View Point columns are the authors' and are
not necessarily shared by the Star-Bulletin.

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