The USS Missouri is coming home.
After a final day at sea on Sunday, she'll take her
place near the USS Arizona. There they'll rest,
one vanquished, one victorious, both paying
eternal tribute to those who served,
and those who died
By Gregg K. Kakesako
They represent the Mighty Mo's three generations, ranging from World War II and ending with the gulf war, and they plan to "man the rails" during the battleship's public opening here in September.
Calling the USS Missouri "a national treasure," Navy Secretary John Dalton said the permanent docking of the 887-foot Iowa-class battleship at Pearl Harbor is "a fitting tribute to those who served in the Second World War."
The Navy chose Pearl Harbor based on the concept of battleship "bookends:" the USS Arizona on one end memorializing Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor; the USS Missouri on the other with its teak decks, site of the Japanese surrender.
Dalton noted that the addition of Missouri to Pearl Harbor "will provide a moving perspective on how the American people rally from adversity and ultimately prevail."
'Manning the rails'What is "Manning the rails"?
A Navy tradition in which a ship's crew
assembles on deck in dress whites, standing
at attention at the rails that encircle the deck.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, instrumental in the vigorous four-year campaign to bring the Missouri to Hawaii, has maintained that the "only proper place for its last mooring was Pearl Harbor, as a memorial to those who sailed in harm's way."
But the victory came among controversy and dissent from mainland Missouri veterans, many of whom complained that Hawaii was too far for them to travel.
A fierce unsuccessful battle also was waged by Washington state politicians unhappy to lose the Missouri from its homeport of 43 years. There also was initial resistance from the National Park Service, which manages operations at the USS Arizona Memorial and was concerned that "the quiet contemplative" atmosphere where 1,177 servicemen are entombed would be affected.
The 58,000-ton battlewagon swings past Diamond Head on Sunday for a final afternoon at sea, full of pride and glory. It will carry all these sentiments and much more as it heads home Monday into the quiet waters of the Pearl Harbor channel.
World War IIWhen Jiro Yukimura, then a newly commissioned lieutenant, was assigned to the Army's public relations office to assist American war correspondents in 1945, he knew "something momentous was going to take place."
It did, and Yukimura -- a nisei from Kauai -- and two mainland Japanese Americans were granted the rare privilege of being on the deck of the USS Missouri when Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the formal documents of surrender in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
A member of the Military Intelligence Service, Yukimura, now 77, had been serving in the Allied Translator and Intelligence Service in Brisbane since 1944, translating captured Japanese documents for Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
In October 1944, MacArthur moved his headquarters to Manila. That's where Yukimura and two other Japanese-American soldiers -- Noby Yoshimura and Tom Sakamoto of California -- drew the public relations assignments and, ultimately, a place on the teak deck of the "Mighty Mo" in Tokyo Bay.
"We started early in the morning," Yukimura recalled. "It was a somber day. I recall planes flying overhead. We boarded a destroyer in Yokohama and went over to the Missouri, which was parked in Tokyo Bay.
"The ceremony wasn't very long. It was held at a simple table. General McArthur was in his usual attire with his corn-cob pipe... (Japan Foreign Minister Mamoru) Shigemitsu was lame and had to walk with a cane and with the help of an aide."
The USS Missouri (BB-63) was the last battleship built to completion, even though the USS Wisconsin had a higher hull number (BB-64) and construction was started nearly three weeks after Missouri's keel was laid.
Did you Mo?
The ceremony was held on the second deck of the Missouri, just starboard of the No. 2 gun turret at 9 in the morning.
Before the ceremony, Yukimura recalled, "there was an immediate sense of relief" as events unfolded and it became obvious Japan planned to surrender.
Yukimura, just two years out of Kauai High School, had been attending the University of Hawaii studying sociology when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He had joined the Hawaii Territorial Guard but because he was of Japanese ancestry, was discharged on Feb. 19, 1942.
Source: "Battleship Missouri" by Paul Stillwell
The Missouri takes shape in July 3, 1942. The diagonal
tubes are two of the ship's eight boilers.
A year later, he enlisted in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and was sent to Camp Shelby in Mississippi. Like other young Japanese Americans, "I was just waiting to be given the opportunity, the chance to prove myself, and I took it."
Because of his language skills, he was accepted into the Military Intelligence Service and sent to Camp Savage in Minnesota for intensive Japanese language and military training.
After the war, Yukimura returned to UH, where he enrolled in the graduate program in sociology and met his future bride, Jennie Yoshioka. After they wed in 1948, he returned to Kauai to work and raise five children: three sons and two daughters. One of them is the former mayor of Kauai -- JoAnn Yukimura.
Korean WarLate in 1952 off the coast of North Korea, Jack Stempick received the jolt of his life. To this day, he can't forget it.
"The call went out to prepare for a broadside," said Stempick, who now lives in Hamden, Conn. "A broadside is when all nine of the Missouri's 16-inch guns, its five twin 5-inch, 38-caliber guns are fired at the same time.
Photo Courtesy of Jiro Yukimura
Jiro Yukimura, a member of the Military Intelligence Service
in World War II, shows off a transport plane
in Tokyo in late 1945.
"You feel like everything is going to break up," said Stempick, who served for two years during that war as a gunner's mate in turret two of Missouri's 16-inch, 50-caliber guns.
"You prepare, but hell you never know what it's going to be like until it happens... then everything lights up."
That may have been the only time the Missouri fired such a large salvo, mused Stempick, who worked in the turret closest to the "surrender deck" from 1952 to 1954. He believes the Navy may have been trying to pinpoint mobile North Korean shore batteries that were kept in tunnels and periodically rolled out to shell Allied positions.
Photo Courtesy of Patrick Allen
Temperatures in the USS Missouri's engine room often
topped 100 degrees. "It was rough," said Patrick Allen.
He was as a machinist's mate aboard the Mo
during the Persian Gulf War.
Returning to the United States after the war, the Missouri encountered a South Pacific typhoon, Stempick recalled. "The waves were higher than the ship."
"I never saw water like that. At one point I was in the turret and looking out through its periscope and I saw a destroyer sitting on the top of (the) wave and I could see its propellers spinning... and then it disappeared."
Now 66, Stempick said those memories remain as vivid as the colored map one of his shipmates painted on the port walls of another gun turret.
In 1986, after the Missouri was commissioned for the second time, Stempick went aboard in Long Beach. "There's a water tank there where a chief gunner's mate had painted a four-foot-high map of Korea, Japan... "
Persian Gulf WarIt was a "Mighty Mo" golden moment that the Navy brass would like to forget. But a decade ago, a scantily clad Cher cavorted on the decks and 16-inch guns of the battleship in her provocative music video, "If I Could Turn Back Time."
And Patrick Allen, now an Army helicopter mechanic at Schofield Barracks, remembers it all.
"I was 19 then," said Allen, now 28, "and it was the thing to watch. She was wearing that skimpy outfit... It left almost nothing to the imagination. The tattooes on her rear end were showing.
"And then she got on the barrel of one of those 16-inch guns and started to ride it."
Allen, who served on the Missouri throughout his three-year Navy career, still remembers Cher, her band and her limo pulling up to the Long Beach pier where the ship was berthed. "They must have spent several days shooting that video," said Allen, "but a huge part was cut out.
"They had set up a scene that had a guy back in the 1940s reading a letter and remembering. There were old cars parked on the dock and there was a lot of smoke, but all that got cut out."
A gigantic beach party is planned for Father's Day June 21 when the "Mighty Mo" arrives here, the USS Missouri Memorial Association said.
'Aloha Mighty Mo' party hits the beach Sunday
Gov. Ben Cayetano and Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris will host the "Aloha Mighty Mo" party, which will begin at 3 p.m. on Magic Island, with the official greeting to start an hour later at a stage at the Diamond Head end of the peninsula.
Hawaii Air National Guard F-15 jet fighters are expected to add to the celebration with a flyover.
The 887-foot battleship, which left Astoria, Ore., on June 3, is already past the halfway mark to Hawaii and is expected to cross Diamond Head at noon, June 21.
The Missouri had spent eight days in the Columbia River's fresh water near Astoria to kill saltwater organisms that had accumulated on its hull while mothballed for the past six years in the Puget Sound Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash.
On Sunday, the Mighty Mo will make two passes under tow in front of Waikiki before heading south and mooring outside Honolulu's shipping lanes for the night. It will be brought into Pearl Harbor and its final berth at Ford Island about 8 a.m. next Monday.
For the next six months, the Missouri will be refurbished in anticipation of a formal opening as a floating museum in January.
As a machinist's mate in the Missouri's No. 2 steam engine room, Allen recalled, the temperature climbed to more than 100 degrees. "It was hot. It was rough."
During the 1991 gulf war, he said, the 58,000-ton battleship fired 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
"I think the Wisconsin fired the first Tomahawk," he said. "The whole gulf was lit up. There was nothing but missiles."
The crew of the Missouri also was involved in clearing the Persian Gulf of mines. "We must have exploded 15 floating mines."
Photo Courtesy of Jiro Yukimura
From left, Jiro Yukimura, Noby Yoshimura and Tom Sakamoto
gathered in Bremerton, Wash., in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of
the signing of the articles of surrender aboard the USS Missouri.
The three were aboard Mo in Yokohama Bay to witness the actual
signing of the documents in 1945.
At one point during the war, the Iraqis launched a Silkworm missile at the Missouri.
"The call went out -- 'All hands brace for a shock!' -- but it was shot down by the British. It landed about 700 yards in front of us, which was still quite a shock."
Allen, who still has the Navy-blue ball cap from his Missouri tour, plans to "man the rails" with members of the USS Missouri Association in September when the battleship has its first public opening in its new life.
"I had a beautiful time on the ship," Allen said. "There were a lot of heartwarming years."
Follow the USS Missouri online
as she heads for home at: