Wednesday, June 17, 1998

Missouri crew plan
mighty celebration

The USS Missouri Association will
hold its convention in Hawaii
following the battleship's arrival

By Gregg K. Kakesako


More than 15,000 men served on the "Mighty Mo" during the 54 years the battleship was a member of the Navy.

Close to 400 of them and other members of the American Battleship Association will make a special trip to Hawaii over this year's Labor Day holiday to participate in the USS Missouri Association's annual convention.

"We're a special breed," said Herbert Fahr, the Missouri group's president.

The 887-foot battleship, now under tow from the mainland, will reach Hawaii on Sunday and be paraded between Diamond Head and Keehi Lagoon before tying up at Ford Island on Monday afternoon.

Part of this year's convention activities will center around a special Pearl Harbor ceremony on Sept. 2 to mark the 53rd anniversary of Japan's surrender, which occurred on the 01-deck of the 58,000-ton battleship in Tokyo Bay.

"We always plan our conventions around that date (the surrender)," Fahr said.

The group also plans to have its band play at the ceremony and have its members "man the rail" -- a tradition that dates back to the American Revolution where sailors stood at attention on the deck of a warship.

The association's members also will be allowed to hold a private memorial service aboard the battlewagon on Sept. 5 to honor their departed shipmates.

Fahr served as an engineman in the Missouri's A-section, where the boat engines, emergency generators, air-conditioning plant, pumps and evaporators for fresh water were housed.

Now a Plainview, N.Y., resident, Fahr was a crew member on the battleship's last cruise before it was decommissioned for the first time in February 1955 after seeing World War II action.

Three decades later, the Missouri was recalled to active duty and went to war in the Persian Gulf in 1991. It was again decommissioned on March 31, 1992, at Long Beach, Calif., then berthed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington until starting its final voyage to Hawaii on May 23.

Fahr, 65, who attended the second decommissioning ceremony in 1992, last visited the Mighty Mo in 1995 during events marking the 50th anniversary of Japan's surrender. "There was more than 600 of us there during our reunion in Seattle."

Initially, the Missouri Association wanted the battleship to remain on the mainland and be permanently berthed in San Francisco.

"When the decision was made and the ship was going to Hawaii, naturally we wanted to stay with the ship," Fahr said. "So we are backing the decision to send it to Hawaii."

Being "a young gung-ho sailor" then, Fahr couldn't recall ever having a bad moment while serving in the Navy.

But his most memorable Missouri moment?

That came in 1954, when the Mighty Mo was used as a training ship for midshipmen of the Naval Academy.

"It was the only time that the four Iowa-class battleships - the Missouri, the New Jersey, the Wisconsin and the Iowa - ever formed up together," he recalled.

"It was impressive, and I still have that picture."

Army Specialist Patrick Allen, who at 28 believes he may be the youngest member of the Missouri alumni association, looks forward to the reunion and "to manning the rails with all the old-timers."

Said Allen, who served on the ship during the Gulf War, "Those were good times."

First appearance
will be in Kalaupapa

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Kalaupapa residents will be the first in Hawaii to see the Mighty Mo this weekend.

It will sail past the tiny Molokai community at 4 p.m. Saturday and will follow the route taken by the Great White Fleet of 1908.

In 1908, the first battlewagon named after the state of Missouri -- Missouri (BB-11), commissioned in 1903 and scrapped in 1919 -- was part of an armada of 16 battleships that was diverted from a worldwide cruise by President Theodore Roosevelt to steam past Kalaupapa.

Roosevelt's order was in response to a request by Brother Joseph Dutton, a Yankee Civil War veteran and successor to Father Damien. Upon passing Kalaupapa, the armada dipped their flags in respect to the colony of Hansen's Disease patients.

On Sept. 19, 1986, the Iowa-class battleship, which now bears the name Missouri (BB-63), re-created the event after being recommissioned in Long Beach. On its teak decks were a few residents from Kalaupapa aboard joining in the salute.

A Kalaupapa resident described it as "a trip of a lifetime and a celebration for a great man."

On Saturday, the Mighty Mo, this time under tow, will pass a mile from the shores of the Molokai community. But it will be the tug Sea Victory, led by Captain Kaare Ogaard, which will dip its colors this time.

After spending the night in the Ka Iwi Channel, the Missouri will first appear on the horizon Sunday morning about nine miles east of Kailua Bay, moving southwesterly along Oahu's coastline crossing Diamond Head at noon.

By 4 p.m., it will be in front of Magic Island, where a joint state and county salute, emceed by Jimmy Borges, will be held. Besides concerts by military and civilian bands and speeches by politicians, the ceremony will include a salute by the Pacific voyaging canoe Hokule'a and a flyover by Hawaii Air National Guard F-15 jet fighters.

After another trek past Waikiki, the Missouri will head south and spend the night outside island shipping lanes until it is towed to Ford Island on Monday morning.

It is expected to tie up at Fox 5 at Ford Island by 1 p.m.

The meaning of Missouri

With excitement building over the "Mighty Mo's" arrival in Hawaii on Sunday and in Pearl Harbor on Monday, the Star-Bulletin asked members of today's military:

"What does the USS Missouri's permanent return to Pearl Harbor mean to you?"


Air Force 1st Sgt. Ron Stepp, 39, from Tennessee, has been in the service for 20 years, in Hawaii for two: "For tradition and the great military presence in Hawaii, it is something to be proud of."

Air Force Pvt. Jason Humbel, 23, of Columbus, Ind., has been in the service for four years and in Hawaii for two: "I think it's a good idea to bring it back to Hawaii, and I am glad they are doing it. One of the first things I did when I got here was check out the Arizona Memorial, because my grandfather was stationed here at that time (World War II)."

Army Pvt. Veronica Carroll, 27, from Panama, has been in the service 3 years and in Hawaii for six months: "It's a great historical event that we should all take the opportunity to go visit. I don't know a lot about its history, so we're going to go to learn more about it and just take it all in."

Willie Burris, a retired Army electrician since 1992, originally from New Jersey and has lived in Hawaii for 15 years: "It will give us the opportunity to visit something that is a legend, and I want to be the first to tour it. It's going to draw a lot of tourists to the attraction, just like the Arizona Memorial."

Army Pvt. Alexis Bonet, 31, from Puerto Rico, has been in the service in Hawaii for three years: "It's nice to have it back here, and it represents a big piece of American military history. It shows something that we as Americans created - some of the greatest battleships around."

Army Pvt. Matthew Barr, 28, from Oregon, has been in the service in Hawaii for eight months: "I think that it's nice that it's coming to a place where it deserves to be. There's a lot of history behind it, and to put it along the Arizona (Memorial) makes me feel proud."

Marine Pvt. Mark Zukowski, 32, from Pennsylvania, has been in the service for 12 years and in Hawaii for two: "I think with its part in history, it belongs out here with the Arizona Memorial. There's going to be so much history there."

Petty officer Edward Escobedo, 28, from Texas, has been in the service in Hawaii for eight years: "It's great for the younger generation like me because we've only heard stories about it.

"I know it (the arrival) will be a big occasion for Hawaii."

Asked at Pearl Harbor and at
Moanalua Shopping Center by
Michelle Cournoyer, Star-Bulletin

Follow the USS Missouri online
as she heads for home at: or

E-mail to City Desk

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