Monday, June 22, 1998

USS Missouri, home at last


By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
The USS Missouri enters Pearl Harbor this morning
heading for its berth at Foxtrot 5, a 1,000-foot-long concrete
pier built in 1990 (at the top of the photo).

Missouri’s arrival
at Pearl Harbor is
‘finally a reality’

By Gregg K. Kakesako


THE Mighty Mo is finally home.

When the USS Missouri slid into "Battleship Row" at Ford Island today under sunny skies and a colorful double rainbow, it carried with it Navy history, tradition and great expectations.

"It's finally a reality," said Honolulu attorney Michael Lilly, a naval reserve captain, shortly after the Missouri -- America's last battlewagon -- entered the Pearl Harbor channel.

As the 54-year-old ship moved its last two miles to its final berth, volunteer line handlers hoisted signal flags on the ship's superstructure that spelled out "Mighty Mo," "BB-63" and "Reporting for Duty."

The historic ship was met by three Navy tugs as it entered the channel shortly after 8:35 a.m., a little behind schedule. More than 500 people, in some places four deep, lined the channel entrance fronting the Hickam Officers Club.

The rainbows arched over Iroquois Point on the opposite side of the channel as the Missouri approached the club, where the USS Missouri Memorial Association hosted a welcome-home breakfast.

"What a historical event," proclaimed Mayor Jeremy Harris. "This is a special time in the history of Honolulu. This is not a monument to peace; this is a living piece of history and a vital part of our economy."

Gov. Ben Cayetano added, "This is truly a great day for the state of Hawaii."

In his remarks, Ed Carter, association chairman, used the podium to express the group's gratitude to U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who, he said, "took us through the rocks and shoals of the political arena."

At the Hickam club, kids on rollerblades and two-wheel bikes mingled with service men and women in uniform.

Across the channel, along the sandy beaches of Iroquois Point, another hundred people, some sitting on beach chairs and blankets, watched as the Missouri completed its 2,600-mile journey from the Pacific Northwest.

The first to arrive at Hickam Air Force Base this morning for a good view was the Spencer family of Trenton, Mich., which had centered its monthlong vacation around the Missouri activities.

"I got here early because I wanted to get a front-row seat," said Ray Spencer, 74, who arrived about 5:30 a.m. with son Randy, daughter-in-law Donna and grandchildren Randy Jr. and Courtney. "This is a historical event, and I wanted to be a part of it."

Spencer also was in Waikiki yesterday when the Missouri arrived. "It just gave me shivers down my spine."

By Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Bulletin
Warner "Kimo" Sutton and others stand for the national
anthem as the USS Missouri passed Ford Island this morning.

Also at the mouth of the Pearl Harbor channel when the sun rose this morning were the Fullers of Ewa Beach. Toni Fuller and her three daughters -- Laurie, 19, Kathy, 16, and Lisa, 14 -- brought their beach chairs and lined them up in front of the Hickam Officers Club.

Fuller said she brought her family down because "I think it's a piece of history. It's a monument to the men who served in the war."

After being commissioned and decommissioned twice, the USS Missouri -- with 16-inch guns, the largest ever placed on a Navy surface vessel -- will finally come to rest in the placid waters of Pearl Harbor.

Launched in 1944, the 887-foot dreadnought became the platform for Japan's surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945.

Serving as a bookend to America's war in the Pacific, the 58,000-ton vessel will face the remains of the battleship USS Arizona, sunk during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack which began the war on a peaceful Hawaiian dawn.

For the next three years, the Missouri will be berthed at Foxtrot 5, the 1,000-foot concrete pier built in 1990 when initial plans called for the ship to be stationed at Pearl Harbor.

By 2001, the Mighty Mo will move farther down the Pearl Harbor channel to new piers near the remains of the battleship California, which also was sunk in 1941.

Ironically, the Missouri's final mooring will be near the spot where it first joined the Pacific Fleet on Christmas Eve 1944, six months after being launched from the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn.

"There's a little lump in my throat," said Navy journalist Scott Thornbloom, who was stationed aboard the Missouri from 1989 until 1992, as he watched the gray battleship pass Diamond Head just after noon yesterday.

Thornbloom was among more than 100 people aboard the Navatek II greeting the massive battleship as it completed its 18-day Pacific crossing and sailed into waters off Oahu.

A flotilla of several hundred sailboats, power boats and even hardy souls on Jet Skis skimmed the 3-foot swells more than two miles off Diamond Head and Waikiki.

Nearby, on the Navy's "Slice" ocean research vessel, was Henry Walker Jr., former head of Amfac/

JMB Hawaii, who served as a lieutenant junior grade on the Missouri when the Japanese surrendered in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.

Carter, a retired Naval reserve commander, told yesterday's Magic Island homecoming crowd of nearly 20,000 that the "legacy of the Missouri" is not just the surrender of the Japanese that marked the end of World War II, but "the beginning of a new era of peace and cooperation in the Pacific."

Said Cayetano yesterday about the saga of the Missouri, a veteran of three wars, "It tells a story that war is destructive and inhumane and our ultimate goal should be peace."

Earlier yesterday at daybreak, Roy Yee, president of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, and his wife, Andre, drove to the Blow Hole lookout near Makapuu Point to catch a first glimpse of the battleship as it came over the horizon, shrouded by a misting rain.

"This ship will possess you. I guarantee it. It has possessed me, obviously," said Yee, one of the people also responsible for getting the Missouri to Hawaii.

Missouri supporters expect the ship will become a major visitor attraction, creating at least 40 new jobs and pumping $25 million into the state's struggling economy annually, Yee said.

For the first three years, visitors will be shuttled by buses from a site near the USS Arizona Memorial until new piers and a fleet of tours boats are acquired.

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USS Missouri, home at last

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Jennie Yukimura takes a picture of her huband, Jiro,
and granddaughter, Maile Wehrheim, 14, to preserve the
moment. Jiro was aboard the Missouri during the
surrender ceremony in 1945.

Kauai man saw big
‘Mo’ment that ended war

Yukimura was Hawaii's only
Japanese American to see the
treaty's signing

By Susan Kreifels


Jiro Yukimura is a modest man. He never makes much of the fact that he stood less than 50 feet away from Douglas MacArthur when the famous general penned the peace treaty aboard the battleship Missouri that ended the war with Japan.

Even buddies serving with Yukimura in the Army's Military Intelligence Service didn't know.

But as the Mighty Mo sailed into Pearl Harbor today, no matter how low-key the Kauai man tried to remain, folks wanted to shake the hand of the only known Japanese American from Hawaii to witness the historic event.

That included Walter Lassen, a 33-year Maui resident, who was an original Missouri crew member.

"How can you know about me?" Yukimura asked, as Lassen shook his hand and hugged him.

"I remember when you came aboard," said Lassen, 80, a man who, his family says, is equally modest about his war-time experiences. "You're the man from Kauai. We're still here. We're lucky to have people from the surrender ceremony. This is a good meeting."

Yukimura seemed overwhelmed with the attention at Hickam Air Force Base this morning from elected officials, military members, veterans and onlookers in the crowd.

He wants no fuss made over him. What happened in war, Yukimura believes, is mostly chance and luck.

"Everything that happened to us was fortuitous -- you didn't question it," the 77-year-old Yukimura said, quietly referring to his buddies who didn't come home from the war. "Many of us are gone."

He has mixed emotions about the heavy publicity of the Missouri's arrival. The signing of the treaty didn't bring the lasting peace MacArthur then said the ship symbolized.

Only a few years later, the Missouri was at battle again in Korea. Most recently, in 1991, it was in the Persian Gulf war.

"Unfortunately the world has not learned the lessons of World War II. We still have to resort to warfare to settle differences."

Yukimura sees other irony in the hoopla connected to the Missouri's arrival. "I'm afraid that what it represents to many leaders of the community is the money it will bring," he said, referring to the boost Hawaii could get in its sagging tourism.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Ron Lassen greets Yukimura at the Hickam Officers Club.
Lassen was a chief gunner's mate on the Missouri
at the time of the surrender.

But he believes that Pearl Harbor is the best resting place for the famous battleship. "This is where the war started and it ended on the Missouri," Yukimura said. "The pieces are here."

In 1945, Yukimura was a newly commissioned lieutenant assigned to the Army's public relations office to assist U.S. war correspondents.

When he was sent to Japan from the Philippines, he didn't know he would witness the signing of the peace treaty at 8:55 a.m. on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay. Neither did the two mainland Japanese Americans also assigned to the duty with him.

With Yukimura at Missouri ceremonies yesterday and today was his 14-year-old granddaughter, Maile Wehrheim, who four years ago wrote a school report about his experiences in the war.

"I think it's cool he's being recognized for it," Maile said as she pored over a map of the Missouri's deck and pinpointed where her grandfather stood. "But he's not making a big deal out of it. He's really modest.

"Grandpa doesn't talk much about it. It must have been difficult. They were like the only Japanese on the American side."

Lassen's son was equally proud of his father, who was a chief gunner's mate aboard the Missouri at its commissioning and stayed aboard six months after the war. "I've always wanted to hear his war stories," said Christian Lassen, a Hawaii artist.

"Fifty years later, I'm here to witness it coming back to Hawaii. It's a privilege."

Two military men who served aboard the Missouri during the Persian Gulf war were excited to meet Yukimura yesterday.

"You were one of the lucky ones," said Patrick Allen, an Army helicopter mechanic at Schofield Barracks.

Allen, who has "Missouri" tattooed on his arm, served aboard the battleship during a stint in the Navy.

"How did MacArthur look?" Allen asked, repeating a common question to Yukimura.

Although he stood beside the famous general but briefly, Yukimura developed high regard for MacArthur. The veteran warns his military buddies to go lightly on "my general" when they criticize MacArthur for being too egotistic.

"In spite of people criticizing MacArthur for being pompous, the ceremony itself was very austere," Yukimura said.

"As I remember it, he didn't castigate the Japanese government. He was very conciliatory."

A handful of Yukimura's Military Intelligence Service buddies used yesterday's Missouri arrival to reunite for the first time in some five years. The five nisei reflected on the end of the war and their part in the long battle.

Takeo Nagamori, 79, said the nisei translators played a valuable role in the war because they could understand the Japanese soldiers, who felt shame in being taken prisoners rather than dying.

George Yamamoto, 80, caused brief laughter when he described his job processing Japanese prisoners of war as "goofy."

He interviewed Taiwanese laborers, Filipino conspirators, Korean "comfort women" who were forced to be prostitutes for the Japanese military -- but few Japanese.

Harry Tanaka, 77, said the prisoner he most remembered was a well-educated second lieutenant who helped them make leaflets to convince Japanese soldiers to surrender.

"He said there had been nothing to eat, no oil for the rifles. He knew they were going to lose," Tanaka said. "He said some of us have to stay alive to rebuild Japan."

They all had feared the Americans would have to invade Japan.

They felt horror and sorrow over the atom bombs and Tokyo fire bombings, wondering if any relatives had been incinerated in the attacks.

"The people were suffering. The food was scarce," Yukimura said. When he flew over Hiroshima after an atom bomb devasted most of the city, "I was not accustomed to the shock of such destruction."

The Missouri "should symbolize, if anything, peace on earth," Yukimura reflected. "Going through the atom bombs should have ended all wars."

USS Missouri, home at last

Mighty Mo: The
biggest show in town

'I can't remember anything as exciting
as this,' says a longtime Missouri buff

By Craig Gima
and Susan Kreifels


RANDALL King, his wife and three daughters sat on beach chairs and a blanket looking up to the sky at Magic Island, their faces alternately glowing red, white and blue from the light of fireworks exploding overhead.

Last night's show capped a day of activities as Hawaii welcomed America's last battleship, the USS Missouri, to her final home port.

As the fireworks lit up the sky, the battleship faded into the night, headed out to sea and out of shipping lanes before entering Pearl Harbor this morning.

From Ala Moana, spectators got a last glimpse of the ship at sunset yesterday, framed against a red-purple sky as the Royal Hawaiian Band played "God Bless America" and "Hawaii Pono'i."

"Mom asked me what I wanted to do for Father's Day, and I said, 'Let's go out and see the Mighty Mo,'" said King, a civilian engineer at Pearl Harbor, who wore a top hat covered with American flags.

From Kailua Beach to Ala Moana, fathers brought their children to the beach to see the Missouri in open waters for the last time.

"There's a lot of history behind the boat, although the kids may not know it yet," said Keith Guerney as he helped brother-in-law Noah Auna launch Auna's 19-foot boat, the "Glass Ark," at the Maunalua Bay boat ramp yesterday morning.

Auna and his two sons, and Guerney and his son joined the flotilla of private boats following the Missouri as it rounded Koko Head to Diamond Head and Waikiki.

Michael Guerney, 6, was clearly excited about seeing the Missouri up close. "It's cool," he said. "I want to see the Mighty Mo because it's so huge."

But his 13-year-old cousin Noel was less thrilled. "I want to fish; I don't want to see the boat."

Kaneohe Marine Master Sgt. Mark Dufresne brought his children to Fort DeRussy beach to view the battleship.

Sons Cody, 9, and Cole, 7, seemed more interested in running around the beach than in the ship offshore.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Jet fighters did a flyby over the USS Missouri
yesterday afternoon as it passed Magic Island.

But 12-year-old daughter Cheyenne was impressed by the Mighty Mo. "It's pretty big," she noted.

With his family at Fort DeRussy beach, Randy Espinoza, 17, thought it was "nice" to see the Missouri. But it was his father, Chief Warrant Officer Pat Espinoza, a Navy man for 21 years, who really enjoyed the day.

Seeing the Missouri brings out feelings of pride and patriotism, said Espinoza. "I really can't put it in words. Internally, it just means something to me."

People clapped and cheered as the Missouri passed, said Chief Warrant Officer Howard Houska, who followed the battleship from Kapiolani Park to DeRussy beach with his wife, Nancy, and daughter Brynn, 3.

"I can't remember anything as exciting as this," said Houska, who has been a Missouri buff since he was a child growing up near St. Louis and built a model of the ship.

"This is the first time I've ever laid eyes on it," he said.

Both his father and his wife's father fought in the Pacific in World War II until the Japanese surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri.

"If the treaty hadn't been signed in time, we both might not be here," he said.

Patrick Allen, who served aboard the Missouri during the Persian Gulf war, came to Magic Island to see the battleship. He believes it is appropriate for the ship to be placed next to the Arizona Memorial.

"For the guys who were here during the bombing, it puts their hearts and souls to rest," he said. "It puts the souls of the USS Arizona to rest.... We won it in the end."

At the USS Missouri Memorial Association tent, people learned a bit of the ship's history and about the plans to put it on display. At another tent the Chamber of Commerce sold T-shirts and hats for $20.

Richard Kawamoto bought hats and key chains for his sons to remember the day the Missouri arrived. "It's the last time you guys will see it in the water," he told Ren and Sean.

Police estimated about 10,000 people were at Ala Moana Beach Park to watch the fireworks show, down from about 20,000 at the peak of the day's festivities.

Though cloudy skies and rain kept the crowds down, those who came out for the Mighty Mo agreed on the experience.

Said Janet Yoda, who brought husband Kelvin and 16-year-old daughter Valerie, "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

USS Missouri, home at last

Mo's first island visit was
in 1944 on Christmas Eve

The USS Missouri's first visit to Honolulu was on Christmas Eve 1944 when it arrived to join the Third Fleet in the Pacific.

It was last here in December 1991 for ceremonies observing the 50th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

Among other visits, it:

Bullet Left Pearl Harbor Sept. 19, 1986, on a round-the-world cruise in a show of U.S. military might.

Bullet Participated in 1988 and 1990 RimPac exercises with personnel, aircraft and ships from other nations. The monthlong military maneuvers gave the crew a chance to vacation in Hawaii.

Bullet Spent Thanksgiving 1990 at Pearl Harbor after it was diverted from a six-month Western Pacific cruise, to join forces in the Persian Gulf war where it arrived a few days into 1991.

Bullet Arrived at Pearl Harbor May 3, 1991, returning to the United States from the Mideast.

Inouye remained in D.C. to vote

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, one of the prime movers in getting the Mighty Mo to Hawaii, had to skip yesterday's welcome because he didn't want to miss a crucial vote in the U.S. Senate today: the confirmation of Honolulu attorney Susan Oki Mollway, 47, as a U.S. District judge.

Mollway's appointment, sponsored by Inouye, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee April 30 -- 28 months after she was nominated by President Bill Clinton.

British take part in arrival activity

Fifty-five members of the British Pacific and East Indies Fleets attended the Magic Island ceremony yesterday.

"Oh, lovely, this is just smashing," said Kathleen Saxby, a women who served with Great Britain's fleet in World War II.The British group also held a private ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial and presented a plaque to the U.S. Navy.

Barbara Ford reminded people that the British were aboard the Missouri as well during the signing of the peace treaty.

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