Dream comes true
as Mo arrives
Roy Yee has been workingBy Gregg K. Kakesako
for 14 years to have the ship
brought to Hawaii
Todd Yee was only 5 when his father began his quest.
Yesterday, 14 years later Todd stood proudly by his father's side on the bridge of the Mighty Mo as Roy Yee saw his quest turn into reality.
From its halyards, the crew of the USS Missouri flew signal flags indicating that it was "reporting for duty" as the battleship began the last two miles of its final voyage from the mouth of the Pearl Harbor channel to Foxtrot 5 -- 1,000-foot concrete pier near Ford Island's "Battleship Row."
Since 1984, Yee has been involved in first trying to get the Navy to home-port the 887-foot Missouri at Pearl Harbor when it was part of the Pacific Fleet, but that drive fizzled when the Cold War ended and the Missouri was decommissioned in 1992. Three years later, Yee again took up the crusade again when the Navy struck the Missouri from its registry of active duty vessels making it available for donation.
It all came together yesterday morning when the Missouri under tow finally docked at Ford Island.
"I felt great to have my son with me," Yee said, "since it was such a historic event."
This was also something -- a dream -- Yee said he was glad to have shared with his son.
"That's what fathers and sons should do."
Yee and his son joined the 30 volunteer line handlers who boarded the Missouri yesterday morning just before it began the final leg of its 2,600-mile journey from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where it has been part of the Navy's mothball fleet for much of its career.
For three years, the 54-year-old battleship will be moored at Foxtrot 5 while the nonprofit USS Missouri Memorial Association, of which Yee serves as president, builds permanent facilities a little farther down the channel.
During that time, the battleship -- a veteran of three wars -- will be upgraded and refurbished as it becomes a floating, interactive museum, said Don Hess, the association's vice president.
"We hope to start working on the teak flooring, which covers the main deck, in about a month," said Hess, a retired Navy captain who has skippered a cruiser and a destroyer, as he gave the news media a brief tour a few hours after the Missouri docked yesterday.
"We want to do that concurrently with the painting."
All of the original teak flooring was replaced before the ship was commissioned for the second time in 1986, Hess said.
Catch USS Missouri online at:
Hess hopes to have the main deck and the 01 Deck one level above -- more commonly known as the surrender deck where the Japanese ended World War II on Sept. 2, 1945 -- refinished by the time the Missouri opens to the public in January.
"Structurally she is very, very sound," Hess said.
For the 18-day Pacific voyage from Astoria, the Missouri was sealed to make it watertight.
Hess hopes to be able to recondition at least 50 percent of the inside of the battleship, which spans three football fields.
"There's not much reason to open up more than that," Hess said.
Lots of the work will be done by volunteers, Hess said, which seem to be a ready commodity at least for now.
"When we put out the word for handlers to bring the ship in," Hess said, "we got more than 140 volunteers."
Even Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was responsible for shepherding the association's application for the Missouri through Congress and the Pentagon, yesterday said he would be available "to help scrape off old paint."
So far, Hess said the association has been able to recover the ship's bell that was located in the Naval Museum in Washington, D.C.
It is also looking for deck logs, missing plaques and other artifacts.
Eventually, the association may seek the table where the surrender documents were signed from the Navy Academy at Annapolis or the Navy Museum.
Yee said: "First and foremost, the Missouri always will be a museum and then a visitor attraction. However, we still have to pay our bills, and it is the visitors who will do that."
When the Missouri museum opens in January, tickets are expected to range between $10 and $12 a person.
Volunteers with Missouri histories
can make museum a success
'I believe the Missouri belongsBy Harold Morse
next to the Arizona'
Henry Walker Jr., a 23-year-old lieutenant junior grade aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, gazed upon the surrender ceremony from the overhead navigation bridge, 15 feet over the table where the documents were signed.
"I was alone hanging from the navigation bridge, because I was on watch and plugged into the communications central of the ship," Walker recalled.
Before the ceremony, Walker had been the only witness to a brief meeting in the Missouri wardroom between Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who had just come aboard from the starboard side; Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who had just boarded from the port side; and Adm. William "Bull" Halsey, whose flagship was the Missouri.
A half-century later, on Oct. 30, 1996, retired Amfac Inc. chairman Walker donated $25,000 toward bringing the Missouri to Hawaii.
"The donation," he said, "was simply to see what could be done to bring the Missouri here.
"I believe that the Missouri belongs next to the Arizona wherever the Arizona might be."
Walker -- who served aboard the battleship from 1944-46, from the Caroline Islands to Europe and back -- is just one of a number of former Missouri crew members who want to help make the Hawaii berthing a success.
Another is Harold Willenborg, originally from Pawnee, Ill., who spent two summers aboard the Missouri as a midshipman.
"In 1952, we went to Portsmouth, England, and then to Bergen, Norway; and then in 1954, we went to Cherbourg, France," he said. "Then we went down to Lisbon and spent a week in Lisbon, about a week in each port."
Willenborg, who now lives in Kaneohe, is retired. But if a tour guide is needed aboard the Missouri now, he's a volunteer. "I could do that, or I could hand out brochures," he said.
As a third-class midshipman in 1952, he worked at low levels. "I holystoned those (teak) wooden decks," he said. "Then another thing that I've done -- that plaque -- that bronze plaque which marks where the (surrender) was signed by MacArthur, I polished that three or four times."
"I just want to do something for the Missouri," Willenborg said. "I have a sentimental attachment for the ship."
For Walker, one unforgettable experience stands out from many aboard the Mighty Mo.
It was Navy Day, Oct. 27, 1945, and the Missouri was tied up at New York. President Harry Truman, his wife, Bess, and his daughter Margaret were coming aboard. Walker and another young officer were picked to help the trio make the transition from a small boat to a raft next to the gangway.
"The president hopped nimbly from boat to raft," and daughter Margaret did likewise, Walker recalled. "Mrs. Truman was a different thing."
Walker was horrified to see the first lady with one foot on the boat and one on the raft as the raft and boat began to separate. "Her skirt began to ride up over her knees. I clenched her arm above her elbow." Heaving with all his might, he managed to hoist her roughly aboard the raft.
"The president tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Well done, young man.' "
The ship's captain was less complimentary. "Walker, if you would have dropped Mrs. Truman into the Hudson River, I would have had you shot," he later told the embarrassed officer. "And I think he meant it," Walker recalled. "He looked at me hard."
By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Jiro Yukimura showed his wife, Jennie, and his granddaughter,
Maile Wehrheim, 14, the view he had during the signing of the peace
treaty that ended World War II aboard the Missouri yesterday.
The plaque marking the surrender spot was surrounded
by news media and Navy personnel.
Kauai man recalls solemnBy Susan Kreifels
affair of treaty signing
The battleship looked larger than he remembered as it sailed into Pearl Harbor.
And the deck looked smaller as he strolled the weathered teak planks.
But visiting the USS Missouri yesterday, Jiro Yukimura of Kauai clearly remembered the mood and the people crowded aboard the ship on Sept. 2, 1945, when the war with Japan officially ended.
"It was a solemn affair," said Yukimura, 77 and a member of the Army's Military Intelligence Service during World War II.
Yukimura had been assigned to the public relations office to assist the media.
The Missouri has been modified, and Yukimura had to search out the "Dog" area to which he had been assigned. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, corn-cob pipe in mouth, sat just below the railing where Yukimura and about 100 war correspondents witnessed the general sign the peace treaty with Japan.
He remembers Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu was crippled, walking slowly with the help of a cane up the gangplank.
Officers of the Allied forces lined the decks.
It was a short ceremony. No music.
MacArthur wanted the press close by to tell the world to pray that "peace be now restored to the world, and that God will preserve it always."
"It was a very simple ceremony," Yukimura said.
"Everyone felt the way I did. That it was a momentous occasion," Yukimura added.