Wednesday, January 27, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Randy Lester, left, and Chuck Bradley were two of the
many volunteers who worked on the USS Missouri getting
it ready for its grand opening Friday.

A mighty
day for Mo

After years of work, acres
of steel and thousands of gallons
of paint, the USS Missouri
is ready to take its
public on board

By Gregg Kakesako


Twenty-four-year Navy veteran Les Lancaster keeps a dogeared photo of the battleship Missouri in his car and from time to time glances at it before reporting to work each morning at Ford Island's Foxtrot 5 pier.

"It's a reminder of what she used to look like when I first boarded her in Oregon," said Lancaster, who now heads a full-time staff of 15 that has been chipping, sanding and painting the teakwood decks and the superstructure of the 887-foot battlewagon since June.

For the past six months more than 5,000 volunteers have donated more than 25,000 hours to restore the 55-year-old battleship, according to Don Hess, the USS Missouri Memorial Association's vice president of operations. Hess has personally monitored the progress since March.

When the Mighty Mo was towed into Pearl Harbor on June 22 from Washington's Puget Sound, where it had been in mothballs since 1995, its paint was faded and splotchy, its hull marred with black scrape marks and its decks were cracked and damaged.

All that has changed as the 58,000-ton dreadnought faces its grand opening Friday, the 55th anniversary of the ship's launching at the New York Navy Yard.

55 years of history

Bullet June 1944: Commissioned in New York Naval Shipyard

Bullet Dec 24, 1944: Arrives in Hawaii

Bullet Sept. 2, 1945: Site of Japanese surrender

Bullet 1950: Runs aground in Hampton Roads, Va.

Bullet Aug. 19, 1950: First tour of Korean War

Bullet Aug. 4, 1952: Second tour of Korean War

Bullet Feb. 26, 1955: Mothballed in Puget Sound

Bullet 1971: Named to Register of Historic Places

Bullet June 1986: Recommissioned

Bullet 1991: Assigned to the Persian Gulf

Bullet March 31, 1992: Decommissioned for the second time

Bullet Aug. 21, 1996: USS Missouri Association selected as caretaker

Bullet June 22, 1998: Towed to Pearl Harbor

Bullet Jan. 29, 1999: Ford Island grand opening

Now berthed at Pearl Harbor's battleship row, the Mighty Mo, best known for being the site where Japan surrendered in 1945, is just 100 yards from the USS Arizona, the reminder of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of the Pacific War in 1941.

Hess estimates that more than three acres of vertical steel surfaces and one acre of horizontal steel surfaces have been repainted, using more than 700 gallons of haze gray paint and 500 gallons of deck gray paint, 300 paint rollers and more than 400 paint brushes.

More than 53,000 square feet of teakwood decks have been sanded and refinished, and nearly 25,000 deck plugs have been replaced.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
A miner's lamp and hats on display.

Lancaster, a retired Navy boatswain's mate, said the majority of the work of chipping off the old paint and rust was left to volunteers who came from all walks of life and from all over the globe.

"Some were here just for a vacation," Lancaster said, "and they called us up wanting to work."

"The hardest part was setting everything up," he added, "coordinating the various crews. Everyone who volunteered had to go through a half-hour safety briefing."

Some worked a single four-hour shift, while others spent countless hours on the ship.

Tom Manuel, the association's vice president for administration and finance, said $3.9 million has been spent so far in towing the battlewagon to Hawaii, renovating and preparing it for the opening.

That money was drawn from a $5.5 million line of credit from several local banks, he said.

Nearly $1.7 million has been raised in cash and pledges, Manuel added, with an additional $700,000 contributed in equipment and other materials.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Douglas Kaneshige stretches for the Missouri's bell.

Manuel estimates it will cost close to $3 million annually to maintain Mighty Mo, with expenses ranging from leasing the pier from the Navy, to running the operations of the visitor attraction, to meeting a payroll of more than 30 people.

While the refurbishing work was being done, some 200 volunteers were being trained as tour guides, undergoing 40 hours of academic study, reviewing videotapes and other training.

Like Sharon Funasaki, they will be stationed at various points on the battleship to explain to visitors what they are seeing.

Funasaki's station is on the starboard side of the ship near the No. 3 gun turret, where a Japanese kamikaze pilot slammed into the Missouri on April 16, 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa.

"The impact cut the plane in half, killing the pilot instantly," she said. "The wings tumbled wildly on deck, starting a fire that was extinguished instantly by the crew. The captain of the ship later decided to bury the pilot at sea with full military honors."

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
More than 5,000 volunteers have donated more than 25,000
hours to restore the Missouri. Here, Adriene Engleson, front
right, and Pat Yancik, in stripes, work on the ship's teak deck

As Funasaki completes her presentation she points to places on the starboard side of the ship, which still bears the dents from that attack 54 years ago.

Only the wardroom, which served as the dining room for the officers of the Missouri, and the officer staterooms will be open to the public. Junior officers were assigned to a four-man bunk room. After making the rank of commander, they were given private quarters.

When the Missouri was commissioned in 1944, it had a total of 132 officers. After it was modernized in 1986, the Missouri required only 65.

The wardroom will serve as a museum, holding special artifacts such as a 9-foot replica of the ship. On its forward bulkhead is a map of the world, initially drawn in 1944 and subsequently updated, depicting the battleship's many journeys.

By June, the association wants to open up another section of the ship, which is below the wardroom and will house an exhibit of interactive computer displays that simulate the battleship at war.

Future plans call for opening at least two other lower decks, which housed some of the Mighty Mo's 2,400 enlisted sailors and the galleys.


A New Beginning

The USS Missouri Memorial Association plans the opening of the battleship USS Missouri on Friday using a ceremony similar to that of a ship recommissioning, and lasting through the weekend.

Bullet 8:30 a.m. Friday: The invitation-only ceremony will begin at the 1,000-foot Ford Island pier originally constructed to accommodate the Missouri when it was supposed to be assigned to Pearl Harbor. The keynote speaker will be retired Navy Capt. Lee Kaiss, the last commanding officer of the Missouri.

Bullet 10:30: Gates will open for the general public.

Bullet 11:00: Entertainment will begin, provided by the Navy Pacific Fleet Band, the Joshua Sisters, Air Force Band, Kapena and Makaha Sons.

Bullet 7 p.m.: A 15-minute fireworks show will begin over Pearl Harbor.

Bullet Saturday: Music by the Royal Hawaiian Band, Jackie Brown and the SOULutions, The Sounds of Aloha Barbershop Chorus and Iwalani School of Dance.

Bullet Sunday: Entertainment begins at 9 a.m. with the Hui Park Hula Studio and Vocal and Dance Expressions. Sunday also will be YMCA of Honolulu Friendship Day from 9 a.m. to noon with various activity centers, including bracelet-making, paper crane construction, tile making, face painting, set up.

Bullet Admission: For the weekend only is $10 for adults and $6 for children 4-12. Overflow parking at $3 will be available at the Aloha Stadium this weekend for $3. Open-air trolley buses will shuttle visitors to the battleship.

Bullet Hours of admission: 10:30 a.m.-7:15 p.m. Friday only and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily afterward.

USS Missouri online: or Specials

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