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The U.S.S. Missouri (BB-63) departs Bremerton en route to Pearl Harbor on May 23, 1998.
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On Saturday afternoon, May 23, 1998, tugboats carefully guide the U.S.S. Missouri (BB-63) away from the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, marking the end of an era for Bremerton, "Mighty Mo's" homeport for 36 years (1954-1984 and 1992-1998). The battleship is towed by the Seattle-based salvage tugboat Sea Victory 2,639 miles across the Pacific Ocean to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where she joins the U.S.S. Arizona as a war memorial and museum.
A Last Farewell
The U.S.S. Missouri played a historic role during World War II as the stage for Japan's formal surrender to the Allied Powers in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, which ended the war. During her Bremerton years she received thousands of visitors and was Bremerton's leading tourist attraction.
Before leaving the West Coast forever, the tugboat Sea Victory towed U.S.S. Missouri up the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon, for a fresh-water hull cleaning and a last farewell. On Wednesday, June 3, 1998, tugboats eased the U.S.S. Missouri out of the Columbia River and attached the half-mile-long towing bridle to the Sea Victory for the 22-day voyage to Hawaii.
A Grand Pearl Harbor Welcome
The two ships arrived in Hawaiian waters without incident on Monday, June 22, 1998. The "Mighty Mo" was escorted from Diamond Head by dozens of pleasure boats, fishing vessels, jet propelled water skis and helicopters along with a welcoming fireworks display. The huge dreadnought was gently guided into Pearl Harbor and delicately docked at Ford Island, only 1,000 yards from the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.
The Arizona Memorial, a 187-foot platform structure, is built over the water where the U.S.S. Arizona was sunk when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, beginning World War II. The Memorial has the names of the 1,177 crew members who perished engraved on the wall. The facility, built in 1961 and dedicated in 1962, is operated by the U.S. Park Service; visits are free. The Arizona crew members lost were among 2,390 lives lost in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Arizona Memorial and the U.S.S. Missouri (where the formal surrender was signed) symbolize the beginning and the end of the war.
Although moving the vessel to Hawaii cost $800,000, plus a $1 million refurbishment to create the museum, the U.S.S. Missouri Memorial Association was confident the battleship would instantly become a major tourist attraction.
Jack Broom, “Tug Prepares to Pull USS Missouri to New Hawaiian Home,” The Seattle Times, May 12, 1998, p. A-1; “Missouri to Leave Area on May 23,” Ibid., May 13, 1998, p. B-2; Lily Eng, “Mighty Mo’s Countdown: Battleship Headed for Pearl Harbor,” Ibid., May 19, 1998, p. B-1; Robert T. Neslon, “Sadness in Bremerton as an Old Friend Readies to Depart,” Ibid., May 20, 1998, p. B-1; “Bon Voyage, Missouri,” Ibid., May 23, 1998, p. A-12; Jack Broom, “Bremerton, Fans Say Farewell to the Battleship Missouri,” Ibid., May 24, 1998, p. A-1; “Mighty Mo’s Visit Gives Boost to Economy in Astoria,” Ibid., June 1, 1998, p. B-3; Ignacio Lobos, “Hawaii Welcomes Missouri to New Home,” Ibid., June 22, 1998, p. A-1; Ignacio Lobos, “The USS Arizona and USS Missouri Flank Honolulu’s War Memories,” Ibid., September 13, 1998, p. K-2; “USS Missouri Expected to Reach Astoria Today,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 26, 1998, p. B-2; “Spectators Foiled as ‘Mighty Mo’ Passes Port Angeles Early,” Ibid., May 26, 1998, p. B-1; Bruce Dunford, “Mighty Mo in Pearl Harbor to Join ‘Bookend’ Arizona,” Ibid., June 22, 1998, p. A-3.
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U.S.S. Missouri approaching the (white) U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, June 22, 1998
Photo by Kerry Baker, Courtesy U.S. Navy