USS Missouri (BB-63) arrives in Seattle on September 15, 1954.

  • By Daryl C. McClary
  • Posted 8/31/2003
  • Essay 4236

On Wednesday morning, September 15, 1954, the USS Missouri (BB-63) arrives in Seattle for her last visit before decommissioning in Bremerton. Nicknamed “Mighty Mo” by her millions of admirers, the battleship served a historic role as the stage for Japan's formal surrender to the Allied Powers in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, ending World War II. She is scheduled for a one-day layover in Seattle before joining the reserve fleet at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Despite a cold, rainy day, Greater Seattle, Inc., the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Navy League, Seattle Seafair royalty, and several thousand people come out to greet the Missouri.

A Formidable and Historic Battleship

While the vessel docked at Pier 91, the 13th Naval District Band and Jackie Souders’ orchestra took turns playing music. After the welcoming ceremony for the 1,100 officers and men, the Missouri was opened to the public for a last close-up look of the famous vessel. More than 7,500 visitors swarmed over the ship to experience one of the Navy’s last operational battleships.

Launched January 29, 1944, at the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn, the “Mighty Mo” was the last battleship commissioned by the U.S. Navy and the second battleship to bear the name Missouri. The Iowa-class battleship has a length of 887 feet, a beam of 108 feet, a displacement of 45,000 tons (unloaded) and a maximum speed of 33 knots. In 1944, the warship’s armament consisted of nine 16-inch guns in three triple turrets with a range of 23 miles, 20 five-inch guns in 10 twin mounts with a range of nine miles, 80 40mm guns in 20 quad mounts, and 49 20mm guns in single mounts.

The formidable appearance of the Missouri did much to project an image of strength and invincibility. On September 2, 1945, the battleship served the stage for the signing of Japan’s Formal Instrument of Surrender to the Allied Powers in Tokyo Bay, ending World War II.

On To Bremerton

The day after her visit to Seattle, the Missouri sailed to Bangor Naval Depot to unload ammunition. She then sailed to Bremerton and moored at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to prepare for her last public open house. After going into dry dock to be prepared for her assignment to the reserve “mothball” fleet, she was decommissioned and transferred to the Pacific Reserve Fleet, where she was the command ship. The battleship was moored in Bremerton for almost 30 years and was the city’s number-one tourist attraction.

In 1984, the vessel was towed to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for renovation and to be fitted with Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. The new USS Missouri was reactivated on May 10, 1986, and sent on an around-the-world cruise.


Paul Stillwell, Battleship Missouri: An Illustrated History (Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1996); “Drizzle Fails to Dim Gay Welcome For Battleship Missouri,” The Seattle Times, September 15, 1954, p. 1; “Mighty Mo Leaves to Unload Ammunition,” Ibid., September 16, 1954, p. 11; “Mighty Mo Is Out of Service,” Ibid., February 27, 1955, p. 30; Murlin Spencer, “Biggest Day of Glory 10 Years Ago Recalled Aboard Mighty Mo,” Ibid., August 28, 1955, p. 1; “Missouri to begin journey to Long Beach,” Ibid, May 12, 1984, p. A-6; Bill Dietrich, “Bremerton bids bon voyage to the battleship Missouri,” Ibid., May 14, 1984, p. A-1; Bill Dietrich, “Missouri rejoins the fleet,”Ibid., May 10, 1986, p. A-7; Bill Dietrich, “Might Mo Is Back, But Is it Worth It?,” Ibid., May 11, 1986, p. A-1; Ellen Wolfe, “Big Mo 29 Years Later,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 3, 1974, p. C-1; “Thousands Take a Last Tour of the Mighty Mo,” Ibid., April 30, 1984, p. D-10.

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