Once a wartime juggernaut, the USS Battleship Missouri now serves as an interactive museum and memorial at Pearl Harbor, alongside other historic attractions such as the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park.
Known as the “Mighty Mo,” the Missouri is the last of four Iowa-class battleships that were built during World War II. Weighing in at 48,000 tons and more than 885 feet in length (from bow to stern), the Missouri launched out of New York Naval Shipyard on January 29, 1944, and was commissioned on June 11 of that same year. It went on to become one of the U.S. military’s most decorated ships, with three battle stars for World War II service and another five for its service during the Korean War.
When Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945, officially marking the end of World War II, the signing took place aboard the Missouri. “The day was overcast,” recalled Frank Hartwell, who served as a quartermaster in the ship’s wartime fleet. “Then a destroyer came up with 11 Japanese dignitaries. General MacArthur signed for all the Allies, and Admiral Nimitz signed for the U.S. The sky cleared right after the surrender was signed.”
The Missouri was decommissioned for the final time on March 31, 1992, after serving with distinction during the Gulf War. On May 4, 1998, the ship was officially transferred to the USS Missouri Memorial Association in Honolulu. The USS Battleship Missouri Memorial opened to the public on January 29, 1999. In its first year, “Mighty Mo” welcomed more than 400,000 visitors.
A number of guided tours are available at the Memorial. The basic tour is a one-hour introduction to the ship’s layout, systems, and weapons. Included is a narrative of the ship’s history as well as access to its Combat Engagement Center. Another tour includes exclusive newsreel footage of the surrender ceremony in Japan. Guests on this tour also get to enjoy light refreshments in the Captain’s Cabin and visits to the Combat Engagement Center and the Flag Bridge, where Admiral Frederick Halsey stood during the final days of World War II.
The Memorial’s stated mission is to “create and maintain a fitting memorial to the people and historic events reflecting our nation’s legacy of duty, honor, strength, resolve and sacrifice.” The USS Battleship Missouri Memorial is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Discounted admission rates are available for members of the military.
From Waikiki, take the H1 freeway and follow the “Pearl Harbor” overhead highway signs to the airport. DO NOT TAKE THE “NAVAL BASE” EXIT. Take the exit labeled “Arizona Memorial / Stadium”, exit #15A. Follow the brown “Pearl Harbor Historic Sites” roadside signs. The brown signs will lead you directly to the USS Arizona Memorial visitors center and the adjacent USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.
The Battleship Missouri Memorial ticket booth and shuttle station are located at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, just a short walk from the USS Arizona Memorial visitors center.