The USS Missouri Memorial, one of the United States' most historic battleships, is now permanently anchored in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. As a living history museum, it welcomes visitors from around the world year-round.
On September 2, 1945, the USS Missouri secured a place in history as one of the world's most famous ships. On that day, Japanese and Allied representatives attended a ceremony aboard ship, then anchored in Tokyo Bay, to sign the formal document of surrender, ending the war in the Pacific.
In 1998, the Missouri was donated as a museum and memorial ship in 1998, and today rests in near the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Now a living museum, it allows visitors to get up close and personal with this pivotal era in U.S. Naval history. Guided tours last 35 minutes; you are also free to explore the ship on your own.
Known as Mighty Mo, the USS Missouri was the last U.S. battleship ever built (and the last to be decommissioned). I was intrigued by the scale of the ship and what was required to build it. The design alone required 275 pounds of blueprint paper, and building of the ship took three years and over 3 million man-days to complete.
The Missouri was christened by Margaret Truman (daughter of then Senator Harry S Truman) and launched from the Brooklyn Naval shipyard January 29, 1944.
As we entered the US flag-lined concourse approaching the USS Missouri, we were greeted by a larger-than-life statue of Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet during World War II.
It was Admiral Nimitz who stood on deck and signed for the United States when Japan formally surrendered on board the Missouri on September 2, 1945.
I was touched by the quote that graced the podium upon which Admiral Nimitz statue stood:
They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side...To them, we have a solemn obligation — the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help make this a better and safer world in which to live.―Chester W. Nimitz
As we walked toward the ship, we passed a long line of state flags, where a statue stands depicting "The Kiss" - the iconic image celebrating the end of the war in the Pacific, taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square.
From there we walked up the gangplank and onto the USS Missouri.
We started out taking a self-guided tour, but ended up following a couple of different guided tour groups. As we moved from group to group, we learned that each tour guide had something unique to share.
On the tour we learned about about the ship's main historical points and notable events, and spent time contemplating the events surrounding that fateful signing on the Surrender Deck.
Captain Callahan: Lesson in Humanity
Of all the things we learned from our tour guide, the one that stuck with me was the following story, about the Missouri's captain, William M. Callaghan.
Captain Callaghan is best remembered for ordering an honorable burial - amid opposition from members of his crew - for an enemy pilot who died while attacking the Missouri in 1945.
On April 11, 1945, a 19-year old Japanese Kamikaze pilot attacked the Missouri and struck the side of the ship. The ship was not badly damaged, but fire erupted and the deck was covered with debris. As the crew was cleaning up, they discovered the pilot’s body among the wreckage and prepared to wash him overboard. It was then that Captain William M. Callaghan, Missouri’s commanding officer, intervened.
Captain Callahan ordered the body to be prepared for a burial at sea. Further, as it was customary to shroud the body of a fallen soldier in the flag of his own country, he asked the crewmen to sew a Japanese flag to drape over young man’s body. After the flag was created from a sheet and red signal flag, the crew then gathered. A Marine honor guard fired a salute, and then a bandsman stepped forward and sent the lingering notes of Taps adrift across the sea.
Senior Chaplain, Commander Roland Faulk, then stepped to the head of the burial detail and concluded, saying simply: "We commit his body to the deep." The burial detail tilted the flag-draped body, lowered the weighted white canvas shroud over the side, and watched as it disappeared into ocean depths below.
Captain Callaghan, we were told, later reflected that he looked at the pilot simply as a man serving his country, the same as anyone in military service. He was doing his job. Moreover, he had served honorably and paid the ultimate price, and he deserved to be treated with the respect due a warrior.
In this simple act of compassion, Captain Callaghan's honor and humanity transcended the circumstances of war. (Or, as my dad would say, he was just a good man doing the right thing.)
At the conclusion of this story, we were shown the footprints, now permanently fixed on the deck, where the crew stood. The dents from the April 11, 1945 attack remain on the Missouri's hull to this day.
The Surrender Deck
The Surrender Deck was the final stop on our tour, and the one that held the most meaning for me. My 18 year-old dad, a Torpedoman's Mate stationed in Pearl Harbor at the time, would have been somewhere out there; waiting and hoping.
On September 2, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. received the Japanese delegation on what would become known as the Surrender Deck.
After a prayer and playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” General Douglas MacArthur gave a short speech, saying:
It is my earnest hope - indeed the hope of all mankind - that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.General Douglas MacArthur
The ship has a plaque in its deck to commemorate the exact spot where the table stood with the surrender document that was signed to bring World War II to a close.
The Surrender Ceremony, which formally brought an end to the bloodiest conflict in human history, lasted just 23 minutes.
Some time later, MacArthur would broadcast this message on the day’s events:
General Douglas MacArthur
As Mr B and I were leaving the Surrender Deck, I spotted this small plant growing from a small break in the Missouri's teakwood deck. I took it as a sign of Hope.
USS Missouri Tours & Information
Updated: January 2024
How to Get There
The Missouri is located on Ford Island, which you can visit by hopping on one of the shuttles that leave the Arizona Memorial Visitors Center every 15 minutes. Military The last shuttle returning visitors to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center leaves the Museum at 5:00 p.m.
Personnel and Military Contractors with valid ID access can directly visit the Ford Island.
Hours & Entrance Fees
The Battleship Missouri Memorial is open daily from 8 a.m.to 4 p.m. (last admission: 3:00 p.m.). The Memorial is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
- Adults: $34.99
- Children (4-12): $17.49
Tickets are not required in advance. The pass includes admission and a guided tour. You are also free to tour the ship on your own. Plan for at least an hour and a half for travel time and tour.
Upgraded tours are available for an additional fee. Tours are fully ADA accessible.
For security reasons, no bags are allowed on the shuttle bus to Ford Island. A bag storage facility, located at the Bowfin Submarine Park shuttle bus stop, can store your belongings for a fee.
For more information or to reserve a tour, visit ussmissouri.org.
Hawaiian Dining & Recipes
Our Hawaiian vacation inspired a waterfall of recipes! (If you can only pick one, we recommend the Kahuku Shrimp - they are Amazing!) Be sure to check out our recommendations for dining on a budget in Oahu, too!
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