History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Missouri (BB-63) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on June 12, 1940, the last battleship built by the United States. Her keel was laid down at Brooklyn Navy Yard on January 6, 1941. She was launched on January 29, 1944 and commissioned on June 11, 1944 under the command of Captain William M. Callaghan.
USS Missouri served as temporary headquarters ship for Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher at Ulithi in January 1945. As part of TF 58, she screened the carrier group to launch air strikes against Japan. The supported the invasion of Iwo Jima in February before being assigned to the Yorktown carrier task group in March. The battleship screened carriers while striking targets along the Japanese coast, shooting down four Japanese aircraft. The carrier group covered the retirement of the carrier USS Franklin after it was rendered dead in the water by two Japanese bombs.
The USS Missouri participated in the pre-invasion strikes and bombardment of Okinawa before covering the troop landing there. TF 58 sank the Yamato, the largest battleship in the world, on April 7. Only four Japanese destroyers remained of their attacking fleet.
A kamikaze struck the starboard side of the USS Missouri on April 11, 1945. This started a gasoline fire at Gun Mount No. 3, but the fire was quickly brought under control, and the battleship sustained only superficial damage. When the body of the pilot was found, Captain Callaghan decided to bury him at sea with military honors, although the rest of his crew did not agree.
On April 17, USS Missouri detected an enemy submarine 12 miles away. The USS Bataan and four destroyers sank the I-56 submarine before it could damage the fleet.
USS Missouri was detached from TF 58 on May 5 and joined the Third Fleet on May 9. She bombarded Okinawa and supported strikes on Kyushu before riding out a typhoon in June. The storm caused only minor damage to the battleship. After three months supporting the Okinawa campaign, she headed toward Leyte.
The USS Missouri took part in the raids on Honshu and Hokkaido up until the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. She supported the occupation force in Tokyo Bay and was boarded by high ranking military officials for the surrender ceremony where General Douglas MacArthur signed documents to accept Japan’s unconditional surrender. The battleship helped return American troops home as part of Operation Magic Carpet.
When she returned home to New York City, the USS Missouri offered up a 21-gun salute when President Harry Truman boarded the ship for Navy Day ceremonies on October 23, 1945. She was then overhauled at Brooklyn Navy Yard before sailing to Turkey and Greece for diplomatic relations. Up until the Korean War, she also sailed to Algiers, Tangiers, the Caribbean, and Rio de Janeiro. President Truman would not allow USS Missouri to be decommissioned, and she was the only U.S. battleship in commission for a time.
At the start of the Korean War, the USS Missouri was called up from the Atlantic fleet. She became the flagship of Rear Admiral A. E. Smith on September 14, 1950. The battleship bombarded Samchok and helped prepare the way for the 8th Army offensive.
In the coming months, she would serve next as flagship of Rear Admiral J.M. Higgins, Commander Cruiser Division 5, then as flagship of Vice Admiral A. D. Strubel, Commander 7th Fleet. She screened the carrier USS Valley Forge before bombarding Chongjin and Tanchon.
USS Missouri provided fire support at Hungnam on December 23 until the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division was evacuated by sea the following day. She then supported operations at Yokosuka before leaving to become the flagship of Rear Admiral James L. Holloway, Jr., Commander Cruiser Force Atlantic Fleet. She took part in training cruises in northern Europe before being overhauled at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She spent winter and spring at Guantanamo Bay for training exercises before preparing to head back to Korea.
The USS Missouri returned to Yokosuka on October 17, 1952 to provide artillery support by bombarding targets at Chaho-Tanchon, Chongjin, Tanchon-Sonjin, Chaho, Wonsan, Hamhung, and Hungnam. She served in “Cobra” patrol to support troop landings in January 1953 before bombarding Wonsan, Tanehon, Hungnam, and Kojo. Her commanding officer, Captain Warner R. Edsall, had a fatal heart attack on March 6, 1953, and she was relived as the flagship of the 7th fleet by the USS New Jersey on April 6.
The battleship returned to Norfolk to become the flag ship for Rear Admiral E.T. Woolridge, Commander Battleships-Cruisers Atlantic Fleet on May 14, 1953. After an overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, she then became the flagship of Rear Admiral R. E. Kirby. She was decommissioned on February 26, 1955 and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet at Bremerton.
The USS Missouri served as a tourist attraction for several decades until she was towed to Long Beach Naval Yard in 1984 for modernization. Her weapons systems received extensive upgrades, and she was formally recommissioned on May 10, 1986. She circumnavigated the globe on a world tour before being upgraded again to take part in Operation Earnest Will, escorting Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War.
USS Missouri also took part in the Gulf War, launching Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) at shore targets leading up to Operation Desert Storm. The battleship bombarded targets in occupied Kuwait, Khafji, and Faylaka Island. She was involved in a friendly fire incident on February 25, 1991, when she was accidentally fired upon by the frigate USS Jarrett. One sailor was struck in the neck by flying shrapnel, but sustained only minor injuries.
The battleship USS Missouri was used ceremonially after the end of the Gulf War until she was decommissioned on March 31, 1992 and removed from the Naval Vessel Register on January 12, 1995. She now serves as a museum ship in Pearl Harbor, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 14, 1971. She received three battles stars for her service in World War II, five for the Korean War, and three for the Gulf War.
Like all other ships of its time, the USS Missouri was built using a number of asbestos-containing components. Anyone who served aboard the battleship or participated in its repair and overhaul may be at risk for developing asbestos-related illnesses like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer.
USS Missouri workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS Missouri, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.