|USS Missouri was the last of the four Iowa class battleships that were the United States Navy’s final class of battleships. The “fast battleship” design arose from
requirements following the construction of the North Carolina and South Dakota class battleships and the Iowa class was the result. With a length of about 887 feet
long, a standard displacement of 45,000 tons, a speed of 33 knots and armed with nine 16-inch guns in triple turrets, 20 twin 5-inch/38 and a large array of 40mm
Bofors and 20mm Orelikons, USS Missouri and her sisters were a formidable force and considered by many as the penultimate battleship design. USS Missouri is
probably the most well-known of the class, largely due to it being the site of the Japanese surrender in 1945. She went on to serve in the Korean War but was
decommissioned in February 1955 and mothballed in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard until she was reactivated in 1984. After a two-year modernization, she was
recommissioned in 1986 and saw battle for the last time in Operation Desert Storm. In 1992, USS Missouri was decommissioned again and made into a museum ship
moored in Pearl Harbor not very far from where one of her predecessors, USS Arizona, rests. The juxtaposition of the end of World War II very near the beginning of
the conflict for the United States is very appropriate and, in a sense, poetic justice.
David Doyle’s latest volume in the “Legends of Warfare – Naval” series, published by Schiffer Books, is titled “USS Missouri (BB-63) – America’s Last Battleship”.
The 128-page, hardbound book covers the history of the battleship from her keel laying to her current state as a museum in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The book contains
258 photos, spread across ten chapters, with each focusing on a different phase of Missouri’s life spanning now eight decades. Of the 258 photos, 68 (26%) are in
color with some dating back to the 1940s. Each chapter starts with a concise introduction to that portion of Missouri’s career, with great photos supplemented with
excellent captions, providing a visual history. The numerous detail shots are a great resource for modelers, focusing on different sections of the battleship at different
points in her career. The photos range from her construction, launching and fitting out at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, her shakedown cruise to her action at Okinawa.
Some of the shots show her Measure 32, Design 22D camouflage scheme as well as excellent onboard detail photos. Of course, there are numerous photos of the
Japanese surrender ceremony. There are postwar peacetime cruise images, several during the Korean War, her mothballing and modernization are reactivation in the
mid-1980s. Here again are some excellent photos of the modern weapons fitted to her at that time. The book ends with photos of her in action during Desert Storm,
her final decommissioning and current state as museum ship.
I am by no means an expert on USS Missouri and I learned a few things about her thanks to this book. I did not know that she was hit but not severely damaged by a
kamikaze attack on April 11, 1945. There are some stunning images of that event, including one of the aircraft several feet from impact. There are also some photos of
the burial at sea of the remains of the kamikaze pilot which was done with dignity. I also did not know that USS Missouri ran aground off of Norfolk in 1950 due to a
navigation error. In sharp contrast to some of the incidents that have happened recently, the ship was not damaged and no one was injured. However, it was an
embarrassing event and it took quite an effort to free her about two weeks after the grounding. There is also a great photo on page 92 of a Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter
landing on the roof of turret number 1. There are also many images of the crew either at work, eating meals or simply enjoy some downtime. David Doyle always tries
to incorporate some crew images to help shift the focus to the human side of these massive ships.