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USS Missouri History

USS Missouri (BB-63), 1944-1998

USS Missouri, a 45,000 ton Iowa class battleship built by the New York Navy Yard, was commissioned on 11 June 1944. She spent the remainder of that year preparing for combat, transiting to the Pacific in November. Arriving in the war zone in January 1945, Missouri supported the Iwo Jima invasion, the Ryukyus campaign and raids on Japan's home islands during the following months. In May, she became Third Fleet flagship and was the site of the 2 September 1945 Japanese surrender ceremony that ended World War II.

Following the end of hostilities, Missouri returned to the United States, participating in a great naval review at New York in October 1945. In March 1946, she went to the Mediterranean on a diplomatic mission. Through the rest of the 1940s and into 1950, the battleship operated extensively in the Atlantic area. She was the centerpiece of a major grounding incident off Hampton Roads, Virginia, in January 1950 but was quickly repaired and returned to service.

Missouri was the only U.S. battleship on active duty in June 1950, when the Korean War began, and made two combat deployments to the Western Pacific. Following that action, and several training cruises to Europe, she decommissioned in February 1955. For the next three decades, she was in reserve at Bremerton, Washington, and became an important tourist attraction.

All four Iowa class battleships were reactivated in the 1980s, with Missouri recommissioning in May 1986. Her next six years were busy ones, including, among other activities, a cruise around the World and a combat role in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. She decommissioned for the last time in March 1992. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995, Missouri was transferred to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in June 1998 to become a memorial.

USS Missouri (BB-11), 1903-1922

USS Missouri, a 13,500 ton Maine class battleship, was built at Newport News, Virginia. Commissioned in December 1903, she initially served off the U.S. coast. On 13 April 1904, an accident in Missouri's after twelve-inch gun turret took the lives of 36 of her crew. Three others were awarded Medals of Honor for heroism during this tragedy. Following repairs, the battleship operated in the Mediterranean Sea, off the U.S. east coast and in the Caribbean. In December 1907 to February 1909, she participated in the cruise around the World of the "Great White Fleet".

Upon her return from that long voyage, Missouri was modernized. Her operations after 1909 were generally in the western Atlantic and Caribbean, but she made a training cruise to Europe in 1914 and steamed through the Panama Canal to the Pacific in 1915. During World War I, Missouri served as a training ship in the Chesapeake Bay area. Her final duties, in 1919, included four voyages to Europe to bring U.S. servicemen home. USS Missouri was decommissioned in September 1919 and sold for scrapping in January 1922.

CSS Missouri

The Confederate States Ship Missouri was commissioned into the Confederate Navy on 12 September 1863. It never fired a gun in anger. Many people do NOT count this as a Naval ship that was named for the 24th State of Union, however, several historians do count CSS ships in histories of the War Between the States (a.k.a the War of Rebellion).

Casemate gunboat
Dimensions: length 183', beam 53'8", draft 8'6"
Displacement: 1,000? tons
Speed: 6 knots
Crew: ?
Armor: About 4" (probably T-rails)
Armament: One 11", one 9" and one 32# smoothbore
Authorized: 1 Nov 1862

An artist's conception of the CSS Missouri

Picture by Wm W. Fannin of Jefferson City - used by permission

Missouri: A weak paddle-wheel ironclad. Protected wheelhouse for center wheel never completed; wheel remained exposed above casemate. Built at Shreveport LA. Launched 14 Apr 63. Commissioned 12 Sep 63. Held upriver by low water levels on the Red River. Used as a minelayer and troop transport. Surrendered at Alexandria LA 3 Jun 65. Sold to breakers 29 Nov 65 at Mound City IL. A planned sister ship was never constructed. Commander was Lt. Jonathan Carter(63-26 May 65).

Lt. Jonathan Carter was the Confederate Navy officer in charge of naval activities in the vicinity of Shreveport and the Red River. Lt. Carter was given the task of building of an ironclad warship in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1863. After much difficulty and improvisation, the final result was a casemate ironclad named C.S.S. Missouri.

The Missouri never saw action and was turned over to Federal officers in Alexandria, La. in 1865. Several books and articles state the Missouri was used as a mine layer and a troop transport. However according to its commander, Lt. Carter, the boat barely had room for its crew so it is highly doubtful that many troops could have been placed on board. The claim that it was used as a minelayer is also questionable. In one of Lt. Carter’s letters he writes that the Missouri never went further than 2 miles downriver during the period of the Red River Campaign. The same low water that trapped the Union fleet above Alexandria also kept the Missouri bottled up in Shreveport.

The belief that the Missouri was used as a minelayer may stem from the following passage in Vol. 26 of the Offical Records of the Navies (ORN) page 165:

Order of Lieutenant-General Smith, C. S. Army, to Major-General Taylor, C. S. Army, for the obstruction of the river with torpedoes.


Shreveport, March 19, 1864.

GENERAL: I have directed an officer of the Missouri, with thirty torpedoes and a crew of men selected for the purpose, to proceed down the river and obstruct it with torpedoes at some point below Grand Ecore. I will direct the officer to report to you should he find you below, otherwise to report to Captain McCloskey, who is at Grand Ecore, upon consultation with whom he will fix a point at which the torpedoes are to be placed. If practicable, I would suggest their being used below Cotile; otherwise the vicinity of the falls below Grand Ecore might be selected. As soon as the torpedoes are placed in position the boat and crew will return to Shreveport. Arrangements should be made by pickets and couriers, so that the party on the boat can be notified in time of the passage over the falls of the enemy’s gunboats or the advance of a party of the enemy. I send down by the boat a signal corps, under Sergeant Landry, who will assist in notifying the officer in charge of the torpedo boat of the movements of the enemy. When they get through with this duty they are ordered to report to you.

I am sir, your obedient servant,

E.KIRBY SMITH, Lieutenant- General, Commanding.

Major-General R. TAYLOR, Commanding, etc.

Note that the reference to obstructing the river with torpedoes mentions “an officer of the Missouri”. Further in the text we see this: “the officer in charge of the torpedo boat”. It seems clear that this order sent by General Smith is instructing an officer from the gunboat Missouri to take a boat with 30 torpedoes and a crew down the river and place them somewhere in the vicinity of Grand Ecore. The reference to a “torpedo boat” cannot be the Missouri. A large, slow, unwieldy ironclad like the Missouri would have been useless for this type of mission. Not to mention that the water level in the river was insufficient to allow the Missouri to get that far down river.

Description of CSS Missouri in ORN Vol. 27, Page 241-242

The above is from the Iron on the Red Website(Copyright 2007)

After she was surrendered to the US Navy in June, 1865, she was sent up the Mississippi to Mound City. By late July, she was leaking so badly that a steam pump had to be kept running around the clock to keep her from sinking. It was recommended that her railroad iron armor be removed to keep her afloat. Her casemate was stripped, and everything taken out of the boat. She was finally sold at auction on November 29, 1865, to John Riley for $2,100. The armor had already been stripped off when she was sold. At one time, her appraised value was $100,000. The above is from a posting by Steve Mayeux on the Civil War Navies Message Board.

USS Missouri (1841)

The first USS Missouri, a 10-gun side-wheel frigate, one of the first steam warships in the Navy, was begun at New York Navy Yard in 1840; launched 7 January 1841; and commissioned very early in 1842, Capt. John Newton in command.

Departing New York at the end of March 1842 on a trial run to Washington, D.C. with sister ship Mississippi, Missouri grounded opposite Port Tobacco, Maryland, 1 April, and did not arrive in Washington until the 13th. The warship made numerous trial runs out of the nation's capital during the spring and summer of 1842, demonstrating the advantages of steam propulsion in restricted waters to the Government, and then departed for a long cruise to the Gulf of Mexico. The frigate returned to Washington 25 April 1843 and then underwent overhaul in preparation for extended distant service.

On 6 August 1843, Missouri embarked the Honorable Caleb Cushing, U.S. Minister to China, bound for Alexandria, Egypt, on the first leg of his journey to negotiate the first commercial treaty with China. The same day the ship was visited by President John Tyler who came on board for a few hours' cruise in Hampton Roads, observing the crew working the ship and the powerful twin paddlewheels in action. The President disembarked at Old Point Comfort, and the frigate steamed from Norfolk, Virginia, via Fayal in the Azores, for Gibraltar on the first powered crossing of the Atlantic by an American steam warship.

Missouri arrived Gibraltar on 25 August and anchored in the shadow of the historic fortress. On the night of the 26th, the engineer's yeoman accidentally broke a demijohn of turpentine in the storeroom which soon ignited. The flames spread so rapidly that the warship was abandoned, the crew barely escaping with their lives. Minister Cushing was able to rescue his official letter to the Daoguang Emperor of China, allowing him to later carry out his mission. In four hours, the splendid steam frigate was reduced to a blackened and sinking hulk and finally at 03:20 in the morning of the 27th, the forward powder magazine blew up, destroying the still burning skeleton of the ship.

British ship of the line HMS Malabar assisted Missouri in fighting the fire and took aboard some 200 of her men. Robert Thomas Wilson, the Governor of Gibraltar, threw open the gates of that base to Missouri survivors in an unprecedented act of courtesy which was recognized by a resolution of appreciation from Congress. The remnants of the once proud frigate, a hazard to navigation, were painstakingly removed by divers, piece by piece, from the shallow waters of the harbor.