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A Haunting Tour of the USS Bowfin and USS Missouri

I was able to tour the USS Bowfin and USS Missouri back in 2011, well before the c-flu pandemic.  Touring both “boats” was an eye-opening and sober experience.

USS Arizona Memorial

The day we toured the USS Bowfin, we started with the USS Arizona Memorial, the place where the USA officially entered the Pacific Theater of World War II.  

Propaganda.

During World War II, the Japanese launched a successful attack against the United States of America at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii.  The attack began about 8 am on December 7, 1941, with hundreds of Japanese planes targeting the ships moored in Pearl Harbor and the USA planes parked in the airfields.

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USS Nevada marker and Ford Island Bridge.

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

One of the first ships to be targeted was the USS Arizona.  Per Pearl Harbor Memorials, an almost two-ton bomb dropped onto the ship, near the gunpowder, which causes the gunpowder to explode. The explosion caused the ship to buckle and 1,177 perished out of the 1,512 crewmen who were on board.

Due to the oil leaking from the USS Arizona, fires occurred on the ship and across the harbor – for days.  There is still oil leaking from the USS Arizona to this day.  Some call it the “tears of the Arizona.”

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Tears of USS Arizona.

Remembering the Lost

The Arizona Memorial was unofficially decided in 1950 when a flagpole was secured to the USS Arizona and a temporary memorial was build.  Then in 1958, President Eisenhower approved a National Memorial, and Alfred Preis designed the current memorial building you can visit today.

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USA flag over the USS Arizona Memorial.

The Memorial isn’t just for the lives lost on the USS Arizona, but also those lives lost when the USS Oklahoma rolled onto her side and sank.  And those lost on the USS California, USS Utah, USS Nevada, USS West Virginia, USS Tennessee, USS Maryland, and the USS Pennsylvania.

When you tour the USS Arizona Memorial, be respectful. There are still soldiers buried with the battleships they served on.

Dear Lord / Lest I continue / My complacent way / Help me to remember / Somewhere out there / A man died for me today. / As long as there be war / I then must / Ask and answer / Am I worth dying for?

Poem Eleanor Roosevelt kept in her wallet during World War II

An estimated million people visit the Memorial every year to honor the 2,403 fallen of Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona anchor
USS Arizona anchor replica.

Waterfront Memorial

After we returned to the dock from our tour of the USS Arizona, we walked along the Waterfront Memorial to the Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association and toured the USS Bowfin.

The Waterfront Memorial is a public memorial to pay respect to the 3,500+ submariners lost during World War II of the 52 submarines also lost.

No matter how severly injured, we will fight for life.

Seaman Second Class, Everett Hyland, USS Pennsylvania

USS Bowfin

The USS Bowfin was launched on the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Her launch date gave her the nickname of “the Pearl Harbor Avenger”.  After several trial runs, the Bowfin was officially commissioned on May 1, 1943.

USS Bowfin Missouri

Built for an 80-man crew, the Bowfin completed nine war patrols by the end of the war in 1945.  She spent most of her patrol life from the Celebes Sea to the Sea of Japan (or the Emperor’s Backyard) on two-month patrols.

Credited to the USS Bowfin is the sinking of over 67,000 tons of vessels, or 38 sea vessels, as per the Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee.  Some argue the tonnage and ship numbers are much higher.

While the USS Bowfin was damaged in some of the patrols, she never sank and parked near the Ford Island Bridge.

USS Missouri

Several days later I came back to Pearl Harbor and toured the USS Missouri or the “Mighty Mo.”

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My size 8 foot next to the chain for the anchor of Mighty Mo. The wooden deck is made from teak.

There are guided tours through the ship and I did listen in a bit when one tour guide was talking about the site of the surrender of the Japanese on the deck, but overall I wandered the ship by myself.  (The surrender ceremony lasted 23 minutes for a conflict that lasted over 3.5 years.

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View from the bridge.

Specifications on Mighty Mo

Construction began on January 6, 1941, and the USS Missouri was launched on January 29, 1944.  She was commissioned on June 11, 1944, and was fully operational on December 14.  Mighty Mo was decommissioned on February 26, 1955, but recommissioned on May 10, 1986.  She served proudly until the second decommission on March 31, 1992.

The USS Missouri is the last of the battleships built by the USA.  She is an Iowa class and was designed to be speedy, even at 887 feet long.  Mighty Mo could hit speeds over 33 knots (about 37 miles per hour) while the Japanese could only go about 26 knots.

One of the things that impressed me most about Mighty Mo is how big she is.  (Of course, coming from a landlocked state, ships are a rare sight.)  The ship is just over 887 feet long, has a beamwidth of just over 108 feet, and is almost 210 feet tall from the keel to the top of the mast.

During World War II, the USS Missouri carried over 2,500 officers and crew on board.  During the recommissioned operations, Mighty Mo carried about 60% of the crew size, only 1,515 officers and crew.

The USS Missouri was in service for the last of the Pacific Theater of World War II, was utilized off-shore during the Korean War and was part of many training exercises.  During her reactivation period, the Might Mo was modernized and used in the Persian Gulf, after her service in the Gulf, she was part of the 50th-anniversary remembrance at Pearl Harbor.  In 1999 the USS Missouri opens to the public as a Memorial site.

While Pearl Harbor serves as Mighty Mo’s current home, she was not at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.

Mighty Mo at the Movies

The USS Missouri has been featured in a few films, the most recent being BattleshipUnder Siege, while filmed more on the USS Alabama, was set on the USS Missouri.  And Mighty Mo had the misfortune of being used by Madonna for a music video.

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USS Bowfin and USS Missouri

Is it possible to tour both these fascinating parts of USA history on the same day?  Of course, but my tip would be for you to take your time and appreciate what the men serving aboard the USS Bowfin and USS Missouri endured, survived, and accomplished for their countrymen and women.

Click on the picture for more information on getting this card and envelope!

Independence Day

Today is the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence for the original 13 colonies from the King of England.  Happy Birthday to America!

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