On Tuesday, in Pearl Harbor’s hallowed waters where World War II began for the U.S., the booming voice of Supreme Allied Commander General Douglas MacArthur once again echoed on board the USS Missouri, 69 years to the day after the war ended on its decks.
On Sept. 2, 1945, at 9:02 a.m., MacArthur brought representatives from 10 allied nations together aboard the “Mighty Mo” for a solemn ceremony to witness Japan’s signing of the Instrument of Surrender, ending the war and restoring world peace.
Military leaders, service personnel, elected officials, community members, and World War II veterans gathered Tuesday to commemorate the occasion on the retired USS Missouri, now the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
“This is a special day to honor the service and sacrifice of all those who fought to protect our lives and liberty in World War II, and those who continue to do so today,” said Tim Guard, chairman of the Board for the USS Missouri Memorial Association, caretaker of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. “General MacArthur’s reverent and respectful words calling for peace and dignity for all people ring as true today as they did 69 years ago. We’re proud of the USS Missouri’s role on this pivotal day of world history, and remain committed to sharing the general’s timeless message with our guests every day.”
Guard was one of four speakers at Tuesday’s ceremony, presenting the opening remarks on behalf of the association. He is the chairman and CEO of McCabe, Hamilton &Renny Co., and served as a Navy officer during the Vietnam War.
Rear Admiral Robert Girrier, deputy commander and chief of staff for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, delivered the keynote address. A 1983 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Girrier is a decorated surface warfare officer who has led naval forces throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
In his address, Girrier said, “Today as our world becomes more and more interconnected and interdependent as we all rely on freedom of the seas for the safe and efficient movement of trade between nations, the relationships that we have established with our allies, partners and friends are more important than ever. That is perhaps the greatest effect World War II has had on the world, the relationships we established, before, during and after the war. Today, we are on friendly terms with the nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific as we build our future together. We work at it all the time, and it’s more than worth it.”
Also speaking was Nicole Forrester, director of the Young Leaders Program at the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic &International Studies. A native of Australia, Forrester is a foreign policy expert whose interests include modernizing the U.S. alliance in Asia Pacific. Caitlyn Lodovico of Radford High School, winner of the Battleship Missouri Memorial’s annual essay contest, read her winning piece, “A Better World.”
The ceremony also featured a Joint Service Color Guard and music by the Marine Forces Pacific Band. In honor of all Armed Forces personnel who gave their lives in the fight for freedom, a 21-gun salute, bagpipes performance of “Amazing Grace,” and playing of “Echo Taps.”
Following Tuesday’s ceremony, the Battleship Missouri Memorial unveiled its newly renovated Wardroom, with a Hawaiian blessing by Kahu Kordell Kekoa and untying of a maile lei.
Restored to its operational condition of 1991, when the USS Missouri was last in service, the wardroom now provides visitors with a clearer understanding as to how the ship’s officers lived while commanding the Mighty Mo.
“Our guests are fascinated by the Missouri’s history and the workings of the battleship, especially how the officers and crew lived while at sea,” said Michael Carr, president and CEO of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. “We’re constantly working to display the authenticity of the Mighty Mo experience, and the wardroom restoration is a superb new enhancement of our onboard tour for all to enjoy.”
The wardroom renovation is an extension of a long-term restoration project of the officers living quarters that also encompasses “Officers’ Country,” 13 staterooms that were restored to “inspection-ready” condition early this year. With the completion of the wardroom, visitors can see firsthand where the Missouri’s officers slept, showered, dined and strategized while leading America’s last battleship during three wars — World War II, the Korean War and Desert Storm.
In addition, the wardroom can now also be used by groups, associations and private parties seeking a unique historical venue for hosting special events, such as meetings, conferences and receptions.
Since opening in January 1999, the Battleship Missouri Memorial has attracted more than 6 million visitors from around the world with a fascinating tour experience showcasing the USS Missouri’s unique place in history.
Located a ship’s length from the USS Arizona Memorial, the Mighty Mo completes a historical visitor experience that begins with the “day of infamy” and sinking of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and ends with Imperial Japan’s surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
The USS Missouri had an astounding career over five decades and three wars – World War II, the Korean War, and Desert Storm – after which it was decommissioned and donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that operates the Battleship Missouri Memorial as a historic attraction and oversees its care and preservation with the support of visitors, memberships, grants and donations.
For information, visit ussmissouri.org.