By KATHY SOLE Special Correspondent
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — Kitsap County played an important role in the history of the USS Missouri, perhaps the most famous American battleship of World War II and later, the emblem of American naval might during the Cold War.
The USS Missouri (BB-63) was not at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked the harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The “Mighty Mo,” as she would later be called, was still under construction at the Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn on the day of infamy.
However, the ship would later see plenty of action at places with names like Iwo Jima and Okinawa. And when World War II ended in 1945, the USS Missouri was chosen to be the ship on which the peace treaty with Japan was signed. Harry Truman was president then, and he was from Missouri, and his daughter, Margaret, had christened the ship. So, those factors might have had something to do with why the USS Missouri was chosen for the momentous signing. Anchored in Tokyo Bay, on Sept. 2, 1945 U.S. and Japanese leaders signed the treaty that ended the war in the Pacific.
After World War II, the Mighty Mo was decommissioned and sent to Bremerton, WA, where she spent 29 years in mothballs. Many older adults who grew up in Bremerton still have memories of touring the famous battleship while she was here.
However, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan had the ship taken out of mothballs and upgraded. The “Mighty Mo” sailed again, a symbol of American might.
Ultimately, the “Mighty Mo” was retired again and was sent here to Pearl Harbor, where she is fittingly moored in the harbor next to the USS Arizona Memorial. For many Americans, the two battleships physically bookmark the beginning and the end of the war in the pacific and World War II.
On Dec. 4, I boarded the Missouri for a tour. I was welcomed by Renee McPeters, a member of the USS Missouri Memorial Association. She asked me where I was from, and when I told her I was from Kitsap County, she asked me to deliver a special message of thanks from the association to Bremerton. She said. “We appreciate Bremerton so much. They took such good care of the Missouri when she was there. She was in great shape when she came here to Hawaii, and we are forever grateful to them.”
The USS Missouri was the last battleship built by the U.S. The era of the aircraft carrier had arrived, so the USS Missouri now has a permanent place here in Hawaii, where visitors from around the world can see this fascinating piece of Kitsap County history.