USS Missouri (BB-63)

Because of its role in the Japanese surrender USS Missouri (BB-63) is the most famous of the Iowa class battleships, but it only really served during the last eight months of the war in the Pacific, and went on to see action in Korea (receiving more battle stars for Korea than for the Second World War) and after a long gap in the First Gulf War of 1991.

The Missouri was laid down in January 1941, launched on 29 January 1944 and commissioned on 11 June 1944. She underwent her shakedown cruise in Chesapeake Bay before moving to San Francisco to be equipped to serve as a fleet flagship. She reached the fleet base at Ulithi in the Western Caroline Islands on 13 January 1945 and became the HQ for Admiral Mitscher.

USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay, 1945
USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay, 1945

Her combat debut came in February 1945 when she formed part of the escort force for the carriers that carried out the first carrier strikes on Japan since the Doolittle raid (16 February 1945).

The fleet then moved to Iwo Jima, where the Missouri used her main guns to bombard Japanese positions on the island, supporting the invasion of 19 February 1945.

In March she formed part of the escort to USS Yorktown for another round of carrier attacks on the Japanese mainland. During this raid the Missouri shared a claim in four Japanese aircraft. The attack also saw the carrier USS Franklin badly damaged. The Missouri formed part of the covering force that protected the damaged carrier as she made for safety at Ulithi.

On 24 March she fired her main guns in a bombardment of the south-eastern coast of Okinawa, then rejoined the carrier screen for the invasion of 1 April. On 11 April, while still off Okinawa, she was hit by a kamikaze aircraft which hit below the main deck level and did some superficial damage to one of the 5in gun positions. On 17 April she detected the Japanese submarine I 56 triggering a hunt that ended with the submarine's destruction.

The Missouri returned to Ulithi on 9 May, then collected Admiral Halsey from Guam. She became his flagship for the next stage of operations, which began with more bombardment of Okinawa, then another raid on Kyushu. On 8 June Kyushu was hit again, and this time the Missouri fired her main guns in a bombardment of the Japanese home islands.

Dentists Office, USS Missouri (BB-63)
Dentists Office, USS Missouri (BB-63)

From mid-June to early July the Missouri rested at Leyte, before leading the Third Fleet in another series of attacks on the Japanese home islands. Carrier aircraft hit Tokyo on 10 July, and on 15 July the Missouri bombarded the Nihon Steel Co and Wanishi Ironworks at Muroran, Hokkaido. This was followed by a bombardment of targets at Hichiti on 17-18 July and a series of aerial strikes over Japan.

The Missouri entered Tokyo Bay on 29 August. She was still Halsey's flagship, and so was chosen for the formal surrender ceremony on 2 September 1945.

After the surrender the Missouri almost immediately set sail for Hawaii and then the US. She reached New York on 23 October, and a few days later President Truman visited the ship to celebrate Navy Day. 

At the start of the Korean War in 1950 the Missouri was the only one of the ten fast battleships still to be in service, having been used as a training ship. She moved to Korea in mid-September and in the absence of any real aerial threat was able to carry out some very effective shore bombardments. She was so successful that all four of the Iowa class ships were soon back in service and were used for shore bombardment throughout the war. The Missouri's last bombardment mission came on 25 March 1953. She then returned to the US, where she remained in service for another two years before being decommissioned on 26 February 1955. During her period out of commission she was visited by around 3 million people.

In 1986 the Missouri was recommissioned as part of President Reagan's '600 ship navy'. She was modernised and in particular given new missile weapons, although plans to remove one of her turrets to make space for more weapons weren't carried out.

The Missouri served alongside her sister ship Wisconsin during the First Gulf War of 1991. She fired her first Tomahawk cruise missile in anger on 17 January 1991, the first of 28 missiles to be fired in five days. On 3 February she fired her main 16in guns in anger for the first time since Korea, firing 112 rounds in three days. She fired another 60 rounds on 11-12 February and a final batch of 133 during a feint against Faylaka Island on 23 February, part of a plan to convince the Iraqis that there was about to be an ambitious attack on the Kuwaiti coast.

General Umezu Yoshijiri signs Japanese surrender, USS Missouri (BB-63)
General Umezu Yoshijiri signs Japanese surrender, USS Missouri (BB-63)

The Missouri left the Gulf on 21 March. By now the expense of maintaining the battleships was being questioned and she was decommissioned for the final time on 31 March 1992. In 1997 she became a museum ship and is now open to the public at Pearl Harbor.  

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



15,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

12.1in on 0.875in STS

 - lower belt

12.1in-1.6in on 0.875in STS

 - armour deck

6in with 1.5in weather deck and 0.625in splinter deck

 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - turrets

19.7in face, 7.25in roof, 9.5in side, 12.0in rear

 - CT

17.5in, 7.25in roof


887ft 3in


108ft 2in


Nine 16in/50 guns
Twenty 5in/38 guns in ten turrets
Eighty 40mm guns in quad mounts
Forty nine 20mm guns
3 aircraft

Crew complement


Ships in Class


Laid Down

6 January 1941


29 January 1944


11 June 1944



The Battleships of the Iowa Class, Philippe Caresse. An impressive history of the Iowa class battleships, translated flawlessly from French, and with the space within its 500 pages to contain a detailed technical history of the ships, accounts of each of their long service careers and to have more photographs than most pictorial guides could ever hope to have! The photographs benefit greatly from the survival of all four of these ships, to show us fascinating views of their interioirs, of the type that almost never survive for their contemporary warships (Read Full Review)
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Iowa Class Battleships, Lester Abbey. A modeller's guide to the four ships of the Iowa class, the best American battleships and the longest serving capital ships of the modern era. Includes a history of the ships and their designs, a section of model reviews, a modellers showcase showing some very impressive models, and a section on the changing appearance of these ships over time. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 September 2014), USS Missouri (BB-63) ,

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