On January 29, 1944, the USS Missouri (BB-63) launched into the sea for the first time, the last battleship of her kind ever built. Harry S. Truman was a senator at the time, and his daughter Margaret christened the ship.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the Missouri, St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh spoke with Michael Carr, president and COO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association and two St. Louis area residents who served aboard the ship. He also spoke with former U.S. Senator and First Lady of Missouri Jean Carnahan about the historic ship's silver.
Despite her late entry into World War II, the Missouri played a significant role in the Pacific, and was the site of the formal signing of the Japanese Surrender on September 2, 1945. She also served during the Korean War before being decommissioned in 1955.
Don Gerber of Webster Groves was a naval officer aboard the Missouri during the Korean War. He remembers the way the whole ship shifted and shook when the 16 inch guns went off.
A second commissioning of the Missouri occurred in 1986, so the battleship could aid in Operation Desert Storm. Tim Raines of Eureka spent two weeks aboard the Missouri as a 16-year-old Navy Sea Cadet, and attended the ship’s decommissioning in 1992. He went on to serve in the Navy for 21 years and is now the vice president of youth programs for the Navy League St. Louis Council.
It is naval tradition for a state to gift silver service to ships bearing the state’s name. Missouri donated the first piece in 1903, a silver punch bowl. When the USS Missouri was commissioned in 1944 an additional 280 pieces were added. While First Lady of Missouri, former U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan was custodian of the silver. She said the estimated value of the pieces today is a $250,000.