“Mighty Mo” aims to be No. 1 attraction on O‘ahu

By Alicia D. Partridge.

USS Missouri March 1950

Since the arrival and opening of the USS Missouri Battleship museum at Pearl Harbor in 1999, tourists from all over the world have come to see and experience its rich history. After being open for nearly 10 years, the Missouri Memorial Association is focused on making “Mighty Mo” the No. 1 attraction in O‘ahu.

Currently, the non-profit Polynesian Cultural Center holds the No. 1  attraction spot, with over 32 million visitors since it opened its doors in 1963.

“This ship is not just a war ship; it played an important role in many aspects,” said volunteer Rich Costick. “This ship has had so many firsts; it makes it stand out.”


Kamikaze attack April 1945

The ship was built during World War II and is one of the Iowa-class battleships that were designed for speed and firepower. The

Missouri was the last battleship ever built. The ship was part of the force of firepower in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. During the war’s final month, the “Mighty Mo” served as Adm. William “Bull” Halsey’s flagship for the Pacific Third Fleet.

The Mighty Mo is massive:

  • 887 feet in length: 209 feet from keel to mast
  • It weighs 58,000 tons on a full load.
  • It is 5 feet longer and 18 feet wider than the RMS Titanic.
  • The ship could travel at 33 knots.
  • It possessed 13.5 inch thick steel armor plating that protected the hull.
  • It is also known for its 16-inch guns and twenty 5-inch anti-aircraft guns.

The Missouri was commissioned in 1944 and was the last U.S. battleship to be decommissioned to the reserve fleets in 1955 and indefinitely in 1992. The ship was christened at its launching by Mary Margaret Truman, daughter of Harry S. Truman, a United States Senator from Missouri.

The Mighty Mo earned its place in history after the signing of the instrument of surrenderon board on Sept. 2 1945, ending World War II. The ceremony for the signing of the document of surrender was conducted by Supreme Allied Commander, General Douglas A. MacArthur.

Timeline of the USS Missouri’s life


When the USS Missouri was decommissioned in 1992, the ship remained part of the reserve fleet at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash. until January 1995 after it was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. On May 1998, Secretary of the Navy, John H. Dalton signed the donation contract that transferred it to the nonprofit USS Missouri Memorial Association (MMA) of Honolulu. It was towed and docked at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor in June.

Less than a year later, on January 1999, Missouri was opened as a museum operated by the MMA with a mission of creating and maintaining a fitting memorial to the people and historic events reflecting the nation’s legacy of duty, honor, strength, resolve and sacrifice.

In October 2009, the Missouri was moved to a dry dock at Pearl Harbor to undergo a three-month overhaul. The work, priced at

By Rich Costick, Underneath the 48,000 ton USS Missouri at dry dock

$17 million, included installing a new anti-corrosion system, repainting the hull and upgrading the internal mechanisms. Dry dock workers were able to take an all-inclusive tour including under it.

“It’s a really scary feeling knowing that you are standing below 45,000 tons of ship,” Costick said. “Its once in a life-time opportunity.”

The repairs were completed the first week of January 2010 and the ship had a grand reopening ceremony on Jan. 30. Though repairs are an ongoing project at the Missouri.







Photo by Rich Costick

By Rich Costick, USS Missouri at dry dock


It takes a collaborative effort to keep this attraction running. It is broken down into departments: marketing & sales, tours, maintenance, special events, education and curatorial.

Marketing and sales are in charge of selling tickets and finding donors. The current ticket price for the Mighty Mo tour is $20 for adults and $10 for children. Food and souvenirs ranging from t-shirts to pieces of the teak wood deck. According to their 2008 IRS form, they raised nearly $530,000 just in admission receipts.

With the purchase of a ticket comes an optional tour. Visitors have four choices of tours: a personally guided tour with a trained operator, an audio tour, the Ipod visual and audio tour or a self guided tour.

“The tour guides are part of the product,” said Tour Operations Manager Masaji Hasebe.

All tour guides have to pass a minimum knowledge requirements test before they become full time guides. This ensures that the guests are getting full and correct information

“There are a lot of myths about the war and we are trying to rectify them,” Costick said.

All during the peak season, June to September, The Missouri can do up to 45 tours a day with 17 to 20 people per guide. Sometimes guides have more than 40 guests.  The official products come in English or Japanese.

“We are expanding the official products into more languages,” Hasebe said. “There are not a lot of Korean visitors even though they should come because Korea got its freedom after the war.”

Currently, there are 10 Japanese-speaking guides, two Chinese-speaking, one Korean-speaking and one Spanish-speaking tour guides. A couple of which are volunteers. According to Hasebe, 95 percent of the guides are paid staff leaving five percent volunteers.

“The people pride themselves on keeping its character,” Costick said. “There are a lot of volunteers that come help from all walks of life.”

Volunteers also help with maintenance, either with renovation projects or day-to-day upkeep.  Currently, the deck is getting new

By Alicia Partridge. Place on deck where instrument of surrender was signed

teak boards to correct damage and smooth out the bumps for visitors.

The ship recently hosted its Veteran’s Day sunset ceremony on the deck to serve as a tribute to all U.S. veterans who have and continue to selflessly defend our nation and freedom.

Education services range from classes to lock-ins for education groups. In the lock-ins, students stay in the original berthing areas to experience “Life at Sea,” first-hand on board the Mighty Mo.

Members of the curatorial department have been in charge of finding relics of the ship.  They have collected many of the surrender cards issued at the signing of the surrender documents. Many other items can be found throughout the tours.

For more information about hours of operation, prices, or directions go to


Employees and Volunteers gather at dry dock