By Will Hoover - Honolulu Advertiser via Gannett News Service
Posted : Friday Jan 8, 2010 11:10:40 EST</div>
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PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Following a three-month, $18 million
makeover, the battleship Missouri returned to Pearl Harbor’s Pier
Foxtrot-5 on Thursday looking shipshape and “shiny as a new penny,” in
the words of Michael Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri
Memorial Association, which owns and operates the ship.
The Mighty Mo pulled into the pier at 2:30 p.m., a short distance from the USS Arizona Memorial.
two historic battleships represent start-to-finish bookends for
America’s involvement in World War II - from the Japanese bombing of
Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, to Japan’s surrender aboard the Missouri
in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, which brought an end to the war.
nearly 1,000 passengers were aboard for the two-mile journey in which
the 55,000-ton vessel was towed from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
an original Missouri crew member, Art Albert occupied a place of honor
among the passengers and crew Thursday. Albert, 82, served aboard the
battleship from its beginning in 1944 until December 1947.
to his shirt yesterday was a fading copy of the keepsake surrender card
he and other crew members were given at the Japanese surrender ceremony
in Tokyo Bay. He keeps the original card locked in a safe, he told a
gathering of interested onlookers after he and his wife, Sherry, had
Albert also spoke about being wounded during a Japanese kamikaze attack on the Missouri on April 11, 1945.
was going up the ladder to the G2 Station when [we were] hit on the
starboard side,” recalled Albert. “Messed up both my legs. I’ve had 15
operations on two knees.”
Albert, from Hattiesburg, Miss., has
visited the Missouri nearly every year it has been docked in Hawaii and
plans to attend future festivities on the ship. But he said being
aboard once more while it was on the move had been special.
the Missouri was being secured at the pier, virtually all those on
board lined the decks of the 877-foot vessel to smile, shout and wave
to friends and relatives on the pier.
One waving passenger was
Army Staff Sgt. Eric Opheim of Mililani, who was standing midship on
the main deck when he was spotted by his 3-year-old daughter, Anneka.
Kaia! - it’s Daddy!” she screamed excitedly to her 1-year-old sister.
“Hi Daddy!” Opheim’s wife, Kerri, was also all smiles. She said she
wasn’t sure how her husband had been selected to be part of the
Missouri’s final water adventure for many years to come.
told me at the beginning of the week that he was going to be ‘manning
the rails.’ I said, ‘What’s that mean? You’re Army, not Navy,’ ” Kerri
Part of what made yesterday’s journey special was a
joint re-enlistment ceremony for more than 100 military personnel while
the ship was in tow.
Virgilio Martinez Jr. was one of five crew
members from the destroyer Paul Hamilton who became honorary battleship
members during the rare re-enlistment opportunity.
“It was an
exciting honor to re-enlist on this great battleship while it was on
the water,” said Martinez, who continued the celebration on the pier
with his shipmates after they had come down the gangplank. Everyone
aboard received a piece of teak wood from the ship’s deck as a
Passenger Nettie Stillwell of Kailua, who was the
repair-work fundraiser for the USS Missouri Memorial Association, said
she intended to frame her piece of deck and proudly hang it on the wall.
wanted to go on this ship no matter what,” Stillwell said. “This is my
ship. And she looks wonderful. She’s just as pretty as a picture.”
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye spoke at a VIP ceremony that included
representatives from the shipyard and BAE Systems, the company that did
the preservation work. Inouye told the gathering that the Missouri -
which sat deteriorating among America’s mothball fleet in the mid-1990s
- will now stand as “a memorial for generations to come to remember
what the men and women in World War II did.”