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Battleship Missouri's $3.5M upper-deck renovation is done

In a 2005 file photo, the USS Missouri sits anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,.

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By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: February 5, 2018

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The top 130 or so feet of superstructure on the Battleship Missouri is visible again — a lot of it in gleaming new gray paint — with the museum and memorial taking the wraps off a yearlong, $3.5 million renovation.

Until recently, scaffolding and barrier fabric obscured the decks, platforms and yardarms that jutted from levels O5 past O11 as part of the biggest repair and preservation effort since the “Mighty Mo” was dry-docked in 2009-10 for a $15.5 million paint job.

“Look at it. Doesn’t she look good?” said Jim Stone, a retired Navy captain who now is vice president of engineering and facilities for the USS Missouri Memorial Association. “I tell you, every one of us, all (140 to 150 staff) were just counting down the days to see her back in her original glory.”

The Iowa-class battleship fought in World War II, Korea and Operation Desert Storm, and was retired twice along the way. BB-63 was commissioned in 1944 and sailed into Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve of that year.

The 887-foot battlewagon has been a nonprofit museum in Pearl Harbor since 1999. For all its grandeur, nearly three-quarters of a century after it was launched, the Missouri continues to show its age.

Gaping holes in quarter-inch steel decking and bulkheads had to be fixed. Some of the yardarms off the mast with lights and attachment points for lines and signal flags were severely rusted and were replaced.

About 17,000 pounds of rusted steel was replaced, 27,000 square feet of ship surfaces received abrasive blasting and 700-plus gallons of battleship gray paint were applied. This round of superstructure work was far more extensive than some of the upper-level work done previously, officials said.

The Missouri was the last commissioned battleship, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Chester Nimitz stood on its teak deck for Japan’s formal surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay.

In Operation Desert Storm in early 1991, the Missouri launched 27 Tomahawk cruise missiles and hurled 305 16-inch shells from its huge deck guns at Iraqi forces.

The latest repair work, performed by Pacific Shipyards International, involved the tallest portions of the ship from the O5 level, five floors above the main deck, and up, including the forward fire control tower, forward stack and forward mast, which is characterized by “very irregular surfaces,” Stone said.

“Just lots of angles. The geometry is phenomenal up there,” said Stone, who was executive officer at Naval Station Pearl Harbor in 2002-03.

While Pacific Shipyards worked on O5 and above, Missouri staffers took the opportunity to work on deck O4.

The O5-level open bridge with a fire control director for the Missouri’s 5-inch guns is the highest point visitors could access. The O4 level holds the navigation bridge with a glass-windowed pilothouse.

Behind the pilothouse is a conning tower used when sailors went to battle stations. The room has massive cast steel walls 17.3 inches thick, bank vault-like doors, and horizontal slits in the armor through which crew would scan for the enemy.

“Everything up here has been repainted. The floor has been redone,” said Meghan Rathbun, an archival assistant with the battleship.

A new, 6 1/2-minute recording plays on Level O4 that replicates some of what would have been heard over the intercom as the battleship pulled into Pearl Harbor in 1991 for the 50th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack — its last operational mission.

A competition was held among Pearl Harbor sailors to add in a recording of a boatswain’s mate pipe that would have been used to render honors to the sunken USS Arizona and its crew.

The O4 and O5 decks have been closed to the public during the evening restoration work — which saw the rest of the ship remain open to visitors. Both decks are expected to reopen soon, Stone said.

The Missouri Memorial Association’s goal is to restore the battleship to its appearance at the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in 1991. As part of the effort, replicas of two SLQ-32 electronic warfare antennas, as well as a 10-foot-diameter radome involved in the operation of a remotely piloted aircraft, were added to the superstructure. The equipment was part of the Missouri before its decommissioning in 1992.

The World War II battleship also saw the addition of other weaponry for its much later life and missions, including RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Phalanx Close In Weapon System Gatling guns.

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