We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored.
These words, spoken by General Douglas MacArthur aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) on September 2nd, 1945 in Tokyo Bay, Japan mark the official conclusion of World War II.
The historical significance of this event cannot be overstated. Millions perished during the war and countless more had their lives forever changed. The closure of this dark chapter in human history is something immeasurably worthy of our collective celebration and remembrance. It is the reason why Missouri is such a popular subject among modelers.
My first encounter with the Missouri, an Iowa-class fast battleship, was a long time ago, sometime around age seven, when I set out to build the Revell-Monogram 1/535 scale incarnation of the kit. I remember thinking at the time that this must be one powerful ship. Not only was it big, nearly 20” long (the real one is close to 900’), but it was bristling with gun turrets of all shapes and sizes (the World War II version had 9x16” guns, 20x5” guns, and countless anti-aircraft gun emplacements). Even in this scaled-down plastic form, I swear I could feel the heft of her armor (some 17” on the turrets and bulkheads) and the impressive displacement (58,000-tons at full load).
As I grew older, I developed a fascination with World War II. I often contemplated how our world leaders allowed such hatred to enter the world. I learned about the weapons and strategies each side used. I learned about the horrors committed by all sides. I learned about a generation of young men and women who were armed with a sense of duty and honor.
It occurred to me that recognizing history through my own hands is one of the main reasons I continued modeling. Some will not understand, “it’s just a piece of plastic” they say, but when you spend hours researching a build, and hours more striving to represent it, a connection inevitably forms between the modeler and the subject. With some subjects, it even feels like you have been there.
I was fortunate enough to visit Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the Missouri last year. When I saw her, all of the impressions I had formed as a child were immediately confirmed. Her nickname “Mighty Mo” was certainly well deserved.
The ship itself felt familiar to me. Constructing her from the keel up with hobby knife and glue all those years ago combined with the countless hours spent proudly gazing at her gave me a particular knowledge of her decks and equipment. I knew what the fire control systems, range finders, and powder bags were even though I had never seen them in real life.
But there are things that building a model can never familiarize yourself with.
On April 11th, 1945, during the battle of Okinawa, a kamikaze slammed into the starboard side the Missouri. While the Missouri sustained only minor damage and no casualties, the body of the kamikaze pilot (believed to be Setsuo Ishino, age 19), was recovered on the deck. In an act of humanity, Captain William M. Callaghan, commanding officer of the Missouri, ordered that the pilot be given a proper military burial at sea.
Take a moment.
During some of the fiercest fighting of the war, Captain Callaghan and the crew of the Missouri took the time to honor their enemy. They recognized the duty and sacrifice that the young pilot displayed was something common to themselves and they recognized that another young life was tragically lost to this great conflict.
As I stood at the impact location, marked by a dent created 75 years ago, chills ran down my spine.
After some time reflecting, I made my way towards the site of the surrender ceremony. A plaque embedded in the teak decking marks the very spot where the Allied and Axis powers agreed to end the most devastating conflict in history.
Admirals and generals that I had studied came alive in my mind. I could see the sailors excitedly leaning over the railings to catch a glimpse of the moment. I could see expressions of anxiety from those wondering if this was all a ruse. I could see the tired expressions from those who had suffered loss.
Now when I look at Missouri, I no longer feel the power of her 16” guns, I feel the power of peace.
Let us pray that peace now be restored to the world, and that God will preserve it always.
These proceedings are closed.
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