It was September 2, 1945 and each of the 280 Allied Warships that had accompanied the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the formal signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, had its own story of heroism and perseverance. Assembled shoulder to shoulder on the decks of American ships were soldiers and sailors of every rank, of every race, from every state of the Union.
With one accord and undivided attention they watched on the deck of “Big Mo” as the Japanese representatives signed the Instrument of Surrender. They observed as signatures were affixed by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Fleet Admiral Charles Nimitz and representatives of eight other Allied nations.
Those present and untold millions from around the globe listened silently as General MacArthur spoke about the need to put aside divergent ideals and ideologies; to put aside a spirit of distrust, malice and hatred and instead to rise to that higher dignity to which we have been called. They watched as the ceremony concluded and over 1200 Allied aircraft from carriers anchored miles away flew low over Tokyo Bay.
What was not readily apparent at that time is an amazing and inspiring story of perseverance that must be told this Veterans Day. Among the hundreds of ships and aircraft carriers that escorted and surrounded the USS Missouri on that historic day was a battleship carrying the designation BB-48.
BB-48’s remarkable story began shortly after World War I. Congress, in the early 1920’s had decided to downsize the Navy and cancel battleship construction contracts. However, one ship, BB-48 was nearly complete and that contract alone was honored. Congress fully intended to send the “unneeded” ship to be turned into scrap metal, however, it was christened before it was completed and ultimately commissioned and launched in 1923.
BB-48 was the last battleship built for the U.S. Navy for 20 years and by merely escaping an early demise was instrumental in the pre-invasion bombardment of the Philippines; being a part of the last battle in world history where battleships engaged battleships with their big guns during the Battle of Surigao Strait. But, these facts are not what makes the story of BB-48 so remarkable.