The famed battleship USS Missouri - "Mighty Mo" to Navy folks - sailed from the pages of military history to contribute to the allied effort in the Persian Gulf war.
The 887-foot, 58,000-ton warship, aboard whose decks Japan surrendered to end World War II, demonstrated its might for the first time in nearly 38 years when its 16-inch guns fired off seven rounds from the gulf on key Iraqi military sites in occupied Kuwait Monday.The huge guns went back into action Tuesday, the Pentagon said, successfully taking out Iraqi coastal artillery batteries. Sources said a sister ship, the USS Wisconsin, was likely to join in the shelling in the coming days.
Earlier in the war, both the Wisconsin and Missouri fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in Iraq.
The Missouri was the last battleship ever built by the United States, commissioned on June 11, 1944, after being built at the New York Naval Shipyard. The battleship steamed into the Pacific, contributed to several naval victories, provided air support for U.S. troop landings and survived a kamikaze suicide attack by a Japanese warplane.
On Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, Gen. Douglas MacArthur received a Japanese delegation, headed by foreign minister Mamuro Shigemitsu, aboard the Missouri and accepted Japan's formal unconditional surrender in a 23-minute ceremony that ended the largest war in the history of mankind.
The Missouri remained in service through the Korean War and until Monday had last fired its guns in anger on March 25, 1953. It was decommissioned two years later.
After three decades in mothballs, the warship returned to the service of the United States when it was recommissioned on May 10, 1986, following an extensive modernization. Still bearing the 16-inch guns, the largest on any warship in the world, Mighty Mo was also fitted with new search radar and electronic warfare equipment, eight Tomahawk cruise missile-launchers, four Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers and increased helicopter capacity.
On Monday, the 16-inch guns belched out 18,000 pounds of ordnance toward concrete-reinforced military bunkers constructed by the Iraqis in Kuwait after they invaded and seized the nation Aug. 2.
"We confirmed that those bunkers were destroyed by (using) airborne observation," Marine Maj. Gen. Robert Johnston of the U.S. Central Command told reporters in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
Johnston said that fired from a distance of 25 miles, the Missouri's 16-inch guns can hit "a target the size of a tennis court."
"It's a very accurate weapon system," he said.
The Missouri, one of four so-called Iowa class battleships built during World War II, has three 16-inch guns on each of three turrets, two stacked toward the bow and one aft. In the Navy, only aircraft carriers and massive hospital ships are larger than the Missouri.