Brief History of USS MIssouri
While USS Arizona did not play a part in the film, one of her sister ships, USS
Missouri (now a floating museum called the Battleship Missouri Memorial), served
as a key location for the company over a weeklong stretch in early September
2010. Production was so massive that the popular and busy tourist attraction was
shut down for four of the seven days the company used the ship as a backdrop.
Nicknamed "Mighty Mo," the Missouri is an Iowa-class battleship and the last
such vessel ever built by the U.S. Navy. Named for the home state of President
Harry S. Truman, the Missouri was built at the Brooklyn Navy yard in 1941,
launched on January 29, 1944, and commissioned into battle on June 11, 1944.
The ship weighs 45,000 tons, stretches for 887.2 feet in length (a few feet shy
of the Titanic) and originally housed 2,700 officers and sailors. The vessel was
reactivated in 1984, years after her prior service in Korea in the 1950s. To
modernize her, the Navy refitted the Missouri with contemporary armament and
electronics, with housing capacity reduced to 1,851 sailors. She saw her final
action in the Gulf War of 1991.
Arriving at Pearl Harbor on December 29, 1944, USS Missouri was engaged in some
great battles off the shores of Japan in the latter months of WWII. On April 11,
1945 (the day before Truman became president), a low-flying kamikaze, although
fired upon, crashed on Missouri's starboard side, just below her main deck
level. Flames ignited a gasoline fire in gun mount No. 3.
The battleship suffered only superficial damage, and the fire was quickly
extinguished. The remains of the pilot were recovered on board the ship. Out of
respect for the fallen Japanese flyer, the Missouri's captain, William
Callaghan, commissioned a funeral at sea with military honors. Indeed, Callaghan
recognized his heroic, but failed, efforts, even as one of the enemy. The dent
in the side of the ship remains to this day and is one of the intriguing tourist
attractions on the vessel.
Barely four months later, USS Missouri made history when the Japanese
surrendered to Allied forces (led by Adm. Chester Nimitz and Army General
Douglas MacArthur) in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Production had not yet
started on the Missouri Memorial when the U.S. government and Hawaii held a
commemorative ceremony on September 2, 2010, marking the 65th anniversary of the
end of WWII.
Decommissioned on March 31, 1992, USS Missouri served for a brief period in the
Navy's reserve fleet stationed in Bremerton, Washington. In 1998, the Navy
donated the vessel to USS Missouri Memorial Association in Honolulu, where she
sits today, a floating museum anchored on Ford Island, adjacent to the naval
base on Battleship Row. Her presence in Pearl Harbor, across the waters from USS
Arizona Memorial, is a fitting resting place for the "Mighty Mo." Massive
bookends, the pair of battleships represents the beginning and end of America's
involvement in the Second World War.
Taking Her Out in the Pacific
Following $18 million worth of maintenance and preservation work in the Pearl
Harbor Naval Shipyard, the Missouri returned on January 7, 2010, to her home
pier near USS Arizona Memorial. Sporting a refurbished hull, fresh coat of
paint, and state-of-the-art cathodic protection and humidity detection
technologies, the ship is now fortified against corrosion for decades to come
(thus far, more than three million visitors have paid their respects to the
"Mighty Mo" since it opened as a museum in 1998).
While production would not commence for another eight months, taking the
Missouri out for a spin was way too good of an opportunity to pass up. Filming
for the movie "unofficially" began on January 8, 2010, less than 24 hours after
the Missouri returned from dry dock. At 9:25 a.m. that day, the Missouri shoved
off once again for preliminary filming on Battleship. Berg and the production
team worked with the nonprofit USS Missouri Memorial Association to take
advantage of the ship's narrow window of availability after its return from
dry-dock and before reopening to visitors.
Towed by tugboats, the battleship was maneuvered well outside Pearl Harbor,
coasting approximately two miles offshore of Waikiki Beach. Her historic, albeit
brief, "voyage" out to sea was an image not seen since the ship's arrival in
Hawaii in 1998. Many surmised it would mark the gray lady's final sail.
"Taking the Missouri out to sea for filming was a case of being in the right
place at the right time," states KEITH DEMELLO, who works with MMA, the
nonprofit organization that oversees the legendary ship. "It took a great deal
of effort by all parties to make it happen. Mr. Berg's scout of Pearl Harbor in
preparation for filming happened to coincide with the Missouri being in dry dock
for the first time in 17 years. The fact that the Missouri was going to be
'underway' at all was unique."
"USS Missouri plays a very big role in the movie," reflects Aubrey about the
gargantuan battleship, which made history yet again in conjunction with the film
production. "First, our ability to get a battleship in the movie was thrilling.
Especially this battleship, the Missouri, which is where the Japanese
surrendered in World War II. Yet, we had the opportunity, while it was moving
from dry dock to its permanent berth, to take it out on to the open ocean.
Because the engines are now disabled, it was towed."
Aubrey adds: "The men who were aboard the ship that day were some who had fought
on the Missouri, worked on that ship, had repaired it and kept it in such
glorious working shape all these years. You could tell how overjoyed they were,
so excited having never thought they would see the 'Mighty Mo' on the ocean
again. We felt extraordinarily lucky that we were able to be part of that as
"When the filmmakers saw the Missouri, they realized that she's this grand old
dame who is very much loved by the people who run and maintain her," affirms the
film's veteran location manager, MICHAEL MEEHAN, another longtime Henderson
associate. "So, they decided to bring her into the movie." Meehan marvels: "We
were standing at Pearl Harbor, then looking out over the harbor to the deck of
the Missouri. In one visual element, you see the beginning and end of World War
Adds Henderson: "It was a great honor being on this ship. Just the size of the
Missouri itself is daunting. The production value we got working on any of the
Navy ships was tremendous, and being in Hawaii was just visually rewarding."
For the producers from Hasbro, it was truly a dream come true. Explains Schneir:
"We found an answer to the question we'd been asking ourselves during
development: 'How do you make a movie called Battleship when there are no more
battleships in the military?' We wanted to use a battleship as the hero ship
that saves the world. We then learned that USS Missouri, which is now a floating
museum, could be repurposed and repositioned into active service.
"We added the Missouri as a critical plot element and character in the movie,"
Schneir continues. "We were on the Missouri for two weeks shooting in September.
But, before production even began, in January 2010, we were able to tow USS
Missouri off of its dry-dock and into open water...with great anxiety from the
Navy and the studio. Yet, it went off without a hitch. We had fabulous weather
that day, perfect conditions, and we were able to get shots of the Missouri out
in open water, which ILM later used to create some of the amazing visuals in the
third act of the movie."