Does the US Navy still have battleships?

Yes and No. There are no actively commissioned battleships in the US fleet though a variety of US Battleships are on display as museum ships throughout the US with the most notable being the USS Missouri.

The USS Missouri is an Iowa class battleship. This is the last battleship ever built by the United States. She entered service in June of 1944 and was assigned to the Pacific theater where she spent the remainder of the war. She actually never fought another ship or even fired at another ship. “The Mighty Mo” was a powerful ship for the era. Her main battery consisted of nine 16 inch guns grouped three to a turret in three turrets: two fore and one aft. A 16 inch gun was a gun which fired a shell 16 inches in diameter. Each of the shells weighed 2,700 pounds and could be fired as far as 20 miles. Primarily, the USS Missouri provided fire support for American troops in such battles as Iwo Jima and Okinawa. A friend of mine, the late Sander B. Weinstock, was a US Army sergeant and went ashore in the fourth or fifth wave during the invasion of Okinawa. The night before the landings, a phalanx of American battleships gave the island its strongest pounding, although they had been firing on it for several days. Sandy told me that he watched the bombardment for hours from the deck of his troopship and that it was the most awe inspiring sight he ever saw in his entire life. “The whole sky was lighted up.”

Although watching a line of American battleships blasting Japanese positions on such islands as Okinawa and Iwo Jima was an awesome spectacle, the ships actually did little damage to the Japanese troops and artillery pieces — much of it due to the relatively flat trajectory of shells fired from warships. Most of the men and the artillery were secure in deep tunnels and caves. Artillery pieces not hidden away, were usually emplaced in concrete bunkers which were then piled with sand and expertly camouflaged. Only a direct hit from the main battery of a battleship could destroy such an emplacement. American troops, particularly the US Marines at Tarawa and Iwo Jima, paid a terrible price in blood for the failure of the US Navy to provide effective fire support. The USS Missouri was decommissioned in 1955 after providing fire support to American troops in the Korean War.

This is not a reflection of the men who served aboard the ship in the 80s and 90s, however, modernizing the USS Iowa and the USS Missouri, both constructed in the mid-1940s, was a waste of time and energy and money and was done only because of the macho vanity of some politicians in Washington. Recommissioned in 1986 after several years of expensive and virtually useless refitting, the USS Missouri participated in the Gulf War. She provided a very expensive platform for firing cruise missiles. She fired her main batteries a number of times on Iraqi targets close to the shore. You will see from the video the antiquated operation of the actual main battery itself. In 1992 the ship was decommissioned and in 1998 she was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and towed to Pearl Harbor where she was opened as a museum ship in January of 1999.

11 June 1944: USS Missouri being commissioned – that is formally placed into service with the Navy, in New York City.
A Japanese Kamikaze is shown just before colliding with the USS Missouri during the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean, April 11, 1945. Recent findings suggest the historic photo was taken by Baker 2nd Class Harold “Buster” Campbell, one of the ship’s cooks. (AP Photo/Harold Campbell courtesy of Dan Campbell) – The plane is a Zero fighter and it struck the ship below the main deck and more or less bounced off the armor plating.
30 August 1945: Escorted by the destroyer USS Nicholas and followed by her sister battleship USS Iowa, the USS Missouri steams up Tokyo Bay.
Admiral William Halsey (on the right) welcomes five star Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Halsey committed so many blunders in the last two years of the war that a committee recommended he be court martialed. Nimitz refused to allow such a proceeding to take place.
2 September 1945: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, architect of American victory in the Pacific, signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri.

The most common photo of this ceremony shows General Douglas MacArthur signing. He upstaged everyone on that day, as on every other day when cameras and the media were present. He used his psychotic narcissism to greatly inflate his achievements and obscure his mediocre record as a fighting general.

This plaque marks the actual spot where the Japanese signed the Instrument of Surrender. Their aggression in China and throughout Asia caused the deaths of tens of millions innocent people.
USS Missouri in the Panama Canal in the fall of 1945 returning to the United States from the Pacific. Note the close fit of the ship in the locks. The beam of US battleships of this era was determined by the dimensions of the largest locks in the Panama Canal.
Circa 1951: USS Missouri providing fire support for US troops in Korea.
February of 1985: USS Missouri being modernized in the US Naval shipyard in Long Beach, CA. This project was an expensive exercise in nostalgia. The day of the battleship had long been over.
USS Missouri at sea in the late 1980s after she was taken out of “mothballs” and refitted.
The battleship USS Missouri (BB 63) is towed past Diamond Head en route to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on June 21, 1998. Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton signed the Donation Agreement on May 4th, allowing Missouri to be used as a museum near the Arizona Memorial. The ship was towed from Bremerton, Wash. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kerry E. Baker, U.S. Navy.)
Interior of the USS Missouri

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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