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Battleship Missouri Memorial
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War. After the ship was decommissioned in March 1992, it opened to the public in January 1999 as a museum ship next to Ford Island at Pearl Harbor. The USS Missouri Memorial Association owns and operates the ship as a not-for-profit organization supported by admission fees, retail sales, and donations with no government support. Battleship Missouri Memorial is one of the few US museum ships with a display about Japanese kamikaze pilot attacks, and this page focuses on information available aboard ship about the Zero fighter kamikaze aircraft that struck Missouri on April 11, 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa.

USS Missouri became one of the world's most famous ships when Japanese and Allied representatives attended a ceremony aboard ship in Tokyo Bay to sign the formal document of Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945. The ship has a plaque in its deck to commemorate the exact spot where the table stood with the surrender document that was signed to bring World War II to a close. The 35-minute guided tour, which most visitors take, focuses on the Japanese surrender deck, the battleship's 16-inch guns, and the area hit by the kamikaze pilot.

The following sign that explains the kamikaze attack on the battleship is on the rail around the deck in front of the spot where the Zero fighter first struck Missouri's rear starboard side near the aft three-gun turret of 16-inch guns:

World War II - Kamikaze Attack

Japan's determination to halt the Allied advance during World War II is vividly reflected in the term "Kamikaze" or "Divine Wind."

Originally used in reference to the typhoon winds that destroyed the invasion forces of Kublai Khan, the term was resurrected in 1944 by Admiralty Masafumi Arima who personally led the first Special Attack Force mission against the Allies [1].

On April 11, 1945, during the invasion of Okinawa, a flight of 16 approaching Japanese aircraft was spotted by radar. Of those, one pilot set his sights on the American battleship Missouri and would not be stopped.

Coming in low off the stern, hit repeatedly by anti-aircraft fire and struggling to rise, the aircraft's left wing caught the side of the ship at the last instant and swung the "Zeke" hard against the hull, sending a fiery wave of debris onto the deck. The remains of the pilot were found among the wreckage.

Missouri's Captain, William Callaghan, ordered the burial of the unknown Japanese pilot the following day. A Marine honor guard fired a salute and his body was committed to the deep.

Between October 1944 and the end of hostilities in August 1945, some 3000 "kamikaze" sorties are estimated to have been flown.

The dents from the April 11, 1945 attack remain on the Missouri's hull to this day (visible between frames 159 and 165).

The above explanation regarding the kamikaze aircraft that hit Missouri mentions that 16 planes were spotted by radar. Akira Kachi performed extremely thorough research to determine the identity of the fighter pilot who crashed into Missouri (BB-63) on April 11, 1945. His research is summarized in the 2005 Japanese book entitled Senkan mizuuri ni totsunyuu shita reisen (Zero fighter that crashed into battleship Missouri). This book explains that only 13 of the 16 planes in the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 5th Kemmu Squadron from Kanoya Air Base reached Kikaijima, directly north of Missouri's position at the time. Radar picked up the planes after they passed Kikaijima, so radar could not have spotted 16 aircraft as mentioned above.


Zero fighter about ready to hit USS Missouri

In front of the aft turret of three 16-inch guns, there are three information display stands. The stand on the far left shows the famous photo of a Zero fighter about ready to strike Missouri's starboard side (see photo above). There are also a photo of crewmen standing on one of the Zero's wing on deck after the crash and a photo taken from another ship of Missouri under attack on April 11, 1945. The information display stand provides the following explanation:

Dents on Missouri's starboard
hull from kamikaze crash
on April 11, 1945

 

Kamikaze

During the battle for Okinawa, 5000 American naval personnel are killed and 36 ships sunk, many by Tokkotai, an abbreviation for "Special Attack Unit," known to Americans as "Kamikaze."


On April 11, 1945, ten days into the Battle for Okinawa, sixteen Tokkotai pilots take off from their base at Kanoya.

At noon, USS Missouri is northeast of Okinawa.

"Air Defense" is sounded at 1330 as an incoming "bogey" is picked up on radar and spotted by binoculars 7500 yards out.

Anti-aircraft fire commences immediately and hits are observed, the "Zeke" (Mitsubishi A6M Zero) smoking and losing altitude.

At 4000 yards the incoming aircraft is hit again, losing altitude rapidly and appears about to splash.

The pilot fights to regain altitude and keeps coming through the hail of anti-aircraft fire.

Missouri's gun crews stand their ground, continuing to fire as the low-flying Zeke bears down upon the ship, the Japanese pilot fighting to maintain control and lift his damaged aircraft.

At 1443 the left wing of the Zeke strikes Missouri bare inches below the main deck deflecting the nose hard into the steel hull of the ship at frame 160, the propeller cutting the main deck heading as wreckage is strewn on deck.

Upon impact, the right wing is torn loose and catapults forward, landing on the 01 level above the starboard boat davit where fire erupts.

The Damage Control crew rushes to extinguish the flames as billowing black smoke is drawn into engineering spaces below.

The fire is put out quickly and no serious injuries are reported.

After the attack, as the crew hoses down the deck and sweeps debris from the ship, the pilot's remains are discovered among the wreckage.

Missouri's commanding officer, Captain William M. Callaghan, is notified and issues orders for the ship's medical personnel to receive and prepare the body for burial at sea.

Missouri remains on alert, steaming as before.

The above account has one error in the times. It states that at 1330 one "bogey" is picked up and spotted by binoculars 7500 yards out, but the Zero fighter did not hit Missouri until over one hour later at 1443. It did not take the Zero 73 minutes to go just 7500 yards. Instead, the detection by radar at 1330 was made of the 13 aircraft in the pilot's squadron that had just passed Kikaijima. The Zero that hit Missouri was picked up again by radar much later as it was approached the battleship.


Three information display stands (at bottom left)
in area where kamikaze aircraft hit ship

The middle information stand in front of the aft turret of three 16-inch guns gives the following information about the burial at sea of the remains of the kamikaze pilot and the identification of the pilot by three researchers.

A Burial At Sea

At 0900 on April 12, 1945 in waters northeast of Okinawa, as the last major battle of World War II rages at sea and ashore, the body of a Japanese pilot, who attacked the battleship USS Missouri the day prior, is readied for burial at sea.


The pilot's body is placed in a canvas shroud and draped with a Japanese flag sewn by Missouri crew.

Members of the ship's company stand by as the flag-draped body is brought on deck from sickbay and carried by a 6-man burial detail toward the rail near to the point of impact.

Those present come to attention and offer a hand-salute as the Marine rifle detail aims their weapons skyward to render a three-volley salute over the remains.

As the battleship USS Missouri continues on through gentle swells, a bandsman steps forward, his bugle raised and the lingering notes of "Taps" drift out across the sea.

Senior Chaplain, Commander Roland Faulk, steps to the head of the burial detail and concludes, saying simply: "We commit his body to the deep."

The burial detail tilts the flag-draped body, the weighted white canvas shroud slipping over the side, disappearing into ocean depths below.

As Missouri continues on course, the burial detail gathers and folds the Japanese flag.

In a quiet village in Japan, a family waits.
-----------

I wonder who he was . . . and why?

World War II US Army Military Intelligence Service veteran Edwin Kawahara wondered.

So did Japanese Navy veteran, Kensuke Sato, survivor of the sinking of battleship Musashi, and Mitsubishi aircraft plant laborer Tadafumi Sugiyama. They were determined to find out, and founded a volunteer research committee for the Battleship Missouri Memorial. After years of research they were as sure as available records would allow.

They concluded that 19-year old, former railroad worker, Petty Officer 2nd class, Setsuo Ishino from the squadron that attacked the American task force on April 11, was very likely, the pilot of the Zeke who crashed Missouri and was buried at sea on April 12, 1945.

On April 11, 2001, family members of three Japanese pilots as well as the family of former commanding officer Captain William M. Callaghan gathered aboard Missouri to honor his courage and compassion in recognizing our common humanity—even in the midst of war.

The middle information plaque also shows a photo of Petty Officer 2nd Class Setsuo Ishino (see below) and another one of Setsuo Ishino as a child holding a plane.

Setsuo Ishino
Petty Officer 2nd Class

 

Although the three researchers mentioned above came to the conclusion that Ishino hit Missouri, Akira Kachi's 2005 book Senkan mizuuri ni totsunyuu shita reisen (Zero fighter that crashed into battleship Missouri) concludes that the Zero pilot who hit battleship Missouri on April 11, 1945, was either Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenkichi Ishii or Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Setsuo Ishino. The Battleship Missouri Memorial information stands and guides make no mention that Kenkichi Ishii is just as likely as Setsuo Ishino to have hit the ship.

The information audio phone that can be used to tour the ship has a segment on the kamikaze attack and another one on the subsequent burial of the pilot. Former steward Felix Oliva recounts his experience of the kamikaze attack. Signalman John P. Sullivan describes the funeral: "A chief signalman and two other signalmen stayed up all night to make a Japanese flag, and we gave him a burial at sea. The doctors stitched together and put him together from the debris and put him in a box. Everybody said, 'Just get the hose and wash him off, you know, why go through all the trouble?' But the skipper was a good man. Captain Callaghan was a good man." The captain said, "This man died for his country in what we are doing for our country."

Another Zero fighter from the Kamikaze Corps tried to hit Missouri on April 16, 1945, but crashed just off the ship's stern. The violent explosion when the plane hit the water showered the fantail with shrapnel and debris, which wounded two crewmen. The Battleship Missouri Memorial provides no information related to this second kamikaze attack.

Missouri's ward room has another display related to the photograph taken of the kamikaze attack and pieces of wreckage kept by the crew as souvenirs. An enlarged photograph of the Zero fighter about ready to hit USS Missouri has the following information card:

Missouri is struck by a Japanese "Zeke," April 11, 1945 during the Battle for Okinawa. The photograph was taken by ship's baker "Buster" Campbell.

The pilot's remains, believed to be Setsuo Ishino, was discovered among the wreckage and buried at sea the following day.

The above display case has the following explanation:

Ship's baker "Buster" Campbell moonlighted with Missouri's photographers, and happened to be in the right place at the right time to photograph this Japanese "Zeke" striking Missouri on April 11, 1945. These pieces of the wreckage were kept as souvenirs by the crew.


Piece of kamikaze plane wreckage with the following engraving:
"Jap Zeke suicide crashed USS Missouri April 11 1945"

The ward room contains various other exhibits and photographs of USS Missouri's history. There are also couches where 15 people or so can watch the History Channel DVD entitled The Three Wars of the Battleship Missouri in which various veterans describe their experiences aboard the battleship.

Admission to Battleship Missouri Memorial costs $20 for adults and $10 for children. This includes a 35-minute guided tour, an information audio phone tour, an Apple iPad Touch tour, or a self-guided tour along three marked tour routes. Many tour groups make a visit to Battleship Missouri Memorial as part of tours of Pearl Harbor historical sites, which include the Battleship Arizona Memorial in front of USS Missouri, Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum. A more detailed 90-minute Battle Stations Tour, which goes to areas of the battleship inaccessible without escort, is available for an additional $25. The Victory Store on shore next to the battleship has a wide variety of souvenirs related to USS Missouri including books, DVDs, postcards, hats, and other clothing items.

Date of visit: September 11, 2011

Link

USS Missouri - web site about Battleship Missouri Memorial

Note

1. Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima did not lead the first official Special Attack Squadron (tokkotai). Lieutenant Yukio Seki led the first official Special Attack Squadron from Mabalacat Air Base in the Philippines.

Related Web Pages
Source Cited

Kachi, Akira. 2005. Senkan mizuuri ni totsunyuu shita reisen (Zero fighter that crashed into battleship Missouri). Tokyo: Kojinsha.