USS Missouri move unlikely
|||'Virtual tours' coming soon to USS Missouri|
By William Cole
MIlitary Affairs Writer
Pointed bow to bow with the USS Arizona Memorial, its 16-inch guns heralding ultimate victory over an unexpected defeat, the battleship USS Missouri's pairing with the memorial in Pearl Harbor has served as a powerful symbol of the start and finish to the United States' involvement in World War II.
U.S. Navy via Associated Press
Officials with the USS Missouri Memorial Association say they hope to maintain the floating museum's berth at Pearl Harbor's pier F-5 because of the pier's proximity to the USS Arizona Memorial.
U.S. Navy via Associated Press
The current three-year lease expires July 31. With a final Navy sign-off on the draft agreement, the not-for-profit association will be able to begin negotiating a new lease price for the pier known as "Foxtrot 5," said Don Hess, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the association.
"Not only do people like us there," Hess said, "but it looks to us like that would be a good place to stay without adversely impacting anyone."
Although the Navy in 1999 called the lease arrangement a "sensitive issue" because the association was tying up a $29 million pier, built in the early 1990s one of the newest in the harbor. Navy officials now say changing demands have made the use of pier F-5 less imperative.
"Right now, the (Missouri) is going to stay there because of the historical significance," said Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for Navy Region Hawai'i. "There is no current, pressing need (for the pier), but I don't think anyone can project out years from now."
Three sites contemplated
Japan surrendered to the United States on the deck of the Missouri in September 1945. The battleship was decommissioned in 1992, and arrived in Hawai'i under tow in June 1998, after the association won a four-year battle with Bremerton, Wash., to make Hawai'i its home.
Hess said the USS Missouri Memorial Association has been paying the Navy between $220,000 and $230,000 annually for the lease of pier F-5 and limited use of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park property, a shuttle pick-up spot for the Missouri. The association took in about $5 million in revenues last year.
The leasing agreement with the Navy calls for the association to cover the Navy's cost for pier F-5 by calculating the loss of an operational pier, Campbell said.
Under a Navy redevelopment plan for Ford Island, Hess said three locations for the Missouri are contemplated: its current spot at F-5; 1,000 feet to the south; and even further to the south and out of sight of the Arizona at a seaplane launch.
The Navy is seeking a developer to build military housing, restaurants, stores, parks and museums as part of a 10- to 15-year redevelopment effort expected to affect the Missouri's future home. Initial proposals for the development are due in July.
Hess said pier F-5 is ideal for the Missouri because of its proximity to the Arizona, less than 1,000 feet away. Without that availability, the association said its next best option is the mooring site 1,000 feet to the south. A pier there would conservatively cost the organization $10 million to $12 million, Hess said.
Not surprisingly, the association would like to stay at pier F-5 indefinitely. Moving the Missouri farther away from the Arizona would result in a "loss of historical perspective for visitors," Hess said. "Pearl Harbor should represent the entirety of the battle in the Pacific."
No objections yet
Ironically, pier F-5 was built for the Missouri after it was taken out of mothballs and re-commissioned in 1986. Campbell said the pier, with its deep-water draft, would be an asset to ships coming into port, including amphibious readiness groups carrying helicopters and U.S. Marines.
Since the Cold War days of President Reagan's 600-ship Navy, however, downsizing has resulted in a fleet closer to half that size, Hess said.
"Certainly, based on the number of ships in port on any given day, (the Navy's) need for that particular pier does not seem to be a pressing requirement," Hess said.
Groups such as the state Historic Preservation Division and National Park Service, which operates the Arizona Memorial, did not express objections to the lease extension at a recent meeting, Hess said. The Park Service, which has previously raised concerns over Missouri activities intruding into the solemnity of the Arizona Memorial, could not be reached for comment.
Hess said the association hasn't yet talked to Navy officials about the cost for a new lease, and he couldn't predict how easily the issue will be resolved.
"There are different points of view that have to be looked at," he said. "I can't speak for the Navy, how they will look at the lease today, versus how they looked at it three years ago."