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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Mighty Mo dressed for battle

By James Gonser
Urban Honolulu Writer

The USS Missouri Memorial Association's Don Hess, left, and donor Alexander Gaston examine a 20mm Gatling gun recently installed on the battleship along with three other pieces of Gulf War-era equipment. The battleship was decommissioned in 1992.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Full radar regalia and a 20mm Gatling gun have been installed on the battleship USS Missouri, now a floating museum in Pearl Harbor, taking the ship another step toward its former fighting condition.

The Mighty Mo's silhouette now features a circular antenna once used for air-search radar and a rectangular surface-search radar antenna on the foremast. The radar is positioned as the ship's systems stood from 1986 to 1992, when they were used to track Iraqi Scud and Silkworm missiles during Operation Desert Storm.

The Gatling gun, a ship's defense against enemy missiles and aircraft, was placed above the Missouri's bridge. In the automatic mode the guns could automatically detect, track, shoot and confirm target hits without human intervention.

"I am extremely pleased to see the Missouri move forward with its historical refurbishments," said Alexander "Sandy" Gaston, the first donor in the effort to bring the Missouri to Hawai'i. "The Battleship Missouri Memorial is so vital to the education of our young people. It represents the sacrifice generations before them gave to their country and the preservation of peace."

Last month, a volunteer team of Navy sailors and Jackson Marine Construction personnel worked to mount the radar systems and guns. Jackson Marine donated about $70,000 worth of crane equipment use and labor toward the effort.

The battleship Missouri was mothballed by the Navy in 1992, and much of its communications and weapons equipment removed, said Don Hess, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, which works as caretaker of the battleship.

Hess said such stripping of equipment is normal when a ship is decommissioned, and the goal of the association is to bring it back to its "fighting form."

The surplus radar systems and guns were donated by Massachusetts-based Raytheon, a company developing defense technologies and converting them for use in commercial markets.

The Missouri — 887 feet long and nine stories high — is best known as the site of the formal Japanese surrender during World War II. The ship last fired its 16-inch guns during the Persian Gulf War.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.