The battleship USS Missouri (BB-63). Launched in early 1944, the Missouri is without a doubt one of the best known warships of her type.
Visualisation 3D Stefan Dramiński
She was the last battleship to have been commissioned in the US Navy and will always be remembered as the ship whose deck saw the official ceremony ending World War II. The Missouri had a long combat history: she took part in the Korean war in the 1950s and in operations in Iraq in the 1990s. Having had such an outstanding service record, the battleship was spared the chopping block and can today be seen in all her glory at Pearl Harbor.
The signing of the Washington Treaty in 1922 put a cap on shipbuilding for several years. Despite advancements in shipbuilding technology following World War I, the tonnage and firepower of newly designed warships were subject to significant restrictions. The London Naval Treaty of 1930 allowed the Italians and the French to supplement their navies with two types of fast battleships – the Littorio and the Richelieu, respectively. However, in the mid 1930s the political climate changed again when the U.S. intelligence reported the launch of modernization of Japanese Kongō class battlecruisers and Nagato class battleships. The Second London Naval Conference of 1935–1936 imposed limitations on the development of battleships exceeding 35 000 long tons and main battery guns above 14 inches. However, only Great Britain, the U.S. and France agreed to adhere to the treaty’s restrictions. Japan withdrew from all naval treaties in 1937 and started the construction of Yamato class battleships. Under these circumstances the signatory nations could invoke the so called “escalator clause”, which allowed them to exceed the limits imposed by the treaty. The Americans decided to increase the caliber of the main guns of the North Carolina class battleships, although the decision to do so was made too late: by 1937 most of the battleship’s armor had already been manufactured and its strength proved inadequate in comparison with the power of the main artillery.
Because of the inadequate armor protection of the North Carolina class battleships, the U.S. Congress authorized in 1938 the construction of two new South Dakota class battleships, which would mount the same caliber guns, but with much improved armor. As a result of rapid deterioration of international relations the US Navy gave a green light to the construction of two additional South Dakota class warships. In addition, following confusing signals from Japan concerning the Yamato program, the U.S., France and Great Britain signed an agreement allowing the construction of new capital ships displacing up to 45 000 long tons. This way the US Navy could use the extra 10 000 long tons to equip the ships with more powerful weapons, upgrade their armor protection or increase their speed. In the end the latter option was chosen.
On May 17, 1939 the U.S. Congress authorized the construction of two new battleships: the Iowa (BB-61) and her sister ship New Jersey (BB-62). The latter was originally planned to be named Missouri, but following President Roosevelt’s decision the name was reserved for the next battleship to be built. Roosevelt was greatly involved in the fast battleship program and believed that the new warships should be named after states that had not been namesakes for warships for a long time. Orders for the construction of the Iowa and New Jersey were placed on July 1,1939, but the new ships were not laid down until a year later.
The initial plans for 45 000 ton fast battleships were first drawn back in 1935. It was then that a formula was established showing the relationship between the length of a ship’s waterline and her projected speed. The top speed of the North Carolina and South Dakota class battleships (28 knots) was respectable, but not sufficient if the ships were to keep pace with the Essex class aircraft carriers. The design plans of the new battleship were submitted to the US Navy Command on June 2, 1938 and a week later the preliminary design characteristics of the Iowa class battleships were delivered to the Secretary of the Navy. The new vessels were designed to displace up to 45 000 long tons and mount 16”/50 Mk 7 main guns. The battleships would have a phenomenal top speed of 33 knots and their beam would allow the safe passage through the Panama Canal.