FINAL REPORT: THE USS MISSOURI TOW

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From Bob Wernet, USS Missouri Foundation Aboard the Crowley Towboat "Sea Victory" Sunday, June 21, 1998 9:00 p.m./Hawaii Standard Time Off-Shore - Honolulu, Hawaii

"Aloha" in Hawaii today, all day long, meant welcome: USS Missouri!

The first helicopter was spotted over the historic battleship at 6:45 a.m., inside the Kaiwi Channel toward Makapuu Point Lighthouse on Oahu. From then on for the Mighty Mo, it was all show. And what a show it was!

As the Sea Victory steadily churned up its foamy wake, the Missouri prepared for her grand entrance on the stage of Oahu's southeast shore.

Radio reports from a Honolulu radio station, even early this morning, described shoreline parking areas as packed; Kalanianaole Highway traffic backed up for miles. Choice viewing spots for Missouri's passage past Makapuu, Sandy Beach, the Blow Hole, Hanauma Bay, Koko Head, Aina Haina, Kahala and Diamond Head vanished early.

Soon, the Missouri was drawing more escorts. The U.S. Coast Guard had stationed its neat little Cutter "Point Evans" to spend the night, and she steered along Missouri's starboard beam this morning, too. Recreational, small watercraft started approaching for position. Fishing boats, more aircraft, and now even sailboats quietly slipped into view.

When the Missouri reached Diamond Head Lighthouse, precisely at noon, the Captain declared the course completed. After 2,368 miles from Astoria, after leaving Bremerton and Seattle May 23rd, after dodging the 24-hour specter of Tropical Storm Agatha, after weeks of sharing private, human moments with men who measure distances and weights and fluids with the precision of invention -- and take measure of the sea itself -- the logs will say "Destination: Diamond Head."

That, in many ways, though, was only the beginning.

By noon, countless boats, additional Cutters, always helicopters, spiffy yachts, old-time multi-masted sailing rigs, jet skiers, policing boats, fire boats, watercraft packed with passengers, more planes, racing boats all joined the procession around Hawaii's trademark landmark to Waikiki, Ala Moana, Magic Island, Kewalo Basin, Kalihi Channel and then back again.

The opening day of summer filled this Father's Day tribute to the monument Missouri with a kind of joy one imagines only young children have.

How many times did Sea Victory's deck hands wave to passing helicopters with smiles as broad as the horizons? What compels a crusty, heard-it-all seadog to stand in awe at the parade of aloha he's witnessing, and then return to his routine with a disbelieving head-shake and smile?

What force of poetic magnetism pulled these tough tug professionals into the fine art of photography? No one dared miss this! Yes, they would have to pull in wire before soon passing by the Governor of Hawaii and the Mayor of Honolulu and all their people, but these were must-get photographs, one chance is all you have.

Afterwards, Missouri's wire, her tow chain, was pulled in – huge masses of linked steel, so resistant to human hand strength it must be grappled down, slammed, wedged, ultimately forced to respond to superior 600 horsepower diesel motors. And still it resists -- heaving, groaning, dragging its hardened steel heels against Sea Victory's own. Lengthy pries and sledge hammers barely master its disobedience.

These parade-watchers with cameras this afternoon had wire duty first before Mighty Mo would enter stage left. It's what they do. Stories get told here about fighting wild chain tonnage in fifty-foot seas, when the ravaging water nearly entombs them until they break loose some delinquent coupling or other.

Stories about fighting against an Alaskan cold so bitter at sea even the bulkheads above the chain deck are frozen solid with caked ice.

Today, though, Missouri's wire is shortened for the parade in good order -- by good men with histories and service, families and children, Labradors and guitars, libraries on the Civil War and the Cherokee, acreage in very special places, and with dreams of conquering the stars and navigating the heavens.

Captain Kaare Ogaard, with Norway seamanship and Massachusetts brawn coursing through his veins, brought the USS Missouri safely home today, and all Hawaii cheered him with all Hawaii had.

They turned out in squadrons of aircraft and fleets of watercraft. They celebrated and sang. They saluted this evening as Sea Victory and Missouri did last evening, at a small holy place with only love at its core. They shot off brilliant fireworks as the setting sun in the western sky painted a soft and tender portrait of a scarlet cape around Missouri's legacy.

Tonight the men of the Sea Victory are resting. The battleship USS Missouri -- her final crossing done, her majesty of the seas complete, her grace under wire and fire recognized -- tomorrow will answer once more to these men who treat her steel linkage as a part of themselves. When they free her chains, something of them will be left with her here.

Early tomorrow, in the Hawaiian morning, Missouri will make her way to the channel leading into Pearl Harbor. There begins a slow, soft, easy approach to her berthing near a sacred memorial. By day's end, this harbor -- remembered for a war -- can also be remembered for a peace.

She will remain, from this day forward, for many others to see and honor. But the seven men who brought her home will move on. They have other chains to lash, more wire to dump. The heavens to explore. But they'll be here. Those seven service men who got her home. They'll be here, too.

(For More Information, contact the USS Missouri Memorial Association on the Internet at: www.ussmissouri.com  ... or call toll-free: 1-888-877-6477.)

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