Night Aboard the USS Missouri - WBAY

Return to Pearl Harbor

Night Aboard the USS Missouri

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It's another experience a group of Wisconsin World War II veterans will never forget.

More than 70 years after surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, they boarded an Old Glory Honor Flight and returned to Hawaii.

One of the highlights during their four days in Hawaii was a private evening aboard an historic World War II battleship.

It was an opportunity for the veterans to see the exact location where their courage and sacrifice in the War to End All Wars finally paid off. And the evening was also full of surprises.

On a pier lined with the stars and stripes, 18 American heroes left Ford Island. The Mighty Mo was calling.

As the veterans boarded the USS Missouri, they realized a special night was in store.

"More fun," one remarks.

Tours are taken up and down the Missouri's wooden decks stretching nearly 900 feet.

Stories are shared beneath her massive guns fired in World War II, the Korean War, and the Gulf War.

"When you fire those, they leave craters in the ground."

Of all the men on the Missouri this night, one stands out.

Ninety-year-old Chuck Davis from Rothschild is wearing this Navy uniform -- for the first time.

"Had it since August, 1940, and this was the last issue of the dress whites with the blue collar, and they made them obsolete right then so I never got to wear it until now really," he laughs, yet wears it proudly.

"I've kept it all this time. I'm glad I did," Chuck Davis says.

Chuck is the only survivor on this trip to never return to Pearl Harbor.

"I never, never did either, didn't really have any desire to," he says.

"My whole life he was never gonna come back," son Jay Daiv says. "He had too many what he thought bad memories. And then the last few years he's just started to soften toward it, I think, because he's been maybe talking about it."

Chuck admits he's glad he's here.

"Seeing some of the older sailors, yeah," he says, then laughs, "of which I am one."

The tour concludes on what's called the "Surrender Deck." It is here, in this exact spot, Japan signed its unconditional surrender on September 2, 1945, ending World War II.

"And when he's ready to sign the final part of his name -- he had rehearsed this -- General Douglas MacArthur takes out of his pocket a red-colored pen."

After dinner on the Surrender Deck, a part of the itinerary kept secret from the Pearl Harbor survivors begins with a reading of a proclamation from Wisconsin's governor:

"Today, Saturday, June 16, 2012, as Wisconsin Pearl Harbor Veterans Remembrance Day throughout the State of Wisconsin, and I commend this observance to all of our citizens."

Then, a real treat.

"Mail call, Chuck Davis.... Wally Wendt...."

Each veteran receives a packet full of letters from family and friends back home thanking them for their courage and sacrifice and for our freedom.

"I'm so blessed to have you as my only grandpa," one reads.

The vets and the Honor Flight staff are brought to tears.

U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy also sent letters.

For close to three hours, these veterans are the toast of Pearl Harbor.

What strikes each one maybe more than anything is the Missouri's location, docked along Ford Island. This used to be Battleship Row.

The Mighty Mo's days of duty have come and gone, but the veterans discover she has one final mission.

The decision to have Missouri's bow face the USS Arizona Memorial is meant to convey that Missouri now watches over the remains of Arizona so those interred within her hull may rest in peace.

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