The first Missouri, a wooden-hulled sidewheel steam-frigate, was commissioned in early 1842. In the summer of 1843 she departed the United States, under the command of Captain John Taylor Newton, to convey a diplomat to Alexandria, Egypt. On the evening of 26 August, as Missouri lay in the harbor of Gibraltar, the accidental breakage of a demijohn of turpentine started a fire when the liquid fell upon a lighted lamp. Capt. Newton, paying the customary call on the governor of the crown colony, returned to Missouri when he learned of the fire. Some of Missouri’s crew had rigged the pumps and employed hoses, while others formed bucket brigades. British sailors from the 74-gun ship HMS Malabar also assisted in the vain attempt to quell the raging flames. Although a court of inquiry investigating Missouri’s loss found the captain guilty of negligence and he was temporarily suspended from duty, Newton praised the zealous efforts of his officers and men save the ship.
The second Missouri (Battleship No. 11) rendered aid to the earthquake-stricken city of Kingston, Jamaica, in January 1907, voyaged around the world with the Great White Fleet, and trained midshipmen once newer dreadnoughts joined the fleet. The third Missouri (BB 63) served with distinction in World War II, hosted the signing of the Japanese surrender in September 1945 in Tokyo Bay, and showed the Stars and Stripes in the eastern Mediterranean in the spring of 1946 to show American support of Greece and Turkey. She went on to serve in the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm, and lies moored today at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as a memorial.
Today’s commissioning of the fourth Missouri (SSN 780) continues the legacy of valor and heroism which have been the hallmark of the name since the mid-19th century.