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Brooklyn's Greatest Achievement: How One Superstructure Changed The World Forever

By Edited Sep 3, 2015 1 0

The borough of Brooklyn is known for its excellent restaurants, iconic bars and spacious parks. There is something else that Brooklyn is also known for, although it never gets much attention. It is something that changed the world today, and many fail to mention that Brooklyn is where its birthplace was.

So, what exactly changed the world that we live in today, which was created in Brooklyn, New York? The answer is actually related to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

 

Brooklyn Navy Yard

The Navy Yard was established by the federal government in 1801 (although its operations officially began in 1806). Federal authorities purchased around 50 acres of land for forty thousand dollars back in 1801. It then became the original site for the construction of Robert Fulton's steam frigate, the Fulton, which was officially launched in 1815. A number of other historical vessels were built there around the same time as well. There were also offices, warehouses, barracks, a power plant, a large radio station and store-houses built at the Navy Yard.

The site of the Navy Yard had a strategic advantage because it allowed potential employers to easily commute to the area. Since it was situated in the direct center of the five New York City boroughs, thousands of employees would have the ability to easily access the facility.

Brooklyn Navy Yard

During the Civil War, the Brooklyn Navy Yard expanded its operations and eventually employed about 6,000 people. In 1890, the Navy Yard constructed and later delivered the ill-fated Maine. The Brooklyn Navy Yard was responsible for the construction of three vessels from 1900 to 1910 (the battleships USS Florida (BB-30), USS Connecticut (BB-18), and the fleet collier USS Vestal (AR-4). During WWI, ship production at the Brooklyn Navy Yard produced two ships, the USS Arizona (BB-39) and the USS New Mexico (BB-40).

In the late 1930s, the U.S. Navy strongly considered constructing a series of several state-of-the-art battleships. These vessels would have the capability to destroy targets at sea, on land, and in the air. Work on what would eventually become the Iowa-class battleships (vessels named in honor of the state of Iowa) began in early 1938, at the direction of Admiral Thomas C. Hart. Eventually, the U.S. Navy decided to construct four vessels which would make up the entire fleet of the Iowa-class battleships.

In the summer of 1938, the U.S. Congress passed the Second Vinson Act. This Act would increase the strength of the U.S. Navy by almost 20%. Since nations such as Japan began invading and ultimately occupying neighboring territories, the U.S. military decided that the Second Vinson Act was a necessity. The Second Vinson Act was an updated version of the Vinson-Trammell Act of 1934 as well as the Naval Act (which was passed in 1936) which had "authorized the construction of the first American battleships". Ultimately, the Act provided the funding for the Iowa-class battleships. It was decided that four battleships would be built in all, at the cost of around $100 million each.

American ship designers and engineers knew exactly what Japanese ships were capable of. The largest Japanese battleship ever constructed was the Yamato (her sister ship, Musashi was also one of the largest and most heavily armed Japanese ships ever to be built). The Japanese built  these vessels in order to challenge the growing American fleet stationed in the Pacific. Both the Yamato and Musashi were launched in the early 1940s and took part in many battles. Furthermore, both the Yamato and Musashi  put fear into the eyes of many of Japan's neighbors, which quickly became part of the expanding Japanese empire.

The U.S Navy later decided to have two of the four battleships built in Brooklyn, New York (although aircraft carriers, landing ship tanks and floating workshops were also built at the Brooklyn Navy yard in the 1940s). One was the USS Iowa (BB-61) and the other was the USS Missouri (BB-63). Although both battleships contributed greatly to American victories in various military conflicts, the USS Missouri's history was more efficacious. 

By 1938, the Brooklyn Navy yard employed over 9,500 men. Of these workers, about one-third were employed directly through the WPA (Works Progress Administration). The USS Missouri was ordered in 1940 and was officially commissioned in June 1944. At its peak, during World War II, the Brooklyn Navy Yard employed approximately 70,000 people. The crews worked non-stop around the clock to complete the construction of the vessel. During the war, the pedestrian walkways on both the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg bridges were encased to prevent potential espionage from the Axis powers. Many Allied nations viewed espionage and a primary concern, especially when it involved the construction of major military projects.

USS Missouri

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard had their hands full because the vessel weighed over 58,000 tons and measuring almost 900 feet from bow to stern (which is the size of about three football fields). The USS Missouri would become the largest battleship ever created that served in the U.S. Navy. The ship was christened at her launching by Mary Margaret Truman, the daughter of future President Harry S. Truman.

The U.S. Navy made sure that the ship was equipped with top of the line weaponry. In addition, the U.S. Navy was well aware of the potential damage that Japanese "Kamikaze" strikes could have inflicted on the Missouri. The ship's main battery consisted of nine Mark 7 guns. These could fire armor-piercing shells (which were equivalent to over one ton of force) that could reach up to 20 miles away. The secondary battery had twenty 5 inch cal guns with a range of about 10 miles. Missouri was also fitted with anti-aircraft (which were manufactured by Oerlikon and Bofors) weaponry. The U.S. Navy made sure that she was equipped with virtually every possible weapon available at the time. Although damage from other vessels could have potentially halted her operations (or ended the Missouri's service altogether), kamikaze attacks were still seen as the chief concern.

After initial trials around the New York area, Missouri departed from Norfolk, Virginia in November of 1944. She then traveled through the Panama Canal and ended up in San Francisco. From there she traveled to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Once at Pearl Harbor, her sailors paid their respects to all of the lives lost during the ferocious attack.

Missouri then collaborated with other allied ships in the Pacific theatre. She was directly involved during the battle of Iwo Jima and several other allied invasions. She shot down several Japanese aircraft and bombarded the coast of the Seto Inland Sea.

On April 11th, a kamikaze crashed on one of Missouri‍ 's decks. The crash starting a gasoline fire, but fortunately the vessel only suffered minor damage. The Japanese pilot's body was later recovered and the crew of the Missouri buried his body at sea with full military honors. In many cases the U.S. military did this, although it was done on rare occasions by the Axis powers.

In some cases, she detected enemy submarines. In these cases, the Missouri contacted other allied vessels which eliminated these threats. Fierce storms were also a major issue for battleships during the war. Missouri was also caught in a few fierce storms during the war, but no major damage was ever reported on the ship.

As the war waged on, Missouri kept creeping closer to the Japanese mainland. She bombarded many industrial facilities (primarily steel plants). She then guarded American aircraft carriers as they continued to bomb the Japanese mainland.

Japanese Surrender

After the U.S. dropped both atomic bombs on Japan (which ultimately ended the war), the U.S. military was not exactly sure where to have the Japanese officially surrender. The U.S. Navy then decided to have the ceremony done on a warship. The warship was finally chosen and it was the USS Missouri. The Japanese officially surrendered to the U.S. aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, Japan. The ship was eventually given the nickname "Mighty Mo". The vessel would go on to receive three battle stars for her service in World War II.

During the Koran War, Missouri conducted operations with aircraft carriers and shore bombardments off the coast of Korea. In between tours, she joined training exercises with many allied nations. She would earn a total of five battle stars for her service during the Korean War.

USS Missouri

She was decommissioned in 1955 into the U.S. Navy Reserve Fleet (“Mothball Fleet”). After being decommissioned, the U.S. Navy thought about reactivating certain vessels in an attempt to cut costs. Under President Ronald Reagan, the USS Missouri was officially reactivated in 1984. She became part of the 600-ship Navy. Many of her obsolete components were removed and replaced with state-of-the-art military technology.

During the upgrade she received new weapons systems, which included four MK quad cell launchers for 16 AGM anti-ship missiles, launchers for 32 Tomahawk missiles and high-powered Gatling guns. The vessel also received upgrades in radar, fire control systems, and high-tech computers to engage in advanced electronic warfare. Missouri was recommissioned on May 10, 1986 in San Francisco.[1]

USS Missouri

Although many believed that she was only going to be utilized in NATO training exercises, the ship was called upon by the U.S. Navy when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Missouri fired her first Tomahawk missile at an Iraqi target on January 17, 1991. This was followed by an assortment of other missile strikes conducted by the Missouri (which totaled 28) over a period of five days.

USS Missouri

She also engaged in naval gunfire support during the military conflict. Her targets included different Iraqi facilities including command and control bunkers, military bases, and weapons depots. Furthermore, she obliterated Iraqi beach defenses in occupied Kuwait. The heavy pounding attracted Iraqi attention immediately. The Iraqis responded by firing missiles at the Missouri, but most either missed the target altogether or were intercepted by air defense units nearby.

USS Missouri

She received three battle stars for her service during the Gulf War. In addition, King Fahd Ibn Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia awarded the Missouri the Kuwait Liberation Medal.[2]

After the Soviet Union officially collapsed, massive defense cuts were implemented by the U.S. Navy, and Missouri was officially decommissioned in March of 1992 in Long Beach, California.

USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor

Missouri will go down in history as one of the most efficient, reliable, and trustworthy superstructures ever built by mankind. She defended democracy and freedom for decades and decimated any enemy that posed a threat to her. In 1998, she was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and officially became a museum ship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Today, this peaceful giant stands silent guard over American vessels that were sunk during the attack.

Brooklyn Navy Yard

There is no doubt that the connection between this battleship and Brooklyn, New York will always be remembered. Even though the Brooklyn Navy Yard ceased its operations in 1966, one should never forget the workers who resided from Williamsburg to Marine Park, which sacrificed so much to make this ship a reality. From now on, when a person tells you that superior products are only manufactured in Germany, Japan, or South Korea, tell them that they are wrong because the greatest products are built in Brooklyn, New York.

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Bibliography

  1. Lawrence Burr US Fast Battleships 1938-91: The Iowa Class. New York City: Osprey Publishing, 2010.
  2. Scott C. S. Stone The Last Battleship: The Story of the USS Missouri. New York City: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1999.

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