5 Engineering Facts about the USS Missouri Battleship: Leading Lady of Universal Studios Movie “Battleship”

The movie “Battleship” comes out on DVD today.  The star and namesake of this movie is the USS Missouri or the Mighty Missouri battleship. It is the last Iowa class battleship to be made.

She served well in many battles, and is most well-known because the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II on its deck.

My family and I recently had the privilege of touring the Mighty Missouri Battleship, located now on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, O’ahu, Hawaii.  It is a beautiful battleship, located next to the site of the USS Arizona, creating the bookends of WWII.

My husband and I are both engineers, so even while relaxing in Hawaii we like to enlighten our children in all things engineering (they would say torture). I love to find engineering facts to use as examples in my classroom at NTI School of Technology at Globe University.

Here are the five engineering facts I found interesting while touring the USS Missouri.

  1. The width of the USS Missouri is 108.2 feet. Why? (I was so proud my daughter had the answer for the tour guide!) The Panama Canal is 110 feet wide. So when the USS Missouri went through the Canal is had about 5 inches of clearance on each side! That is close!
  2. The weight of the battleship is 45,000 tons (90 million pounds).  This is also the displacement of water of the ship—so if the ship was placed in a completely full container of water, 90 million pounds of water would pour out of the container to allow the ship to float.
  3. The turrets (large guns seen facing front in the top picture) could shoot projectiles the weight of a Volkswagen bug for up to 20 miles away! At maximum speed, the projectile would be traveling over 1,800 mph.
  4. The USS Missouri has nine turrets on it—which are all capable of firing at the same time. When firing, the turrets are turned to the side as shown in this photo of the USS Iowa. Most people think the battleship moves in the water sideways when firing the huge projectiles from all nine turrets at the same time—this is false.  Because of the enormous amount of displacement (weight) of the ship and because of bellows designed into the turrets, the ship does not move when firing.
  5. The deck of the ship is covered in teak wood.  Someone in our tour group asked why. The main reason the deck is made of teak wood is because of the large amount of gunpowder that had to be transported on and off of the ship. Needless to say, you would not want a metal container carrying large amounts of gunpowder to be accidentally scraping on a steel floor—creating sparks!

The USS Missouri is an amazing place to visit—for the history and the engineering education!