Throughout the history of the US Navy, there have been four vessels that carried the proud name USS Missouri. The first was a side-wheel steam frigate commissioned in 1841. Steam engine technology had just reached a level of power and dependability that made steam-powered ships practical on the open ocean. The USS Missouri went through nearly two years of trials and tests before she received her first mission. While conveying a diplomat to China, she caught fire in Gibraltar harbor and sank in 1843.
The next ship named USS Missouri was a Maine-class battleship with hull number BB-11; her crew nicknamed the ship Mizzy. Commissioned in 1900, Mizzy was part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet in 1907. In 1904, the citizens of Missouri gave the ship a sterling silver punch bowl with a tray, ladle, and twenty cups. This punch bowl witnessed a major change in naval drinking and dining tradition when alcoholic beverages were banned aboard US Navy ships on July 1, 1914. While Mizzy’s punch bowl might have held wine-based punch for its first ten years aboard ship, the punch bowl has not served punch with alcohol aboard a navy ship for one hundred years. Mizzy served as a training ship during World War I and helped transport troops and equipment back to the United States after the war. In 1922, the ship was scrapped as part of a treaty to reduce naval power worldwide.
1944, the Iowa-class battleship USS Missouri, a Virginia-class attack submarine, hull number SSN-780, was commissioned in 2010. Governor Jay Nixon and First Lady Georganne Nixon attended the commissioning in Groton, Connecticut.
One other naval vessel has borne the name Missouri. The Confederate navy launched the CSS Missouri in 1863. She was a paddle-wheel ironclad that patrolled the Red River near Shreveport, Louisiana. On June 3, 1865, CSS Missouri claimed the distinction of the last Confederate ironclad to surrender to the US Navy.
There is a long-standing tradition in the navy of taking aboard something from a previous ship that carried the same name in order to bring some of the earlier vessel’s spirit into the new ship. In 1947, Mighty MO brought the silver punch bowl from Mizzy out of storage. When the submarine USS Missouri was commissioned in 2010, the punch bowl was used in the ceremony, once again keeping the tradition alive.
All the Iowa-class battleships were named for different states, and most, if not all, of those states supplied the silver service for the captain’s table. Battleship captains have entertained their officers and guests aboard various ships as far back as the early 1700s. In the British Navy, the early officer corps was part of the English nobility. As such, they were all “gentlemen” and were expected to entertain and set a good table. The tradition was continued aboard Mighty MO through the donation of silverware for eighteen place settings for a five-course banquet.
Today, USS Missouri (BB-63) served as a floating museum at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. One place setting of the captain’s silver service is on display at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. The remaining seventeen place settings are stored in the Missouri Governor’s Mansion.