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History and Heritage

Rebuilding Battleship Missouri Teak

Wood working volunteers rebuild the teak deck of USS Missouri (BB-63).

"Teak" sounds descriptive of some nice furniture - perhaps a dining table - not a word associated with the survivability of a Navy warship.

However, when applied, the teak wood aboard a battleship had several duties to accomplish. It's not just merely decoration. It had purpose.

An active battleship had large amount of gunpowder that had to be transported on and off of the ship. Teak served as protection preventing metal-on-metal scraping, which could potentially create sparks, thus fires.

Teak served as insulation. A battleship had a vast area of deck, 1.2 acres in fact in the case of USS Missouri (BB-63), and the sun can beat on it insistently. She had no air-conditioning, so the space underneath it would get visibly hot.

On September 2, 1945, the teak wood served another purpose as it functioned as the platform for the formal end of WWII. The teak wood stood witness to history as the Empire of Japan walked on it and formally signed the surrender documents.

Much of that wood is gone now but the memory and the significance of its history still remain.

Luckily, David Hamilton, teak deck preservation supervisor aboard Missouri, is there to preserve this memory from fading. Leading a team of volunteers, wood workers and builders, Hamilton said it was a dream come true.

Photo by MC1 Mark Logico.

Faces of Battleship Missouri restoration: Kai Manago, Ruwe Jibas, Assistant Teak Deck Supervisor David Kinney, and volunteer Fred Naylor.

"Everyday I come here, I feel excited," Hamilton said. "It gives me a sense of satisfaction that I'm helping preserve a piece of history. A lot of our volunteers are motivated by the historic aspect of working aboard a ship of this pedigree of historic achievement."

Those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it, Hamilton said.

It's a Navy tradition."

"It's history. Teak decks have been put on Battleships and cruisers for decades and it's part of the history of the Navy," Hamilton said. "You see in some of our displays of men holy stoning the deck to keep them looking nice."

Hamilton said the teak deck project is probably the most expensive project this ship has. "We've been doing it full speed now for three years, and it's going to take another three years to finish the main deck."

Photo by MC1 Mark Logico.

Teak Deck Supervisor David Hamilton.