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USS Missouri Departing

by Nov 17, 2019

Captain Warner R. Edsall was the 15th commanding officer of USS Missouri, assuming command from Capt. Sylvester, on September 4, 1952.

Following completion of Missouri’s final gunstrikes of the Korean War on the morning of March 25th Missouri set course for Sasebo, Japan, to pick up the ship’s small boats that had been off loaded during Korean War operations.

In the ship’s Plan of the Day, the following radio dispatch was reported received from the commander of Task Force 77:

“For Battleaxes captain, officers and crew, upon leaving today you take our best with you. You have been excellent shipmates. We will miss the Mighty Mo. Hurry back for we like to have you with us. My personal appreciation for a good job well done. Best of luck. RADM R.F. Hickey, Commander, Task Force 77”

On the morning of March 26, 1953, as Missouri approached Sasebo Harbor, the order was given: “Station the special sea and anchor details” Shortly after the helicopter was warmed up and tested and all hands were directed to shift into a clean uniform for the day.

As Missouri approached the anti-submarine nets at the entrance to the harbor, a narrow opening described in Stillwell as: “further complicated by a good deal of traffic as fishing boats darting to and fro”, and just after Capt. Edsall gave the order to the helm to make the wide turn associated with the net entrance, at 0721, he grasped the arm of his XO, Commander North, and collapsed to the deck.

With Commander North at the con, assuming command of the ship, and guiding Missouri to mooring buoy #21, ship’s medical personnel arrived on the bridge, pronouncing Capt. Edsall’s passing at 0730, from a heart attack.

With sad irony, the Plan of the Day for March 26, contained yet another congratulatory radio dispatch:

“For Capt. Edsall congratulations to you your officers and men for the outstanding job you have done out here. The only one glad to see you go are the commies. Best wishes. Good luck sailing home. Commander Cruiser Division 5”

Later that day, prior to departing Sasebo Harbor for Yokosuka, the ship’s company gathered on the fantail and held a solemn memorial service for their captain.

Past-President of the USS Missouri Memorial BB63 Association, William “Bill” Morton, BM3/c of 7th Division, who had established a close relationship with his captain, recalled all of the ship’s department heads as side boys and Chief Petty Officer as pall bearers, carried him down the accommodation ladder to a waiting boat, with BM3/c Morton having the honor of piping him ashore for this last time. The captain’s body was then flown to Yokosuka and from there to the US for burial. His burial site is at Arlington National Cemetery, section 9, site 6067.

The ship’s Plan of the Day for the March 27th included this first of many radio dispatches received by the ship over the coming day, expressing the shared condolences of all who knew and served with him:

“It is with deepest personal regret that we heard of the death of your captain and our friend and shipmate Captain Edsall. Signed: RADM Olsen and Staff, Commander Task Force 95.”

We Remember.