Hundreds of banner-carrying well-wishers greeted the battleship Missouri on Tuesday as it returned to its home port in Long Beach under blue skies after a six-month cruise in the northern Arabian Sea.
As the 887-foot, 58,000-ton ship steamed into the harbor, hundreds of family members gathered at Pier 6 broke out in cheers, waving signs with such salutations as "Welcome Home, Daddy."
In fact, 31 of the 66 officers and 1,538 enlisted men on board had become new fathers during the tour of duty. The men, whose wives and babies had been waiting at the pier for several hours, were scheduled to depart the ship first.
The Navy Band from San Diego and the Bellflower High School Band provided a musical homecoming for the "Mighty Mo." It was on the deck of the Missouri that the Japanese surrender was signed, bringing an official end to World War II.
The Missouri and six other ships forming a carrier battle group were sent to the Arabian Sea in July as part of a U.S. policy to bring stability to the Gulf of Oman, where a war between Iraq and Iran has affected Middle East oil shipping lanes.
During its six months at sea, the Missouri made port calls in Perth and Sydney in Australia. The ship also docked at Subic Bay in the Philippines and at Pearl Harbor.
The vessel, recommissioned for duty in 1986, has three gun turrets, each of which bristles with three 16-inch guns.