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Thread: An unusual request for help....USS Missouri research question

  1. #1
    wacopolumbo's Avatar
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    An unusual request for help....USS Missouri research question

    Hello all,

    Okay, I've got a request for some help to try to verify a piece of history from the deck of the Missouri. Since getting married in Oahu (my wife is Hawaiian) and visiting the Missouri, I have been hooked on learning as much as possible about the Iowas. What fantastic ships (this coming form an Air Force guy with over 20 years of service). Anyway, my sister in Florida called last weekend and told me about an item she saw at an on-site auction they were setting up for (she works for an auction house). The auction for the estate of Mrs. Claire Perkins. She was married to a Robert Melvin Perkins, who had passed away years before his lovely wife. The item my sister found was a piece of teak (looks like decking) with a brass plaque screwed on the front.

    The plaque reads "This piece of decking from the USS Missouri came from beneath the table on which the surrender of japan to the untied states of america was signed on September 2, 1945 ending World War II."

    My sister said there was some other Naval items, indicating Mr. Perkins had been a Navy veteran from World War Two, but she couldn't remember anything more about the items she saw.

    I did some google research but came up empty. I was trying to find a list of crew from the Missouri at the end of the war to see if he was a crew member. In reading Paul Stillwell's book on the Missouri, he states the Missouri's deck was holy-stoned on the way back to the U.S. after the war, removing the paint on the deck. He also states the surrender plaque was installed at Norfolk Naval Shipyard before the Missouri went to New York for the victory celebrations. Stillwell states there was a Marine guard posted to ensure the shipyard workers didn't take any of the wood removed for the plaque. He also writes that the wood removed was cut-up in small pieces and given to the crew as a souvenir.

    Based on what I have found out, it seems unreal that a piece of the decking of this size would have survived, seeing how many crew members there were. That said, the wood seems like it could have been painted (dark color on sides near top, all around) and the imperfect removal of the dark color on the top of the piece (around plaque) seems like it could have been teak that was stoned. The font, dated look of the plaque and flat-head screws used to attach it make it look old. I think it would be odd for a WWII Navy vet to knowingly have a fake laying around for years,

    I have attached some pictures for you to see it. I should have it in the mail tomorrow.

    What do you guys think? Could it really be a preserved piece of the surrender deck teak? Do any of you know if Robert Melvin Perkins was assigned to the Missouri in WWII? about the only other thing I know about him is that he graduated form Foxboro High Schoool, Foxboro, MA in 1941.

    My sister bought the item for me and wouldn't reveal the amount she paid.

    Thanks for any help in advance!

    Regards,
    Jody





    Learning from my mistakes since 1974...

  2. #2
    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    Hi Wacoplumbo,

    This looks very interesting. I bet we have someone who can dispute or qualify that it could be authentic. Perhaps a picture with a ruler in it for scale would be helpful.

    It is our tradtion here expect new members to introduce themselves. The About me section is nice, thanks for that, but we have a thread where we ask new members to introduce themselves to the board.
    Introduction Thread for All New Members

    Thanks in advance for following our traditon.

    Best Regards
    USS Wisconsin
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
    If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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    wacopolumbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSWisconsin View Post
    Hi Wacoplumbo,

    This looks very interesting. I bet we have someone who can dispute or qualify that it could be authentic. Perhaps a picture with a ruler in it for scale would be helpful.

    It is our tradtion here expect new members to introduce themselves. The About me section is nice, thanks for that, but we have a thread where we ask new members to introduce themselves to the board.
    Introduction Thread for All New Members

    Thanks in advance for following our traditon.

    Best Regards
    USS Wisconsin
    Hi USSWisconsin,

    Thanks for the head's-up. Intro accomplished (Introduction Thread for All New Members)

    I don't have the teak piece yet, it's in the mail and should be here tomorrow. My sister told me it was the size of a brick and just fit into a USPS small flat rate box - with the help of some tape!
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  4. #4
    Senior Contributor Stitch's Avatar
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    Hopefully, Rusty or Dreadnought will be along shortly, they're our resident BB experts.

    "Yeah. See, we plan ahead, that way we don't do anything right now. Earl explained it to me." - Tremors, 1990

  5. #5
    Defense Professional RustyBattleship's Avatar
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    It is possible that piece of teak decking was cut out of 01 level, starboard side, frame 87 to make room for the more publisized plaque cast at Norfolk NSY. Since then it has been replaced by a similar plaque (not an exact copy but only about 4 of us know the differences as copies are being black marketed). The original "plaque" was a plate of brass engraved by the ship's machine shop and merely bolted to the top of the decking. What ever happened to it after the ship got back to the States is unknown.

    I would be very, very wary of anyone claiming originality without lots of paper authentication, photos of the removal, dimensions of the pieces salvaged for such souvenirs, etc.

    Your piece does look like Teak (possibly Brazilian Plantation Teak as Burmese Teak was hard to get past the Japanese soldiers in Burma). The discoloring from the caulking on the sides looks just about right and at the right depth. Also the thickness of the wood looks about right. Even the single slot screw heads look to be of the correct era as I don't think Phillips head screws were invented yet.

    Even the discoloring on the surface seems about right as the decks were painted dark gray until Hirohito announced his surrender and the ship's crew worked madly to holey stone or sand the decks to look "Dress Parade" for the ceremony.

    But forgeries can be readily made in a garage on a weekend by somebody who has nothing better to do. As on "Pawn Stars", without the proper documentation from authorities or actual witnesses it's just a very nice item to look at and remind us of what "The Greatest Generation" accomplished on that day.

    Where my suspicions come in is that the brass plate is near perfect and highly polished. The original Norfolk plaque had to be replaced in the 1980's because discoloration from age was taking its toll. There was a green spot in a certain area that the crews tried to polish out but only made the surface smoother.

    As I said, find the proper paperwork signed by the proper authorities and you have a very rare piece of history.
    Able to leap tall tales in a single groan.

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    wacopolumbo's Avatar
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    Rusty,

    Thanks for your comments and insight. I agree with you, it is an interesting piece that looks correct with no real glaring errors to say its a fake, but also no "proof" that it is real. I wish I could have been in Florida with my sister as she worked the estate auction so I could have looked for some more clues as to its authenticity. I spent over six years as an Air Force agent in OSI (similar to Navy NCIS) so I guess the investigator inside me is just trying to find out as much as I can about this.

    I was hoping there would be an internet accessible list of crew on the Missouri at the time but all I could find were reunion boards that were "self-identifying" types and I believe Mr. Perkins passed away in the 80s. I also understand that even if I could place him as a crew member at the time, it wouldn't "prove" the artifact was authentic, but it would be a step in the right direction.

    I am not trying to authenticate this to turn a profit (I have no idea how much my sister paid, plus it's a gift and selling it would be wrong), real or not, it's going to stay in my growing collection of Iowa class items I have been collecting since becoming enamored by these ships.

    Does anyone know of a list of Mighty MO crew towards the end of the war or shortly after?

    Thanks!

    By the way Rusty, I bought your book a couple years ago from amazon and really enjoyed your writings on your involvement with the Iowa's. That type of detailed, anecdotal first-hand experience is rarely found in books and somehow made me feel much more familiar with these ships (New Jersey and Missouri in particular).
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    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    My thoughts are (basically agreeing with Rusty) ; It probably is a piece of teak from a battleship deck. It could be from USS Missouri. It is unlikely that it is from the small area they cut out to place the surrender plaque, but not impossible, there probably wasn't enough wood removed to give a piece that size to each member of the large crew. The point about a WWII BB veteran keeping it in such good shape for decades is an indicator that he probably believed the story. If he was a crew member on the USS Missouri, it is likely that it came from his ship.

    If my sister had given it to me as a gift, I wouldn't mention any doubts to her about the exact location the wood came from. I would accept that it is a part of history, - which any peice of battleship decking is. It certainly is a thoughtful gift from a loved one, and it is a treasure because of that as well.
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
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  8. #8
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    It's also possible that it came from a cruiser rather than a battleship.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    It's also possible that it came from a cruiser rather than a battleship.


    I think it's unlikely that any Captain would let souvenir-hunting sailors dismantle part of his ship. I read where the original table to be used for the signing was too small so at the last minute they used a large fold up table. After the ceremony was over they thought so little of the table they put it back in the pile of tables. They later grabbed the one they thought was used, for a museum collection. It's this way of thinking back then which makes me doubt it's from "The Spot" but it maybe from somewhere on the ship itself. The war was over, the people were going back home.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RustyBattleship View Post
    Your piece does look like Teak (possibly Brazilian Plantation Teak as Burmese Teak was hard to get past the Japanese soldiers in Burma). The discoloring from the caulking on the sides looks just about right and at the right depth. Also the thickness of the wood looks about right. Even the single slot screw heads look to be of the correct era as I don't think Phillips head screws were invented yet.

    Even the discoloring on the surface seems about right as the decks were painted dark gray until Hirohito announced his surrender and the ship's crew worked madly to holey stone or sand the decks to look "Dress Parade" for the ceremony.

    As I said, find the proper paperwork signed by the proper authorities and you have a very rare piece of history.
    Rusty,

    Thanks again for your insight. As a career Air Force guy and life-long aviation lover, I know about planes but not much about ships. Your comments on the side markings are enlightening. I assumed the dark markings were from paint that went between the planks, I never thought about them being caulked.

    When I get the piece (hopefully today), I will post the dimensions. Would a picture of the back of it be helpful?
    Learning from my mistakes since 1974...

  11. #11
    wacopolumbo's Avatar
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    I got the piece today, it measures 1 7/8 inches thick and 3 7/8 inches wide at the base and just over 3 3/4 wide at the top. The wood tapers in where the discoloration is on the sides. I am assuming from Rusty's post this taper was possibly to allow for the caulk. The end cuts aren't perfectly even (as would be with a circular saw) and seem to be cut with a hand saw. It is just shy of 8 inches in overall length with what appears to be a cut line gouged into the bottom at the 7 inch mark. it looks like it was originally marked for a 7 inch length but was cut an inch longer.





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    Defense Professional Dreadnought's Avatar
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    IMO, Considering the fact that Mo was but a little over a year old at the time the teak would/should be about pristine in condition. And considering the fact that the actual table the Surrender was signed upon went missing more then once (the second time it was never found again) I would think that it is quite possible that it is in fact a piece of her deck on the 01 level. "Supposedly" the teak decking that was removed from the plaque sight was made into cigarette boxes to commerate the occassion. Let us also remember that the deck would have been cut out and "dressed" by the ships carpenter and company. So IMO it is possible that it may be a piece of that planking.

    As Rusty would agree chances are they removed the planking all the way back to its next joint and then custom cut the teak for that area. No doubt the job was inspected by several of the Brass to insure it looked proper.

    IMO it would be hard to argure if it was or if it wasnt but still the possibility remains.
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    I agree that it looks right. Either way, I am very happy with it and very happy that my sister thinks of me when she's working the auctions. She has hooked me up with some great deals on aviation art too.

    It was funny, when she called me to ask if I was interested in this piece, I was reading Stillwell's book on the Missouri when I answered the phone.

    I am very excited to have it - real or not.
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