USS Missouri Gun Barrel Ribbon Cutting Saturday

USS Missouri gun barrel arrives at new home at Wildlife Refuge. (USFWS photo)

USS Missouri gun barrel arrives at new home at Wildlife Refuge. (USFWS photo)

By SUSAN RICE
Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge

May 23, 2013

The Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating military history and honoring veterans this Memorial Day weekend.

On Saturday, May 25, at 2 p.m. the Wildlife Refuge will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newest refuge addition –- a 120 ton, 68-foot gun barrel which was on the USS Missouri when the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945, ending World War II.

The public is invited to come touch this piece of military history and listen to someone who served on the USS Missouri talk about its storied past.

One can also learn about Fort John Custis, the Army base which was located at the Wildlife Refuge and housed two 16” guns for the protection of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

There will be pomp and circumstance with a Navy Color Guard, and a Navy veteran playing the National Anthem on the saxophone.

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Visitors can walk the steps to the top of Battery Winslow and look down at the barrel and out to the Atlantic Ocean and imagine this land when it was a thriving military base.

Visitors are asked to park at the Eastern Shore Welcome Center and either walk the short refuge trail to the ceremony location or take the free shuttle to the Refuge ceremony site.

The 16”/50 Caliber Mark VII gun barrel (#393) is similar to the barrel which was in the World War II bunker when the refuge was Fort John Custis.

The barrel’s journey to the Eastern Shore of Virginia began over a year ago when it left St. Julien’s Creek Navy Yard, was loaded on a rail car in Little Creek, and transported to Cape Charles on the Bay Coast Rail Barge.

It arrived in Cape Charles on April 3, 2012 , where it waited for a year.  On April 1, 2013, the barrel was transported from Cape Charles for 12 miles on an oversized trailer along Rt. 13 to the refuge.

Over the last month this historic gun barrel has been undergoing a transformation.  First it was painstakingly moved – foot by foot — into the bunker (all 120 tons of it).

Next it was unshackled from the metal cradles and bars which have clamped and secured it over the past six decades while it was in storage at St. Julien’s Creek Navy Yard.

Sparks were flying when the top cradles, estimated at 15 tons, were removed and the barrel was spit-shined and gussied up. Years of grime were sandblasted off and the painting process began.

The barrel will wear both Navy battleship grey and Army olive drab colors to recognize the significance of this type of barrel to both military branches.

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