Missoula, Mont. - The Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History has been hard at work over the past five years planning and saving for their new scale model of the USS Missoula, a World War II battleship named after Missoula, Mont. The fundraising effort is complete and the model is almost finished, but the museum is still looking for the last key piece of history to make the exhibit complete, the ship's bell.
The museum collected over $12,000 to commission Raven Arts a Seattle, Wash., company, to build the 4'9" scale model of the USS Missoula. The model is the centerpiece for a permanent exhibit at the RMMMH honoring the USS Missoula, the Battle of Iwo Jima, and PFC Charlo, a Native American solider from Evaro, Mont., who served as a radioman aboard the Missoula. The model is scheduled to arrive in Missoula in mid January with a scheduled unveiling on Armed Forces Day, May 17, 2008.
The USS Missoula was detailed in Clint Eastwood's 2006 World War II war drama "Flags of Our Fathers" depicting the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima, Japan. The original flag flown atop Mount Suribachi was from the USS Missoula. The USS Missoula received two battle stars for its service in World War II.
The USS Missoula was decommissioned at Port Chicago, California, September 13, 1946 and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet at Mare Island. She was then berthed in Suisun Bay, Calif., on October, 29, 1958, and on March 26, 1975, she was sold to American Ship Dismantlers, Inc., in Portland, Ore., and was scrapped.
The USS Missoula's bell has been missing ever since. The Navy did not retain any artifacts from the Missoula when it was sent to the scrap yard but there is a chance the bell is still in existence somewhere. If the original USS Missoula bell cannot be located, the museum is hoping to find a bell from another Haskell-class attack ship from WWII to complete the exhibit.