GEORGETOWN - As the day marking the surrendering of the Japanese to the Allied Forces on the deck of the USS Missouri during World War II, few days are more important in the annals of American history than Sept. 2, 1945.
And now a significant piece of that historic event has found a home in Sussex County.
Veterans and elected officials celebrated the arrival of "Big Mo" - a 66foot gun with a 116-ton barrel from the ship - in downtown Georgetown on Monday, The gun, Barrel 371, used 600 pounds of gunpowder and could shoot, with accuracy, up to 25 miles. It was the center gun of Turret 1 of the ship. The battleship had nine big guns.
"This is a piece of history," said National American Legion representative Shaun Rieley.
Mr. Rieley, who served in the military and has a brother and sister who are currently in the military, said this gun represents a true turning point in world history.
"It was one of the most important events in the U.S. and world," he said.
Hundreds filled The Circle in the center of town, braving the unseasonably warm temperatures that reached the upper 80s on the early spring afternoon.
And despite a few people feeling the effects of those temperatures, the general mood of thankfulness, honor and appreciation for those who have, and currently are, serving for this country wasn't dampened.
Sen. Joseph Booth, R- Georgetown, said many of the people at the event were there because loved ones had given of themselves for the country and that they should be remembered. He said he was there to honor his 11 family members, including his father, who served.
"Everyone has their own interests and reasons for being here today," he said. "[The wars] still impact us. Even to this day."
The gun was found at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia and Cape Henlopen State Park's Fort Miles Historical Association raised more than $120,000 to buy the gun and get it shipped up here.
Dr. Gary Wray, president of the historical association, said many people played a role in getting the historic piece from the shipyard to Sussex County in less than a year.
"This was not a one-person operation," he said. "Just like the team that won World War II."
Mr. Wray, and other members of the group, have been on a quest for the 16-inch diameter gun for the last 10 years. He said there were nay- sayers in the beginning, but Monday's event was the culmination of a that decade-long search.
"Here we can see young people, old people and people of the Greatest Generation," he said. "It's a piece of history."
One of the individuals representing the Greatest Generation was U.S. Army Air Corps Col. Newt Tyndall. The 93-year- old veteran is a lifelong Georgetown native and flew the lead B-29 airplane of the 500-plane formation that flew over the decks of the ship on that fateful day.
"It was a very impressive display of military power," he recalled to the captivated crowd.
Mr. Tyndall told the story of how his flight plans in the days before the surrender, which were normally well scheduled and well planned, were chaotic and not well planned. Multiple times plans were "scrubbed" at 2 a.m. and radio stations back home were saying the war was over, but they hadn't received word on the ship yet.
"It was two days of uncertainty," he said. "There was total confusion about the Japanese surrender."
After the hourlong ceremony, a parade led visitors to the gun, which was located a few blocks away on the railroad tracks. The gun's final resting place will be at Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes.
Historical association volunteers and state park officials have planned a champagne breaking ceremony and official unveiling of the gun on April 28.
Staff writer Chris Flood can be reached at 741-8230 or firstname.lastname@example.org.