Master craftsman and Omro, Wisconsin resident Gordon Stiller spent an entire year and 1,100 hours of dedication to build a 6-foot long replica of the USS Missouri. In March 2012, Stiller will donate the battleship replica to the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.
The craftsman, who said he has always been fascinated by the black-and-white newsreel of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in 1945, relied on sources like photos of the USS Missouri to create the scale-model ship.
The 6-foot long replica of the USS Missouri, which is currently located at Pearl Harbor, features impressive detail work, including:
- 2,000 sailors and soldiers aboard the ship
- Japanese envoy on board to sign the surrender papers
- Lifeboats and fire hoses
- Thin layers of plastic to create the effect of steel on guns
- Lightweight basswood to craft the ship
- U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Some days Stiller would work for 12-14 hours on the ship, which his wife said was both a challenge and a way to relax.
He also created silicone molds of sailor and soldier figurines from a handful of 3/8ths-men from a local hobby store. Stiller modified the figurines to meet his expectations, and then made nearly 6,000 casts until he had 2,000 USS Missouri sailors and soldiers at a satisfactory level of quality.
Stiller took the initiative to send Mike Lebens, curator of collections for the museum, a CD of photos of the replica. wanting to donate the USS Missouri to the museum. He said Stiller had sent him a CD with about two-dozen photos of his scale-model ship.
“I saw the pictures and I was very impressed and (knew) that it would be a great addition for our museum,” Lebens told The Northwestern, a newspaper company in Wisconsin. The museum currently owns a replica of the USS Missouri, but Lebens says it is nothing compared to Stiller’s work.
Stiller will be driving the USS Missouri replica from Wisconsin to Texas with the battleship his pickup truck bed. He estimates that the replica is worth several thousand dollars, and weighs about 40 pounds.