Something Different – The USS Arizona Memorial
Gary Horrocks is in Hawaii, and forwards this
text and accompanying images: nothing to do with motorsport….although
perhaps it is: who knows how different life would be now without
the significant events of December 7, 1941, and everything that
the United States has just celebrated another anniversary on July
4, there are many ways to celebrate and also reflect on a history
of more than 200 years. This year I was fortunate enough to be in
Hawaii for the 50th Wedding Anniversary of my wife’s parents,
and I had the privilege of taking my father-in-law, a Navy Veteran,
to the USS Arizona Memorial.
It was quite
a humbling experience to actually be on the grounds of one of the
most terrible events in history. Besides being a memorial to all
of those that died, it is also a reminder that something like this
should never happen again. Unfortunately, as recent events indicate,
it is very obvious that these lessons were not learned.
On a seemingly
normal Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, the course of history
changed when the sound of Japanese aircraft interrupted the usual
silence. Most people at first thought it was just a drill, and in
fact, young kids were actually waving at the planes as they flew
over, not knowing that this was not a drill at all. When the bombs
and torpedoes started falling and the explosions were seen, heard
and felt, it was readily evident that this was no longer a drill.
This torpedoe didn't explode.
which consisted of two waves of Japanese aircraft, only lasted two
hours, but when it was all over, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178
were injured. Out of that number, 1,177 perished on the USS Arizona
when it appears an armor-piercing bomb penetrated the deck, igniting
the forward ammunition magazine. The resulting explosion shattered
the ship in two, which then settled to the bottom of Pearl Harbor
in less than nine minutes.
The USS Arizona actually
dates back to World War I days, with construction and planning starting
in 1914. The ship was completed in 1916 and commissioned in 1917,
at a cost of nearly 13 million dollars. While the ship did not actively
participate in any battles, it did serve in both the Atlantic and
Pacific and also provided a US presence in Turkey during the Turkish-Greek
war in 1919.
going through two upgrades (1931 and 1941) the final configuration
of the USS Arizona saw a ship the weigh over 37,000 tons fully loaded,
was over 600 foot long and over 100 feet wide. The twelve 14”
guns had a firing range of 20 miles, but by the time WWII came around
it was simple to see that a large ship like this was obsolete. Even
5” of deck armor and up to 28” of armor in the hull
could not protect it from a well-placed, aerial delivered bomb.
Once a sign of military power, the battleship started on its path
to being obsolete on December 7, 1941.
The plans for
a Memorial (a model, above, showing how it 'sits' over the Arizona)
all came together in 1959, when a scheme was finally put into play
to honor those lost at Pearl Harbor. After much effort from various
groups, including a fund raising concert by Elvis, the Memorial
was completed and dedicated on Memorial Day in 1962.
The actual Memorial
is a structure that spans, but does not touch, the sunken ship.
As you board the Memorial from a boat, you are surrounded by views
of the wreckage of the Arizona, some under water and some above.
Inside, on the far wall, is a list of all of those who perished
on the Arizona.
In the vicinity
are white platforms that indicate where other ships were moored
during the attack. To this day, it is possible to see oil sheens
on the surface of the water, which appear to be seeping from the
wreckage of the ship.
Although the Arizona
was decommissioned in 1942, as it was obviously un-repairable, although
the US Flag continues to fly from a mast that is connected to remains
of the original mast. Two sets of the 14” guns were salvaged
for Army use, but as with the rest of the ship, did not see any
around the Museum, waiting for the moving 30-minute movie and the
boat ride to the Memorial, it was quite interesting to see the large
and diverse crowd. Walking the grounds allowed some good views of
the Harbor, including the Battleship USS Missouri (right). This
ship is where the Japanese signed the surrender papers that ended
the museum, various artifacts bring the experience to a personal
level, including many personal items such as letters and photos.
On the grounds, surrounded by a great view of the bay, is a listing
of the many American casualties, excepting those from the Arizona.
Much like being at a
historic racetrack, being at a scene of such historical significance
was incredible, but very humbling. To experience something like
this really puts things in perspective.