Matthew 14:6

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Matthew 24:6 KJV

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A History of the USS ARIZONA

in the Pearl Harbor and More-Stories of WWII: December 1941, my story, “I am an American” includes a scene that takes place in Merced, California a week and a half after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In it, Ellen Okita, a Nisei (Japanese-American) is confronted by a trio of hostile older teenage boys. One makes mention that his brother had been on the Arizona. He was not coming back home. Ever.

To remember Pearl Harbor Day, which commemorates the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I chose to focus on the history of the USS Arizona. Almost half of the casualties at Pearl Harbor occurred on the naval battleship USS Arizona, which was hit four times by Japanese bombers and eventually sank.
USS Arizona about 1915
The USS Arizona (BB-39) was a Pennsylvania-class battleship of the United States Navy in the mid-1910s. The vessel was the third to be named in honor of the 48th state by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, not long after statehood for Arizona was achieved. The keel of battleship number 39 was laid on the morning of 16 March 1914 with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt in attendance. The ship was the second and last of the Pennsylvania class of "super-dreadnought" battleships.
Launch of the USS Arizona
The plan had been to have the ship completed ­­in ten months. However, it was not launched until fifteen months later on June 19, 1915. Esther Ross, the daughter of an Arizona pioneer family, was given the honors of ship sponsor and christening. After the launch, Arizona was towed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for fitting-out.

Capt John Daniel McDonald Commanding Officer Arizona Sep. 17, 1915-Feb. 18, 1918

The USS Arizona was commissioned into the Navy on 17 October 1916 with John D. McDonald as captain and departed New York on 10 November 1916. The ship sailed south for her initial cruise. Outside Guantanamo Bay, a stripped turbine on 7 December forced the navy to order Arizona back to New York for repairs.
USS Arizona in New York Harbor, December 25, 1916
The Pennsylvania-class ships were significantly larger than their predecessors, the Nevada class. Details of what qualified the USS Arizona to be considered a super dreadnought may be found on Wikipedia.
USS Arizona at Guantanamo Bay, 1920
The Pennsylvania-class design continued the all-or-nothing principle of armoring only the most important areas of the ship begun in the Nevada class. Different areas of the ship had different thicknesses of armor plating.

Half ton armor piercing shells loaded on Dreadnoughts before sailing to European waters
Not long after the ship was completed, the United States declared war on Germany. However, the ship stayed stateside. The USS Arizona was assigned to Battleship Division 8 operating out of the York River, and was only employed as a gunnery training ship for the crewmen on armed merchant vessels crossing the Atlantic in convoys. Shortly after the war began, eight of her 5-inch guns (the four guns farthest forward and the sternmost four guns) were removed to equip merchant ships. Arizona rarely ventured into the ocean for fear of U-boats, and when she did, it was only in the company of other battleships and escort ships.

Full crew of USS Arizona, 1924
Along with training, Arizona's crew participated in the  Battenberg Cup race was able to win the Battenberg Cup in July 1918 by beating the team from Nevada by three lengths over the three-mile course.

USS Arizona returning home after escorting President Wilson 1919

The Great War ended in November 1918 with an armistice. The USS Arizona left the United States for the United Kingdom, arriving on 30 November 1918. After two weeks berthed at Portland Harbor, Arizona sailed for France. On 13 December 1918, Arizona joined nine battleships and twenty-eight destroyers escorting President Woodrow Wilson on the ocean liner George Washington into Brest for one day on Wilson's journey to the Paris Peace Conference

USS Arizona in 1918 with wartime modifications

The ten battleships departed France the next day, taking less than two weeks to cross the Atlantic, and arrived in New York on 26 December to parades, celebrations, and a full naval review by Secretary Daniels. Arizona was the first in line and rendered a nineteen-gun salute to Daniels. Along with many of the other members of the recently returned fleet, she was anchored off New York City for the next several weeks and open to the public.

USS Arizona in Panama Canal lock, 1921
The ship was sent to Turkey in 1919 at the beginning of the Greco-Turkish War for several months to represent American interests.
USS Arizona undergoing moderization, 1930
The USS Arizona underwent comprehensive modernization in 1929–31. The ship was often used for training exercises between the wars, including the annual training exercises known as the Fleet Problems.
USS Arizona after modernization, 1931
When an earthquake struck Long Beach, California, in 1933, Arizona's crew provided aid to the survivors.
Two years later, the ship was featured in a Jimmy Cagney film, Here Comes the Navy, about the romantic troubles of a sailor.
Modernized USS Arizona, 1930s
In the early morning of July 26, 1934, Arizona collided with a fishing trawler, Umatilla. Two men aboard the Umatilla were killed in the collision and the Navy convened a Court of Inquiry to investigate the incident. The court recommended that the ship's captain, Captain MacGillivray Milne, be court-martialed at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, while the ship was participating in that year's Fleet Problem off the East Coast. Milne was judged guilty and replaced several months later by Captain George Baum after the ship returned to the West Coast. In the meantime, Rear Admiral Samuel W. Bryant assumed command of Battleship Division Two on 4 September, with Arizona as his flagship. There were several changes of leadership in the following years.

After the fleet problem exercise off Hawaii in April–May 1940, the United States Pacific Fleet was based at Pearl Harbor to deter Japanese imperialism. Her last flag change-of-command occurred on 23 January 1941, when Willson was relieved by Isaac Kidd, by that time a rear admiral. Captain Harold C. Train assumed command of the ship on 3 February.

The USS Arizona was overhauled at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, from October 1940 to January 1941. During this refit, her anti-aircraft armament was increased to twelve 5-inch guns, the foundation for a search radar was added atop her foremast, her anti-aircraft directors were upgraded and a platform for four water-cooled .50-inch (12.7 mm) caliber M2 Browning machine guns was installed at the very top of the mainmast.

The battleship's last training exercise was night-firing in company with the battleships Nevada and Oklahoma, on the night of  December 4, 1941. All three ships moored at quays along Ford Island on the following day. On 6 December, the repair ship Vestal came alongside to assist the ship's crew with minor repairs.
USS Arizona under attack at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
The USS Arizona is best known for her cataclysmic and dramatic sinking, with the loss of 1,177 lives, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Shortly before 08:00 local time on 7 December 1941, Japanese aircraft from six aircraft carriers struck the Pacific Fleet as it lay in port at Pearl Harbor with devastating effects. On board the Arizona, the ship's air raid alarm went off at about 07:55, and the ship went to general quarters soon after. Shortly after 08:00, 10 Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers, five each from the carriers Kaga and HiryĆ«, attacked Arizona. All of the aircraft were carrying 410-millimeter (16.1 in) armor-piercing shells modified into 797-kilogram (1,757 lb) bombs. Flying at an estimated altitude of 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), Kaga's aircraft bombed Arizona from amidships to stern. Soon after, Hiryu's bombers hit the bow area.

The aircraft scored four hits and three near misses on and around Arizona. The near miss off the port bow is believed to have caused observers to believe that the ship had been torpedoed, although no torpedo damage has been found. The sternmost bomb ricocheted off the face of Turret IV and penetrated the deck to detonate in the captain's pantry, causing a small fire. The next forwardmost hit was near the port edge of the ship, abreast the mainmast, probably detonating in the area of the anti-torpedo bulkhead. The next bomb struck near the port rear 5-inch AA gun.
What was left of the USS Arizona after the Pearl Harbor attack.

The last bomb hit at 08:06 in the vicinity of Turret II, likely penetrating the armored deck near the ammunition magazines located in the forward section of the ship. About seven seconds after the hit, the forward magazines detonated, in a horrific explosion, mostly venting through the sides of the ship and destroying much of the interior structure of the forward part of the ship. The explosion touched off fierce fires that burned for two days Debris showered down on Ford Island in the vicinity. The blast from this explosion also put out fires on the repair ship Vestal, which was moored alongside. The bombs and subsequent explosion killed 1,177 of the 1,512 crewmen on board at the time, approximately half of the total lives lost during the Pearl Harbor attack.

Arizona was placed "in ordinary," meaning she was declared to be temporarily out of service, at Pearl Harbor on  December 29th. The ship was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 December 1942. She was not thought fit for service even if she could be salvaged. Her surviving superstructure was scrapped in 1942. Some of her armaments were salvaged for use on other vessels.

Today, the Arizona is under the control of the National Park Service although the U.S. Navy still retains the title. Arizona retains the right, in perpetuity, to fly the United States flag as if she were an active, commissioned naval vessel. 
USS Arizona Memorial

The wreck of Arizona remains at Pearl Harbor to commemorate the men of her crew lost that December morning in 1941. Legislation during the administrations of presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy resulted in the designation of the wreck as a national shrine in 1962. 

Aerial view of the USS Arizona Memorial.

A memorial was built across the ship's sunken remains, including a shrine room listing the names of the lost crew members on a marble wall. The national memorial was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 15 October 1966. The ship herself was designated a National Historic Landmark on 5 May 1989.
Interment ceremony aboard the Arizona

Upon their death, survivors of the attack may have their ashes placed within the ship, among their fallen comrades. Veterans who served aboard the ship at other times may have their ashes scattered in the water above the ship.

5 Facts About Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona:

1. Twenty-three sets of brothers died aboard USS Arizona.
There were 37 confirmed pairs or trios of brothers assigned to USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. Of these 77 men, 62 were killed, and 23 sets of brothers died. Only one full set of brothers, Kenneth and Russell Warriner, survived the attack; Kenneth was away at flight school in San Diego on that day and Russell was badly wounded but recovered. Both members of the ship’s only father-and-son pair, Thomas Augusta Free and his son William Thomas Free, were killed in action.

2. USS Arizona’s entire band was lost in the attack.

3. Fuel continues to leak from USS Arizona’s wreckage.

4. Some former crewmembers have chosen USS Arizona as their final resting place.
The bonds between the crewmembers of Arizona have lasted far beyond the ship’s loss on December 7, 1941. Since 1982, the U.S. Navy has allowed survivors of USS Arizona to be interred in the ship’s wreckage upon their deaths.
Elvis Presley at the 1961 USS Arizona benefit concert

5. A memorial was built at the USS Arizona site, thanks in part to Elvis Presley.
In March 1961, entertainer Elvis Presley, who had recently finished a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, performed a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor’s Block Arena that raised over $50,000—more than 10 percent of the USS Arizona Memorial’s final cost.

Elvis Presley visiting the USS Arizona memorial in 1965

More details about these five facts may be found on 5 Facts About Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona

8 Tales of Pearl Harbor Heroics

Doris Miller, assigned to cook, during the attack carried men to safety, helped pass ammunition to the crews of two .50 caliber machine guns and eventually manned one himself in spite of having had no gunnery training.

Twin Brothers to be Reunited on USS Arizona 75 Years After Pearl Harbor

Along with the information on Wikipedia, you may find more information about the Arizona on the following websites: