On December 7, 1941, Japanese military forces attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Japan had hoped the attack would serve as a preventative measure to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with other planned attacks in Southeast Asia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt later describe the attack it as “a date which will live in infamy”, and it would lead to the U.S. entering World War II.
On that day, some 2,403 Americans were killed, and 1,178 others were wounded. In total, 21 U.S. ships were lost or damaged. The USS Arizona was the heaviest hit.
What Was the USS Arizona?
The USS Arizona was a battleship that had been commissioned on October 17, 1916. During this time, this ship was the navy’s most heavily armed vessel. It had 12 14-inch guns and 22 5-inch guns. It was also the largest ship in the fleet, measuring 608 feet in length.
During World War I, the USS Arizona was stationed stateside, protecting the East Coast from any attacks. When the war ended, it was one of many ships that escorted President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference. In 1919, the ship was sent to Turkey during the Greco-Turkish War, and then it was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, where she remained for the rest of her career.
This ship was often used for training exercises. In 1933, after an earthquake in Long Beach, California, the crew was sent to provide aid to the survivors. In 1934, the Arizona appeared on the big screen in the movie Here Comes the Navy, and in 1940, the Arizona and the rest of the Pacific Fleet were stationed in Hawaii to deter the Japanese from attacking.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
When the attack on Pearl Harbor happened early in the morning, the Arizona was hit with a bomb that detonated a powder magazine, causing the ship to explode and sink. This attack led to the deaths of 1,177 officers and crewman. The ship was damaged beyond repair, but parts of the ship were later removed by the Navy for reuse during the war.
Approximately half of the deaths that occurred during the Pearl Harbor attack had been on the USS Arizona. Many of the soldiers were unable to be recovered and have been entombed in the ship, their final resting place.
Interesting facts about the USS Arizona
23 sets of brothers died on the USS Arizona during the attack
Records show that there were 37 confirmed pairs or trios of brothers who were assigned to the ship on the day that it was attacked. Sixty-two of these 77 men were killed, accounting for the 23 sets of brothers who died.
The entire ship band was lost in the attack
Because the attack happened first thing in the morning and was a complete surprise, many of the soldiers were starting their day as they normally would. On the USS Arizona, the band had assembled on the deck to play for the flag-raising ceremony and had to quickly get to their battle stations when the bombing began. All of them were killed in action.
The ship continues to leak fuel to this day
The USS Arizona had been preparing for a trip to the mainland later in the month, so the day before the bombing, it filled up with close to 1.5 million gallons of fuel. Despite the fact that some of this fuel led to the explosion and fueled the fires on the ship, there is still close to 500,000 gallons that is slowly leaking into the ocean.
The USS Arizona Today
Today, a memorial has been constructed over the top of the wreckage in Pearl Harbor. It is visited by approximately 1.8 million visitors per year. They come from around the world to pay their respects and to see how the U.S. become involved in WWII. Parts of the ship are still visible from the sides of the memorial, and it also contains a wall listing the names of all of those who lost their lives during this conflict.
As of December 7, 2018, only five survivors who were on the USS Arizona were still alive, all of them well into their 90s. They used to make a pilgrimage every year to the memorial to pay their respects to their fallen comrades, and some of them have asked to be entombed in the remains with their fellow soldiers after they have died.
This wish has been fulfilled for these soldiers since 1982, and more than 30 Arizona crew members have joined their comrades after having a full military funeral at the memorial. Their urns are carefully placed by divers beneath one of the Arizona’s gun turrets.