Building and Launch
The construction of the USS ARIZONA (BB39), named for the 48th state in the
Union, began on March 16, 1914, when the keel was laid. After a year of intense
labor, it was launched
on June 19, 1915, as the second and last of the
PENNSYLVANIA class battleship, which formed the next step of the US Navy's response to the naval
arms race that had begun in 1906 when the Royal Navy completed the HMS
The launch was a grand affair, and Miss
, daughter of an influential
pioneer citizen in Prescott, Arizona, christened the ship with the traditional
battleship's commissioning took place on October 17, 1916, under the command of
Captain John D. McDonald.
During 1917 residents of Arizona organized a state-wide fund
raising effort to pay for a silver service to present to the Arizona.
On Nov. 16, 1916, the ARIZONA departed on its shakedown cruise and training
off the Virginia Capes, Newport and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Two months later it
returned to Norfolk, Virginia to conduct test-firing of its guns and
torpedo-defense exercises. On December 24 it entered the New York Naval Shipyard
for a post-shakedown overhaul.
Arizona experienced considerable problems with her engines during her
trials, to the extent that the blades were stripped from one her turbines,
requiring months in dry dock to replace. The work was finished in completed April 3, 1917.
Dimensions of The Ship
The dimensions of the ship were quite impressive for the time. Its overall
length was 608 feet (two American football fields long) with a beam of 97 feet 1
inch. It displaced 31,400 tons with a mean draft of 28 feet 10 inches. The
ARIZONA's four shafts were driven by four paired Parsons turbines and 12 Babcock
and Wilcox boilers that developed 33,375 horsepower, enabling a top speed of 21
knots. The designed complement was 55 officers and 860 men. The ARIZONA was
well-armed for ships of its period. The original armament consisted of 12
14-inch 45-caliber guns; 22 5-inch 5 1-caliber guns; four 3-inch 50-caliber
guns; and two 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes. It was protected by 18 inches of
armor at its maximum thickness. The ARIZONA and its sister ship PENNSYLVANIA
represented a modest improvement of the previous NEVADA-class battleships:
"length and displacement were somewhat increased and two additional 14-inch guns
were shipped, the main armament now being arranged in four triple turrets . . .
" (Stern 1980:30). The significant change was concentrated in the firepower of
the vessel: The ARIZONA's four turrets (labeled No. 1, 2, 3 and 4) each mounted
three 14-inch naval guns.
The Arizona served
with the Atlantic Fleet, Battleship Division 8 based in Norfolk, as a gunnery training ship during World War I.
Due to the scarcity of fuel oil in Great Britain during the war, the modern oil
fired boilers on the Arizona prevented her from joining the other U.S.
battleships serving in the European
In November 1918 the Arizona sailed for Europe
to join Battleship Division Six serving with the British Grand Fleet, one week
after the signing of the armistice.
On December 12, she put to sea to rendezvous with the transport
GEORGE WASHINGTON that was carrying President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace
Conference. President Wilson carried a bold proposal intended to ensure a
lasting world peace. In his outline for world cooperation, Wilson proposed 14
points to act as guidelines for a peace without victory and a new world body
called the League of Nations.
The Arizona was part of the honor escort that arrived at Brest, France the next day with the
president. The President and his plan arrived in good order on
December 13, 1918, but the failure of nations to grasp Wilson's ideals lead to
World War 11 -- and the violent destruction of the honor escort USS ARIZONA --
23 years later.
On the 13th she sailed from Brest with 238 homeward-bound veterans on
board and arrived in New York on the day after Christmas, then continued to its home port of
During the years between the world wars, Arizona carried on with
the routine of a Navy ship in peace time, conducting training, gunnery
practice, fleet exercises, cruises and routine shipyard maintenance. Among the
events of interest during this time were:
In May 1919 a crisis arose that threatened American lives and property in
Smyrna, Asia Minor. The ARIZONA was dispatched to respond to the grave situation. The ship
disembarked Marines and sailors to protect the American consulate and bring
aboard American citizens. When tensions eased, the ARIZONA was ordered home.
In June 1919 the ARIZONA entered New York Naval Shipyard for maintenance and
remained there until January 1920, when it departed for fleet maneuvers in the
Caribbean. That summer the ARIZONA became the flagship for Battleship Division
7, commanded by Rear Admiral Eberle, the future chief of naval operations.
In 1920 the Arizona began to carry airplanes
on board for scouting and spotting the fall of shells from the ship's guns.
The ARIZONA continued operations in the Caribbean Sea throughout the winter,
and during that period made its first passage through the Panama Canal.
On April 27, 1921, the ship returned to Norfolk from Cuba and was overhauled in the New
York Navy Yard. That summer the ARIZONA participated in experimental bombing
exercises of Navy seaplanes on a captured German U-boat, the first in a series
of joint Army-Navy experiments conducted during June and July of 1921 to measure
the effectiveness of air attack.
On July 1, 1921 the ARIZONA was honored as the flagship for three-star Vice
Admiral John D. McDonald. With the flag came the title of flagship of the Battle
Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In August the flag was transferred to the USS
WYOMING and the ARIZONA received a new admiral, John S. McKean, commander of
Battleship Division 7.
In September of 1921 the ARIZONA was transferred to Pacific waters. At San
Pedro, California it underwent another change of command, when Rear Admiral
Charles Hughes became the new commander of Battleship Division 7.
For the next decade the ARIZONA served as flagship for Battleship Divisions
2, 3 and 4. A number of distinguished officers served aboard the vessel,
particularly Rear Admirals William V. Pratt and Claude Block. During this period
the ship sailed twice to Hawaii to participate in fleet maneuvers and practice
amphibious landings of Marines.
In early March 1924 Madeline Blair stowed away on the Arizona and
wasn't discovered until April 12th. She was apparently attempting to ride to
San Pedro (on the way to Hollywood) and was providing favors to crewmen in
return for shelter and food. She was discovered after a Chief Radioman
happened to overhear a sailor remark on her presence. As a result
courts-martial of the men involved were held and twenty three men were
sentenced to prison, the longest for ten years.
In February 1929 the ARIZONA passed through the Panama Canal for fleet
maneuvers in the Caribbean.
On May 1, the battleship returned to Norfolk in preparation for modernization overhaul.
On May 4, 1929 it entered the yard at Norfolk and was placed in reduced commission until July 1929.
During this modernization the ARIZONA received a massive facelift. The entire superstructure was replaced, including
the traditional cage masts which were replaced fore and aft by tripod types.
New 5-inch antiaircraft guns replaced the outdated 3-inch mounts. New armor was
added below the upper decks to guard against the fall of shot by high-angle
gunfire and bombs dropped by aircraft. Extra compartments of horizontal armor called "blisters" or bulges were
added to the outer hull to increase the ship's protection against torpedo
attack. In an effort to offset the additional weight, a brand-new power plant
consisting of modern boilers and turbines was installed to allow it to maintain
normal fleet speed. The engines were upgraded with new geared units, and the
original boilers were replaced with six Bureau Express three-drum boilers. The
ARIZONA's fuel capacity was increased from 2,332 to 4,630 tons of oil.
On March 1, 1931 modernization was completed, and the ARIZONA was placed in full
commission once again.
One of the more significant events in the ship's history took place on March
19, 1931 when the ARIZONA embarked President
Hoover for a
10-day inspection cruise to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands,
then transported the President to Hampton Roads at the end of the month.
Off to California
On August 1, 1931, The ARIZONA left Norfolk for the last time and remained in the
Pacific for the rest of its operational life.
On March 10, 1933 the Arizona was anchored at San Pedro when the
Long Beach earthquake struck. The ship provided a shore party that helped
patrol the area, provided communications, set up first aid stations and
provided food and shelter for those made homeless by the earthquake.
The Warner Brothers movie Here Comes the Navy used the
Arizona as one of it's locations during spring of 1934. The film
starred James Cagney, Pat O'Brien and Gloria Stuart. The movie was one of the
nominees for the Adademy Award in 1935.
On September 17, 1938, Rear Admiral Chester Nimitz hoisted his flag as commander of Battleship
Division I, with the ARIZONA serving as his flagship until
May 1939. His successor, Rear Admiral Russell Willson, assumed command in San
As tensions grew in the Pacific, the possibility of fighting there became more
likely, and fleet operations at Pearl Harbor were designed to prepare the fleet for war.
On April 2, 1940 the ARIZONA moved into Hawaiian waters and
was ordered up the coast to be overhauled at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in
Washington. The work was completed by January 23, 1941. At that time Rear
Admiral Isaac Kidd relieved Rear Admiral Willson and took command of Battleship
The ARIZONA returned to Hawaii in February 1941 and trained in those waters
for four months. The last voyage to the West Coast occurred in June, and in
early July the battleship returned to Pearl Harbor. For several months prior to
the out-break of the Pacific War, the ARIZONA's crew underwent intensive
battle-readiness drills that often included mock air attacks from the carrier
On October 22, 1941, while conducting exercises with the Oklahoma and
Nevada, the Arizona was struck on the port side by the
Oklahoma. A V-shaped hole, four feet wide by twelve feet long was opened
in the torpedo bulge. The Arizona entered drydock No. I on October 27,1941 for a few weeks for repairs.
Soon after the ARIZONA rejoined the fleet. The ship's exact movements for the
month before the Pearl Harbor attack are not clear, as the ship's log was lost
in the sinking.
December 6, 1941
The ARIZONA entered Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941 and moored
on the east side of Ford Island. Later that day the USS VESTAL (AR-15) pulled
alongside to ready the vessel for repair work scheduled for the following
Monday. At 10:00 that morning, Admiral Kidd came aboard the VESTAL for a
15-minute official call. Later the captain of the repair ship, Cassin Young,
boarded the ARIZONA to discuss the ship's pending repairs with the battleship's
Many of the ship's crew had liberty that Saturday. Some of the married men
had wives on the island and received weekend passes. Nearly 50 crew members were
shoreside at the time of the attack. However, a majority of the men had returned
to the ship by midnight. Eight hours later the ARIZONA would be lying on the
bottom of Pearl Harbor with the bodies of most of those men.
December 7, 1941
Status of Ship on the Day of the Attack
The USS ARIZONA's configuration had changed very little since its 1931
modernization. However, in April 1939 and January 1941 alterations had been done
to ready the vessel for war.
In that effort, an exposed pair of 5-inch, 51-caliber guns was removed so
that new 1.1-inch quadruple machine-gun mounts could be installed on the
superstructure deck abreast of the conning tower. Another set of the 1. 1-inch
mounts was also to be installed on the quarterdeck between the mainmast and gun
turret No. 3. foundations, ballistic shields, ammunition hoists, and
ready-service lockers were installed. At the time of the attack, those areas
were vacant of any armament -- the guns had been scheduled for installation in
A variety of 50-caliber machine guns was installed to increase antiaircraft
fire power. It was quite common to relocate such weapons from time to time to
increase their arc of fire. Originally four were placed on the main platforms of
each mast. In 1939 search lights carried on the funnel were removed, and two
machine guns from the mainmast replaced them. In January 1941 at Puget Sound the
vessel was fitted with a "birdbath" platform atop the main-mast director tower.
The "birdbath" was filled with four 50-caliber guns, two from the foremast and
two from the mainmast. Leaving two guns on the foremast platform and two on the
funnel platform, searchlights were placed on the former gun platform of the
mainmast. Splinter shields were mounted on the superstructure deck to protect
the crews manning the eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns located there.
Coupled with increased antiaircraft fire power was the installation of new
Mark 28 antiaircraft directors that were supposed to increase the firing
efficiency for the 5-inch 25-caliber guns. The location of the directors was on
the range-finder platform level of the bridge. Here adequate support of the
superstructure deck could be found via their heavy wiring tubes. This site
afforded sufficient sky arc coverage for the directors' use. Early in 1942 the
ARIZONA was scheduled to receive fire control and air search radar equipment. At
the time of its loss, most of the structural modifications had been
accomplished. The ARIZONA was painted in a two-tone gray paint scheme commonly
referred to as Measure 14, consisting of an ocean gray (dark) on all hull and
superstructure masses. Haze gray (light) was applied to the masts, yards and
towers above the level of the superstructure masses. This paint scheme was meant
to break up the general outline of the ship at a distance. The hull and
superstructure were meant to blend with the sea, the upper works with the sky.
It obviously had no value to vessels in port. A majority of the Pacific Fleet
was painted in that manner. The exact date of the order that authorized the
Measure 14 scheme is not known, however, a recent discovery of a photograph of
the USS UTAH showed this paint scheme being applied in October 1941.
One other note on the ARIZONA's final appearance: Morning canvas sun
tarpaulins or awnings stretched above the main deck from the bow to the muzzles
of gun turret No. 1. Awnings graced the quarterdeck from the break in the deck
to the barbette of gun turret No. 3. Farther down the quarterdeck, awnings
stretched from the gun muzzles of gun No. 4 to the stern. Most of the canvas was
destroyed by the ensuing fire that engulfed the ship following the massive
The Attack and Battle Damage
The ARIZONA was moored at berth F-7, with the repair ship VESTAL moored alongside.
Japanese aircraft appeared in the air over Pearl Harbor
just before 8:00 am on this Sunday morning. The color
detail was on deck in anticipation of raising the flag at the stern at 8:00.
The Arizona came under attack almost immediately, and at about 8:10
received a hit by a 800-kilogram (1,760-lb.) bomb just forward of turret two on the
In a tremendous blast, the ARIZONA blew up.
Within a few seconds the forward powder magazines exploded,
gutting the forward part of the ship. The foremast and
forward superstructure collapsed forward into the
void created by the explosion and turrets one and two, deprived of support,
dropped more than 20 feet relative to their normal position. The explosion
ignited furious fires in the forward part of the ship.
Japanese Petty Officer Noburo Kanai, in a high-altitude bomber, had earned the title of
crack bombardier while training for the mission. Kanai was credited with
dropping the bomb that blew up the ARIZONA.
In an instant, most of the
men aboard were killed, either by the explosion and fire
or were trapped by the rapid sinking of the ship.
The blast from the ARIZONA blew men off the decks of surrounding ships and threw tons of debris,
including parts of bodies, all over the harbor.
Many of the survivors displayed remarkable courage in assisting their shipmates to safety. Lieutenant
Commander Samuel G. Fuqua was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in
leading the rescue of other survivors. The Medal was also awarded posthumously to Rear
Admiral Isaac Kidd and Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh. 1,177 of the crew died on the
Survivors of the attack also claimed that the ARIZONA was hit by one or possibly two torpedoes. The fury of
the attack continued unabated, with the ARIZONA reportedly receiving eight bomb
hits as it sank. Abandoned at 10:32 a.m., the ship's burning superstructure and
canted masts loomed through the smoke that blanketed the harbor.
The ARIZONA received the most serious battle damage of the ships attacked on
December 1941. The resultant explosion of ammunition and fuel demolished the
forward section of the vessel, which collapsed inside the hull, and killed most
of the ship's complement. Six days after the attack, the senior surviving
officer from the ARIZONA forwarded the ship's action report to CINCPAC Admiral
Kimmel and noted: "The USS ARIZONA is a total loss except the following is
believed salvageable: fifty-caliber machine guns in maintop, searchlights on
after searchlight platform, the low catapult on quarterdeck and the guns of
numbers 3 and 4 turrets" (Memorandum, Commanding Officer, USS ARIZONA to
CINCPAC, Pearl Harbor, T.H., December 13, 1941. Copy on file at the USS Arizona
After the attack the ship was left resting on the bottom with the deck just
awash. In the days and weeks following, efforts were made to recover the bodies
of the crew and the ship's records. Eventually further recovery of bodies became
fruitless, and the bodies of at least 900 crewmen remained in the ship.
During 1942 salvage
work to recover
as much of the ship as was practical began. The masts and superstructure
were removed for scrap and the two turrets aft were salvaged for use at shore
batteries on Hawaii. The forward part of the ship had received the most damage,
and only the guns of turret two were removed while turret one was left in place.
It was soon discovered that the after part of the ship from the break in the
deck to the stern was relatively intact. Removal of safes, valuables and
documents of a sensitive nature had begun by early 1942.
Assessment dives continued to evaluate the feasibility of raising the
ARIZONA. Salvage officers initially considered building a cofferdam around the
vessel's perimeter, thus sealing the ship off from the harbor to allow the
pumping of water from interior spaces. Examination of the harbor's coral bottom
concluded that it was too porous and would not allow this process.
Throughout 1942 and 1943, examination dives continued inside and outside the
ship. Meanwhile, ordnance divers began to remove ammunition and projectiles in
May 1942. Eventually guns, machinery and other equipment were removed for use on
other ships or stations.
The divers found the interior of the ARIZONA had been severely damaged by the
explosion of the forward magazines. Evidence of its power had shown that the
explosion had vented through the deck forward of turret No. I causing a
separation of the bow and the rest of the ship. Divers found further that the
sides of the bow had been blown outward almost to a horizontal position. Closer
examination of the exterior hull was assisted by jetting away mud with high
pressure hoses. When divers attempted to move forward into the interior of the
vessel, they found that the main and second decks were blocked with wreckage
forward of frame 76. The furthest divers could move toward the bow of the ship
was on the third deck to frame 66, where the second deck sloped into the third
deck. Hatches that had once led to the interior of the ship from various decks
were now twisted and distorted. Captain Homer Wallin and his staff found that
gun turrets No. I and 2, the conning tower and uptakes had fallen 20-28 feet
indicating a collapse of the supporting structure.
On May 5, 1942, the toppled foremast of the ARIZONA was cut away and removed.
The mainmast was taken away by August 23. Other features removed were the stern
aircraft crane (December 23) and the conning tower (December 30).
The Navy decided that the Army would receive gun turrets No. 3 and 4 for use
as coastal defense guns. Two sites were selected: one at Mokapu Head (Kaneohe)
known as Battery Pennsylvania and the second at an area known today as Electric
Hill (HEI generating plant) on the western shore of Oahu, up the slopes of the
Wianae Mountains. Only Battery Pennsylvania was completed. A test firing took
place four days before the surrender of Japan. Today both sites are abandoned;
the guns were removed and cut up for scrap shortly after the war ended.
One question still haunts visitors to the Arizona Memorial even to this day.
Why were the dead not removed? Initially, about 105 bodies were removed but
because the ship was never raised, the remainder could not. The priority at that
time was salvage of ships that could be repaired -- the ARIZONA was not in that
category. As a result, the bodies deteriorated to the point of not being
identifiable. Even as late as 1947, requests were made in regard to removal of
the dead, but rejected. They are considered buried at sea by the US Navy.
On December 1, 1942 the ship was stricken from the registry of U.S. Navy
Building the Memorial
After World War II, the wreck was largely ignored, even though the
destruction of the Arizona came to symbolize the reason the U.S. was
In 1950 the tradition of raising and lowering the colors over
the ship daily was started, and momentum gradually began to build toward
providing a memorial for the ship and those who died on
In 1958 legislation was passed authorizing the Navy to erect a memorial and
allowing it to accept donations toward that goal. Among the many noteworthy
contributions were several generous ones from Hawaii's legislature and a 1961
concert by Elvis Presley.
In 1960 construction began and the memorial
was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1962.
In 1961 the USS ARIZONA was altered once more. In order to place the present
memorial over the ship, a section of the boat deck that rested over the galley
amidships was cut away. Initially this had been the area of a flag and platform
for ceremonies and visits to the site from 1950-1960. This portion of the
ARIZONA was removed to Waipio Point where it remains today.
In 1980 a visitor's center on shore was
opened and the Navy turned the operation of the memorial over to the National Park Service. During the 1980's, the Park Service
conducted a detailed
survey of the sunken Arizona and other sites of historical interest related
to the Pearl Harbor attack.
As recounted by William Manchester:
"Remember Pearl Harbor" became an American shibboleth and the
title of the country's most
popular war song, but it was the loss of that great ship which seared the
minds of navy men. Six months later, when naval Lieutenant Wilmer E. Gallaher
turned the nose of his Dauntless dive-bomber down toward the Akagi
off Midway, the memory of that volcanic eruption in Pearl Harbor, which he had
witnessed, flashed across his mind. As the Akagi blew up, he exulted:
"Arizona, I remember you!"
See historical information about the Arizona from Haze Gray
Medal of Honor is from the U.S.
Army's Center of Military
1,177 of the
crew died is from the USS Arizona
Memorial Web pages of the National Park Service.
Avenge December 7
(poster) is from the National Archives and
is from the Naval Historical