“The Arizona's burning bridge and listing mast and superstructure were photographed in the aftermath of the Japanese attack, and news of her sinking was emblazoned on the front page of newspapers across the land. The photograph symbolized the destruction of the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and the start of a war that was to take many thousands of American lives” - Remembering Pearl Harbor: The USS Arizona Memorial
The USS Arizona (BB-39), was a steel-hulled battleship built in 1915. It was 608 feet in length, had a 97.1-foot beam, a 29.10-foot draft, and displaced 31,400 tons. It featured four turrets each mounted with three 14-inch naval guns, and was accompanied by 22 51-caliber guns, four 50-caliber anti-aircraft guns, 39 45-caliber machine guns, and two 21-inch torpedo tubes. The Arizona was able to achieve a speed of 21 knots with its maximum of 33,375 horsepower.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese airplanes and five submarines attacked Pearl Harbor in under two hours resulting in the deaths of more than 2,300 people, wounded more than 1,100, damaged or destroyed 19 American ships, and more than 320 airplanes.
The USS Arizona received the most serious battle damage of all ships moored in “Battleship Row”. Of the bombs reportedly dropped on the Arizona, the one that did the most damage was a 1,760-lb armor-piercing projectile which penetrated the ship’s deck and detonated near the munitions magazine. After a massive explosion, the USS Arizona sank in about nine minutes to its final resting place on the floor of Pearl Harbor. Recovery units found only a small number of bodies from the wreckage. All of the other crewmembers have remained entombed inside the hulk, thereby making the ship a war grave.
Of the 2388 deaths at Pearl Harbor, a total of 1177 sailors and marines (including 34 sets of brothers) died aboard the USS Arizona due to the bombing attack and its subsequent sinking on that fateful day, December 7, 1941. Only about 333 survived.
Because of the large number of casualties due to its sinking, the USS Arizona Memorial has become the ubiquitous symbol to represent the attack on Pearl Harbor. Because of this widely held viewpoint, more than a million people visit the USS Arizona Memorial each year. During their visit, they can see the oil that still leaks from the submerged tanks and read the names of those who perished from the marble walls of the memorial.
These words sum up the feelings of most veterans:
“Indelibly impressed into the national memory, the image could be recalled by most Americans when they heard the battle cry, "Remember Pearl Harbor."”
We veterans will do our part to “remember” Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day every December 7. And we certainly hope that others will join us.
Note: Further reading about the USS Arizona and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor can be found at:
• The National Park Service,
• The Naval History and Heritage page