It was just before 8am on the morning on December 7, 1941. The USS Arizona was anchored at quay F-7, located on Battleship Row, and those on board were starting their day. They might have been having some breakfast, a laugh with their mates, relishing in the fantastic weather Pearl Harbor was experiencing or thinking about their families in the midst of Christmas holiday season. Whatever it was they were doing, they were not expecting that it would be their last moments; and they certainly weren’t expecting that torpedo bombers were about to attack.
There were a number of ships that were hit, starting with the Oklahoma and West Virginia and the repair ship Vestal; but it was the USS Arizona that saw the most casualties after receiving a number of direct hits. One of these hits was near the gun turret #2, and within seconds the bomb had hit both first and second decks, stopping at the third before exploding. The boat was soon a fireball, engulfed in smoke and flames, and it quickly sank to the bottom of the ocean.
The fire the blast created lasted two days and burned 4,600 tonne of fuel.
There were over 1,700 men on board the USS Arizona, many of whom jumped in the murky waters to try to survive. In the end, 1,177 men perished either in the fire or the waters; and even today, the attack on the USS Arizona remains the single worst disaster in the history of the US navy.
The USS Arizona was designed for great things and was the second battleship to be built in the Pennsylvania class. Its name honored the fact that Arizona had been admitted into the Union as the 48th state in 1912 and it took just 15 months for the ship to be built. It was a $13 million, 608-foot long ship with 14 inch guns and torpedo bays, and could produce a top speed of 21 knots. It was believed to be one of the world’s most deadly warships. At the time, it was amazing that the ship was fueled by gasoline (rather than coal like those designed before it); and it could store a total of 1.5 million gallons. Unfortunately though, this was more of hindrance when the December 7 attack took place.
Once the ship building was complete, the USS Arizona had a maiden cruise to the Caribbean, though the ship was found to have engine troubles which were fixed once the ship returned to New York. Despite that US at the time preparing to go to World War I, the ship was instead sent to Chesapeake Bay where it was anchored (much to the dismay of many). In 1940, the ship was sent to Pearl Harbor where it remained in use until the following year.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the guns and turrets were taken from the ship and re-used, however there was no way to salvage the ship itself and today, the USS Arizona Memorial sits atop it. Even today, there are oil leaks from its hull, reminding everyone of the ferocity of the event 75 years ago.