During the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, between the United States and Japan, upwards of 420 aircraft and vessels were destroyed, their remains scattered in the harbor and across the Pacific. Everything aboard these ships and aircraft, heirlooms carried by soldiers and relics of the war, sank to the bottom of the ocean floor in the wreckage.
Among the many aerial and watercraft lost on December 7th, the USS Arizona tends to stand out as an incredible loss for the United States. Though the sunken battleship has served as a memorial at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument for quite some time, it wasn’t until recently that an expedition into the wreckage sought to uncover the hidden treasures that went down with the ship.
Exploring the Wreckage
In late 2016, in preparation for the 75th anniversary of the attacks and the landmark visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a team of divers revealed their findings in a momentous occasion at the conclusion of a 10-day exploration of the wreckage of the Arizona.
Headed by the National Park Service and National Geographic photographers, the expedition into Pearl Harbor’s deaths used “11th Hour,” a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to travel into the belly of the sunken behemoth. Along with collecting scientific data, including dissolved oxygen levels, pH balance, and oil and sediment samples, the ROV was able to break through the complete darkness and spot artifacts left aboard the vessel as she sank to the harbor’s floor.
Just as It Was Left
Having been untouched for nearly 75 years, the wreckage of the Arizona likely remained stagnant, meaning anything left on board would likely still be where it was when the vessel sank in 1941. As the ROV was able to document, reminders of the World War II United States Navy were still aboard the vessel. As the ROV explored, it came across undeniably fascinating finds like a jacket hanging untouched by the elements in an officer’s stateroom.
As the tiny vessel scurried throughout the fallen ship, it captured elements of the crewmember’s lives, frozen in time as if the vessel was still in commission. Areas that were compromised by the elements saw the development of a biological ecosystem, as if the Arizona wreckage was destined to sink to the bottom of the harbor and become a home for budding life.
Though there will likely never be any manner of public dives into the USS Arizona, the wreckage can still be viewed and appreciated from the USS Arizona Memorial. The continued spilling of oil from the ruptured hull flows like the tears of the 1,000 men that were on the vessel when it sank.
For a complete history on the USS Arizona and its part in the December 7th, 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor, make a stop at the USS Arizona Memorial. It’s a poignant journey through time accentuated by the shadowed behemoth that rests below, stuck in its own watery time capsule.