Today, the remains of the USS Arizona rest on the sea floor in Pearl Harbor. Above stands a memorial to the 1,177 men who died when the Japanese attacked on December 7th, 1941. Visitors and locals alike walk along the memorial that straddles the old battleship’s hull, allowing them to take in the weight of history just above her sunken remains. Also on that 184 ft. memorial is a marble wall engraved with the names of the brave patriots who lost their lives defending Pearl Harbor. Prior to Pearl Harbor’s fateful day, the Arizona led a different life as a presidential escort, a rescue ship, and as a star, one might say, in a cameo role in a major motion picture. Not bad for a ship built in the mid-1910s.
The Arizona was named in honor of the 48th state shortly after it was admitted to the Union. Her cost was a hefty $16 million back in 1910; today that would be approximately $412 million. The battleship was the last of the “Super-dreadnoughts,” which means she displaced 2,000 more tons of water and had a bigger gun than the non super-dreadnought class. Despite being commissioned in 1916, the USS Arizona was one of the ships held stateside during WWI. Her early years were largely spent in training, getting young sailors ready for battle. She was one of nine battleships and 28 destroyers that escorted President Woodrow Wilson into Brest for the Paris Peace conference. For her crew, all that training paid off as they won the Battenberg Cup two years running.
In 1929 the Arizona underwent a full modernization. A new tripod mast, new guns, and special treatment steel for armor were just a few of the upgrades the 13-year-old ship received. In 1932 she got her first taste of tropical waters, taking part in the Grant Joint Exercise IV, successfully attacking Pearl Harbor. The exercise would be a grim foreshadowing of the ship’s pivotal role to play at Pearl Harbor 9 years later. In 1933, while anchored off San Pedro, California, the USS Arizona provided food, relief and shelter from looters following an earthquake in Long Beach. A year later the Arizona was used extensively in the James Cagney film, “Here Comes the Navy,” a story about a lovelorn sailor.
After her brief stint in the limelight, the USS Arizona served the rest of her days at Pearl Harbor, until the Japanese attacked on the infamous morning of December 7, 1941. The ship was “all hands on deck” by 8:00 AM in hopes repelling the ambush. Shortly after, 10 Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers flew over the Arizona and released their 410-millimeter armor- piercing shell bombs. The bombers scored four hits and three near misses. The last bomb struck the Arizona at 8:06 AM, burying itself near ammunition magazines and causing a massive explosion that signaled the end of the USS Arizona. A number of sailors received medals for their bravery, including the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua. The Arizona herself was awarded one battle star.