History Of The Battleship Arizona (BB-39)
Soon after the State of Arizona became the 48th State of the Union, Congress commissioned the building of the Battleship Arizona. The battleship USS Arizona was built between 1914-1915 at the Naval Yard in Brooklyn, New York; she was the second and the last ship in the Pennsylvania-class of superdreadnought battleships to be built.
Launched in 1916, with Captain John D. McDonald in command, she operated in the Atlantic and sailed to France, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and Peru. Her first deployment was in 1919 when she was sent to Turkey to represent the US interest during the Greco-Turkish War, and a few years later, the USS Arizona Battleship was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet command.
Modernization of the USS Arizona
Between 1929-1931, the Battleship Arizona was sent to the shipyard for a comprehensive modernization. Among the various improvements, some notable ones were; she received a heavier deck armor, a new superstructure with improved fire control systems, torpedo protection, her secondary armament layout was revised, her cage masts were replaced with torpedo masts, and her main battery guns had their elevation improved for a greater range. She came out of her modernization as a very formidable ship for her time.
Moved to the Pacific Fleet
When an earthquake struck Long Beach, California, on March 10, 1933, the Battleship Arizona and her crew were assigned to assist in providing aid to the survivors. In 1934, she became the backdrop of the famous Hollywood movie “Here Comes the Navy.” Then in 1940, the Pacific Fleet and the Battleship Arizona were reassigned from San Diego to Honolulu due to the Japanese unrelenting military aggression in Asia.
Battleship row was constructed off the southeastern side of Ford Island to accommodate the Pacific Fleet’s eight massive battleships that came to Pearl Harbor. Due to Ford Island’s location, being in the middle of Pearl Harbor, where the water was the deepest, it could accommodate the largest of the Battleships. This also allowed the Navy to double up Battleships, side by side, tied to a large Mooring Quays just off the shore of Ford Island. For access, wooden planks spanned between the two Battleships and Ford Island. Unfortunately, this doubling up of the ships made them easier targets for an enemy attack. However, at the time, the US Navy felt the Battleships were safe from enemy attacks because the harbor was too shallow for torpedoes, and no one dreamed of an aircraft carrier attack on Hawaii. Unknown to the US military, the Japanese Navy had modified their torpedoes for shallow water attacks and tested them secretly for over a year in Japan.
Dec 7, 1941
The Japanese sneak attack on Oahu occurred early on a Sunday morning, Dec 7, 1941, and was a complete surprise to Oahu’s military bases and the 136 vessels docked at Pearl Harbor. The goal of Japan was to destroy all the airfields and aircraft on Oahu and then attack the US Navy’s two aircraft carriers and eight battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor. However, the aircraft carriers had recently left Pearl Harbor for maneuverers, and only the Battleships remained in port. Consequently, the full might of the Japanese attack was concentrated on Battleship Row.
Armor Piercing Bomb Explodes in the Battleship USS Arizona ‘s Ammunition Compartment
An armor-piercing bomb soon hit the USS Arizona Battleship in her magazine compartment. The explosion was so powerful that it lifted the ship, breaking the hull in two, and instantly killing 1,177 officers, sailors, and marines. Unlike the other battleships on Battleship Row, the battleship USS Arizona could not be salvaged, although the Navy did remove some of her big guns.
The wreckage of the sunken Battleship Arizona and its crew remain on the bottom of the harbor, and the ship is still leaking oil over 80 years later. In 1962, the Memorial was built above the Battleship Arizona to honor all those crewmembers that died. The Memorial was intentionally designed to straddle the Battleship out of respect and honor for its crew but does not touch it.