(Curses, I just had to be a couple hours late for this one in particular)
There are warships who go through their service lives without seeing a single shot fire in anger. And there are those that are constructed in wartime and are sunk in battle without knowing a day of piece. Yet in Pearl Harbor today lies the wreck of a warship which was deprived of both a service life of peace or war, whose crewmen even today still return to the ship they once served on after they die.
104 years and 1 day ago, on June 19, 1915, USS Arizona (BB-39), second of the Pennsylvania-class battleships (and my favorite class of warships, period), was launched out of the New York Naval Shipyard (now known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard).
The Pennsylvania-class battleships were the successors to the Nevada-class, and as such were indeed intended as incremental improvements of the Nevada-class. As such, after some wrangling over potential designs, they eventually possessed following design features, many of which were derivative of the Nevada-class and sought to improve on these predecessors:
All-or-nothing armor scheme which sought to maximize protection of the ship's vitals and deck protection while removing armor in other areas (the rationale behind this lies in the increasing engagement distances of battleships, in which plunging fire became a major concern and any armor level beneath heavy would only serve to detonate incoming shells)
Waterline Krupp armor belt ranging from 13.5 in. thick at the citadel to 8 in. minimum
Traverse bulkheads ranging from 8-13 in. thick
Barbette armor ranging from 4.5-18 in. thick
Turret armor ranging from 5 in. on the roof to 18 in. on the face
Conning tower armor of 8 in. at the roof and 16 in. in other areas
Deck armor consisting of a 3 in. triple-plated main armor deck (over steering gear it was a double-plated 6.25 in.) and a 1.5-2 in. thick splinter deck
The boiler uptakes possessed a 9-15 in. conical mantlet (armored shield)
3 in. torpedo bulkheads placed 9.5 ft. from the sides
Complete double bottom which could withstand 300 pounds of TNT upon testing in mid-1914
4x3 356mm/14 in. guns (the triple-barreled guns were a relatively new innovation on the Nevadas, and now the navy applied them in full to the new Pennsylvanias)
Maximum range of 21000 yds/19200 m. (the maximum elevation of the guns was +15º
100 shells for each gun
Like the Nevadas, the center barrel on each turret was delayed by a fraction of a second due to potential shell interference from the outer barrels firing
22 5''/51 caliber secondary guns for protection against torpedo boats (but could not be used in heavy seas)
Anti-air guns which varied from four 3''/50 caliber AA guns when built to Pennsylvania's 1942 configuration of 10 quadruple 40mm Bofors and 51 single 20mm Oerlikon cannons
2 submerged 21 in/533 mm torpedo tubes (and in fact both battleships of the class carried 24 torpedoes for them)
Overall length of 608 ft./185.3 m. (25 ft. longer than the older Nevadas)
A waterline beam of 97 ft./29.6 m.
A draft of 29.25 ft./8.9 m. at deep load
31917 ton displacement at full load
4 direct drive Parsons steam turbine sets and geared cruising turbines powered by 12 Babcock and Wilcox water-tube boilers which in total produced 31500 shp (shaft horsepower)
Design max speed of 21 kts, although during full-power trials USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) reached 21.75 kts and Arizona reached 21.5 kts
Normal fuel storage of 1548 long tons of fuel oil (another feature from the Nevadas) with a maximum storage of 2305 long tons
At full capacity, their operating distance at 12 kts was around 6070 nautical miles, which could be extended to 7585 nautical miles with a clean bottom (i.e. nothing increasing hydrodynamic drag)
The construction of the Pennsylvanias was fraught with political difficulties. Senator Benjamin Tillman and his "maximum battleship" doctrine of the pre-World War 1 era had some effect on the designs, as variations for the Pennsylvania-class's designs on everything from size to speed were created simply to see the overall effect on cost. Furthermore, because of a tight-fisted Congress (the House of Representatives in particular refused to fund any new battleships for 1913), a compromise was reached in which Pennsylvania was authorized for 1913 and Arizona was the only battleship authorized for the fiscal year of 1914. Arizona's keel-laying was attended by the then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy FDR (although she did not have her name yet). And despite the builders' intentions to set a world record of 10 months between keel-laying and launching, neither ship was able to break this record. And even after their completions, some parties lamented their low speed in comparison to the likes of the British Queen Elizabeth or the Italian Andrea-Doria classes of battleships.
At the start of World War 1 these ships represented the most advanced capital ships of the US Navy. Yet by the time the US entered World War 2, the aircraft carrier and air power had already begun to prove that the age of battleships was over, fatally for Arizona. Despite this, one of them dutifully served in the new role of battleships as shore bombardment platforms, while the other created a legacy that has lasted far longer than World War 2 and her service life.
USS Arizona is most well-known for being the ship with the highest casualty rate at Pearl Harbor by far after a modified AP shell from the Nagato-class battleships was dropped by a Japanese "Kate" torpedo bomber and detonated the magazines of her #2 turret. All in all, 1177 of the 1512 crewmen on board her at the time were killed by the total of 4 bombs which hit her and the magazine detonation, accounting for more than half of the total American casualties at Pearl Harbor. Three medal of honors were awarded to Samuel G. Fuqua (the damage control officer who saved many survivors after the magazine explosion), Rear Admiral Issac Kidd, the first flag officer killed in the Pacific War, and Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh, who reached the bridge and attempted to defend his ship before the explosion. Yet in the 26 years between her launch and sinking, she carved out her own history within the navy:
Her launching was sponsored by one Esther Ross, the daughter of an Arizona pioneer family, and attended by several prominent figures, including the mayor of NYC John Mitchel and the governor of Arizona George Hunt. Two bottles, one filled with Ohio sparkling wine and the other filled with water from Roosevelt dam, were used at the ceremony due to the recent passage of an alcohol ban by the state legislature.
During her shakedown cruises in 1916, a stripped turbine condemned her to what eventually became around 4 months of repairs at the naval yard in Guantanamo Bay.
During World War 1, she served as a gunnery training ship for the crew of the armed merchant ships crossing the Atlantic, at some points using the wreck of the old USS San Marcos/USS Texas (the 1892 one, not the museum ship) as a target.
Her crew became one of a select few to have won the Battenberg Cup (which at the time was awarded for winning rowing competitions between the crews of different ships) 3 times (1918, 1919, and 1931—USS Nevada (BB-36) broke her streak in 1920).
In December 1918, she joined an overall force of 10 battleships and 28 destroyers that escorted President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference, and later on, upon returning to NYC for a full naval review by Secretary Daniels, was the first in line and gave a 19-gun salute to the secretary.
Around May 1919, she was on station in Smyrna due to a territorial dispute stemming from the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire when Greek troops landed there and fighting between them and the Turkish troops stationed there ensued. She then sheltered many American citizens in the area who fled the chaos.
In March 1919 she became the flagship of Battleship Division 7 (although she would not be refitted to be an admiral's flagship until 1920).
She participated in multiple Fleet Problems and, in early August 1923, joined the Pacific Fleet in firing a salute to President Harding due to his death then.
In March 1924, well...just read it here
Arleigh Burke, who would become an admiral and the Chief of Naval Operations of the USN, was once an ensign aboard Arizona.
In mid-March 1931, she hosted President Hoover on a brief vacation in the Caribbean.
On February 7, 1932, a Sunday morning and in a rather stark foreshadowing of what was to come, she was part of Grand Joint Exercise No. 4, during which carrier aircraft successfully attacked Pearl Harbor.
In March 1933, when an earthquake struck Long Island, California, she was anchored in San Pedro. Her crew provided food, medical treatment, and security from looters while the city recovered.
In early 1934, she starred in the movie Here Comes The Navy, and unfortunately collided with a private fishing trawler, resulting in the trawler sinking, the deaths of 2 of the trawler's crew, and the effective end of her captain MacGillivray Milne's career after a court-martial.
From 1937 to 1939, a flurry of rear admirals transferred onto and off of Arizona, including Chester Nimitz.
Her last sortie was on December 4, 1941, in a night-firing exercise with the 2 Nevada-class battleships.
Her sister, USS Pennsylvania, managed to carve out her own tale too and demonstrated both her firepower and durability during and after the end of the war:
During sea trials after her commissioning in mid-1915, she hosted Rear Admiral Austin M. Knight and officers from the Naval War College as they came onboard to observe fleet training exercises and then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy FDR.
On October 12, 1915, she became the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet.
In early 1917, she hosted FDR again when he met with the president of Haiti while on naval exercises in the Caribbean Sea.
In August 1918, she took part in a naval review for President Woodrow Wilson, and in the next month many foreign naval officers visited the ship, including the Japanese Vice Admiral Isamu Takeshita and the Russian Vice Admiral Alexander Kolchak.
She was one of the 10 battleships in the aforementioned escort for President Wilson on his way to the Paris Peace Conference in December 1918.
On July 8, 1919, she hosted a delegation consisting of the vice president, the secretary of the navy, the secretary of the treasury, the secretary of labor, the secretary of war, the secretary of the interior, and a senator for a cruise to New York.
On January 17, 1921, she became the flagship of the Battle Fleet, stationed in the Pacific.
In between various exercises near South America and in the Caribbean, she hosted President Warren G. Harding, Edwin Denby (Secretary of the Navy), Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (Assistant Secretary of the Navy) and Admiral Robert Coontz (the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO)) on April 28, 1921.
In between several port calls in Central America, South America, and the US west coast, she won the Battle Efficiency Award for 1922.
From 1931 to 1941, she continued acting as the flagship for the Battle Fleet, participating in various maneuvers and exercises (including the prominent Fleet Problems), and hosting various important figures, including the now-president FDR.
At Pearl Harbor, unlike her sister, Pennsylvania was only lightly damaged in the attack (a single bomb hit that killed 15 and wounded 38, with another 14 missing). During the attack, her crew also managed to beat off a fire that had spread from the destroyers Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375) who were in the same dry dock as her. Her AA guns are credited with downing one Japanese aircraft and probably hitting 2 more.
In May 1942, she participated in the Aleutian Islands campaign, bombarding Holtz Bay and Chichagof Harbor to support US landing forces on May 11-12 and 14-19.
During the Aleutians campaign, she also evaded a torpedo attack by the Japanese submarine I-31 with the help of a PBY Catalina flying boat.
From late May through June 1942, she suffered 2 explosions, one caused by one of her gasoline storage compartments which forced her to leave for repairs, and another that occurred during repairs, all in all injuring 1 man and killing another.
In November 1942, she led a force of 4 battleships, 4 cruisers, 3 escort carriers, and countless transports and destroyers to bombard Makin Atoll as part of the Giliberts Islands campaign. Pennsylvania herself began the battle by firing on Butaritari Island, and she and the rest of her task force fended off numerous nighttime Japanese torpedo bomber attacks on November 25-26.
From late January through February 1944, she conducted various bombardment operations at Kwajalein and Eniwetok as part of the Marshall Islands campaign.
From mid-June 1944 through early August 1944, she conducted bombardments at Saipan and Guam. Here she earned her nickname "Old Falling Apart" because she was firing so many shells as part of the barrage that some thought the metal casings she was expelling was literally her breaking into pieces.
From mid-September to late October 1944, she conducted more supporting bombardments at Peleliu, Anguar Island, and Leyte Gulf.
During this time, Rear Admiral Oldendorf of Surigao Strait fame used her as his flagship.
She was present at the Battle of Surigao Strait, although the fact that her fire control radar was not as modern as those found on some of the other battleships meant that she did not score any hits as she was unable to locate a target.
On October 25, 1944, after the Battle of Surigao Strait, her AA gunners helped shoot down 4 Japanese aircraft that attacked a nearby destroyer. She shot down another aircraft on October 28.
On January 6, 1945, she bombarded Santiago Island before entering the Lingayen Gulf alone to suppress Japanese guns while minesweepers cleared the area as well as helping the rest of the task force fend off Kamikaze attacks. The rest of the bombardment force only joined her next morning.
On January 10, 1945, she dodged 4 bombs from Japanese aircraft and shelled a group of Japanese tanks which were massing for a counterattack on the marine beachheads for the Philippines landings.
In between trips to and from Pearl Harbor for refits, she also dueled Japanese artillery guns on Wake Island on August 1, 1945.
On August 12, 1945, she took a torpedo hit from a Japanese torpedo bomber that slipped through undetected to the aft, killing 20 and injuring 10, including Oldendorf. However, her damage control teams were able to contain the flooding. She was the last major US warship to be damaged during the war.
In October 1945, as she was underway to Puget Sound for repairs, her #3 propeller shaft slipped aft, forcing divers to cut the shaft loose. Despite having just one operational screw (2 were rendered inoperable by the torpedo attack) and the #3 shaft now leaking water into the hull, she was able to reach Puget Sound on her own power.
For her services in WW2, she received 8 battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation award.
At Operation Crossroads in early 1946, she demonstrated her durability by resisting the 2 atomic bombs Able and Baker with only light damage. She was eventually towed to Kwajalein, where she was eventually scuttled on February 10, 1948.
For Pennsylvania, some of the only remaining artifacts of her are 2 of her gun barrels (located at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania) which were salvaged by the USN in 1945, and her bell and a 1:48 scale model of her built by the Navy Bureau of Construction in 1917. Both of the latter artifacts can be found at Penn State University.
For Arizona, however, her legacy lived on rather differently:
Post-salvage, her 2 aft turrets became part of two separate coastal artillery battery on Oahu (one which fired only once on VJ Day 1945 and the other which was never completed) while the guns of one of her forward turrets was eventually realigned and used by USS Nevada when bombarding Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Although not perpetually in commission like USS Constitution, she retains the right to forever fly the US flag as if she were an active and commissioned vessel.
On March 7, 1950, Admiral Arthur W. Radford (CINCPAC at the time) instituted the raising of colors over her remains.
In 1962, legislation under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy (both veterans of WW2) designated the wreck a national shrine.
On October 15, 1966, the national memorial was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On May 5, 1989, she was designated a National Historical Landmark.
One of her original bells is now placed at the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center bell tower, and is rung after every home football victory except for against other Arizona schools. The other one is displayed at Pearl Harbor, along with one of her anchors.
A gun, mast, and another one of her anchors are in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix, Arizona.
The gun has a plaque indicating that it was not on Arizona on December 7, 1941, but was being relined and later used on Nevada.
The gun is paired with one from USS Missouri (BB-63), representing the start and end of the Pacific War for the United States.
Other artifacts from the ship which are displayed at the Arizona State Capitol Museum include:
Part of her superstructure
Her US flag at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack
Her silver service (silverware)
The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix has another piece of her superstructure
The Glendale Veterans Memorial has a potato locker and parts of her mast which are formed together to create a monument of sorts
The USS South Dakota Memorial in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has salvaged pieces of steel from her.
Arizona now has a memorial (dedicated May 30, 1962) that straddles her sunken hull without touching it. Inside is an area where visitors can view the wreck and pay respects, as well as an inscription which reads "To the Memory of the Gallant Men Here Entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941, on the U.S.S. Arizona." Inscribed besides this message are the names of all her dead. As of June 2019, the memorial is undergoing repairs after signs of a severe structural issue were discovered, but it is hoped that it will reopen by October 2019.
Additional artifacts like instruments from her band and sports banners can be found at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor.
All US Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine ships must stand at attention and salute whenever they pass by the memorial.
Since 1962, every US president has made a pilgrimage to the memorial, presenting a wreath and scattering flowers in tribute to the fallen.
Surviving crew members have the option of (and indeed do choose) to have their ashes scattered across the water above the ship or for those ashes to be placed in an urn and then set in the barbette of turret #4.
As of the 77th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in 2018, only 5 survivors from her remain. That anniversary was also the only time that no survivors from Arizona were present for the commemoration.
To this day, the wreckage still leaks oil (in total, Arizona had already around 500000 gallons of fuel oil when she sank). Some say these are the ship's tears mourning those that she lost.
I suppose the only thing that can be said here is that the phrase "don't cry because it's over, smiled because it happened" is apt here. The lives and histories of Arizona and her sister Pennsylvania ought to be remembered just as well as their eventual fates.
And now (if you're wondering what's in the spoiler tab, just check some of my similar posts in the past or the tags)...