Published in the fall 2011 issue of MyLIFE magazine
PHOTO BY ISAAC BORREGO
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which shall live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
So spoke President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he addressed Congress on Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, declaring war against the Japanese and propelling America into World War II.
Regarded as a dastardly attack, the event catapulted the Grand Canyon State into the international spotlight as the USS Arizona became the symbol of the horrific devastation that left the storied battleship at the center of the worst single disaster in U.S. naval history. The Arizona suffered eight direct bomb hits, and the explosions that followed left the ship beyond repair.
But its honor has been memorialized. The USS Arizona Memorial Center was dedicated in 1962 and has been operated by the National Park Service since 1980. It lies along Pearl Harbor’s eastern shoreline and is part of the Pearl Harbor Naval Station.
A few facts about the USS Arizona: On March 4, 1913, Congress authorized the construction of the Arizona, named in honor of the 48th state’s admission into the union on Feb. 12, 1912. Work was completed in October 1917, six months after the United States entered World War II. The USS Arizona (hull designation BB-39) was classified as a Pennsylvania-class battleship built for the U.S. Navy and was the first to be named “Arizona.”
Steaming out of New York Harbor on her maiden voyage, she joined the Atlantic Fleet, in which she served as a gunnery training ship. Following the armistice of November 1918, which marked the end of World War I, she sailed with the British Grand Fleet. After that, she was transferred to San Pedro, Calif., where she joined the growing Pacific Fleet.
As author Allan Seiden states in his book “From Fishponds to Warships: Pearl Harbor—A Complete Illustrated History,” “Carrying twelve impressive 18-inch guns in four distinctive triple turrets, she could travel at 21 knots, and was widely praised for her steady handling and the precision and impact of her long-range guns.”
In 1940, the USS Arizona was transferred to Pearl Harbor as the flagship of America’s Pacific Fleet, where her ultimate fate would provide her with a permanent home. It was here on Dec. 7, 1941, that Japanese enemy aircraft sank the Arizona during the infamous aerial attack on Pearl Harbor. In all, 1,177 crew members of the magnificent battleship lost their lives during the attack.