The USS Arizona was commissioned on October 17th, 1916 and was sunk on December 7th, 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The fatal blow to the ship came from a 1,760 pound bomb that was able to pierce the armor of the battleship. Today, the USS Arizona Memorial lies overtop of the wreck of the USS Arizona and was dedicated on Memorial Day 1962 after receiving financial backing from Elvis Presley. Due to the limited number of seats onboard the National Park Service tour boat that transports visitors to the memorial, there are only 4,500 tickets sold daily to visit the Arizona to honor the 1,177 sailors who died on Pearl Harbor Day.
- 1 USS Arizona Ship Information
- 2 USS Arizona (BB 39) Characteristics
- 3 USS Arizona Early History
- 4 USS Arizona Operations in the 1930s
- 5 Events Leading up to Pearl Harbor
- 6 The Sinking of the USS Arizona
- 7 Underwater View of the USS Arizona Memorial
- 8 USS Arizona Medal of Honor Awardees
- 9 USS Arizona Sinking Aftermath
- 10 USS Arizona Memorial
- 11 USS Arizona References
USS Arizona Ship Information
Ship Name: USS Arizona
Ordered: March 4, 1913
Ship Builder: Brooklyn Navy Yard
Ship Cost: $16,000,000
Laid down: 16 March 1914
Launched: 19 June 1915
Commissioned: October 17, 1916
Decommissioned: December 29, 1941
Ship Struck: December 1,1942
Ship Identification: BB-39
Ship Fate: Sunk in Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941
USS Arizona (BB 39) Characteristics
Ship Class and Type: Pennsylvania-class battleship
29,158 long tons (29,626 t) (standard)
31,917 long tons (32,429 t) (deep load)
Length: 608 ft (185.3 m)
Beam: 97 ft (29.6 m)
Draft: 29 ft 3 in (8.9 m) (deep load)
Installed power: 29,366 shp (21,898 kW)
Ship Propulsion: 4 shafts
4 sets of Parsons steam turbines
12 Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers
Max Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)
Range: 8,000 nm (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Ship’s Complement: 55 officers and 860 men
Ship’s Armament: 4 × 3 – 14-inch/45 guns
22 × 1 – 5-inch/51 guns
4 × 1 – 3-inch/50 AA guns
2 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Armor: Belt: 13.5–8 in (343–203 mm)
Bulkheads: 13–8 in (330–203 mm)
Barbettes: 13 in (330 mm)
Turrets: 18 in (457 mm)
Conning tower: 16–14 in (406–356 mm)
USS Arizona Early History
The battleship Arizona was first laid down on March 16th, 1914 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She was launched on June 19th, 1915, and commissioned at the building yard on October 17th, 1916 with Captain John D. McDonald in command of the ship. She departed the shipyard on November 16th, 1916 and conducted shakedown training off of Newport, Rhode Island and Virginia Capes. Once the training was completed, she traveled to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and returned to Norfolk in December. The Arizona returned to the building yard just before Christmas for the post-shakedown overhaul and alteration installation. On April 3rd, 1917 she would pull into Norfolk but would not travel to Europe before World War 1 was over.
Soon after the armistice that stopped the war on November 11th, 1918, the Arizona sailed for Portland, England and met the George Washington transport ship that was carrying then United States President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference. The ship would be part of the honor guard that escorted the president to Brest, France on December 13th, 1918. The Arizona then took part in Operation Magic Carpet, transporting 238 American veterans home to New York on Christmas Day, 1918. Arizona would return to homeport on January 22nd, 1919. She would participate in operations and exercises across the world over the next ten years until being placed in a reduced commission status on July 15th, 1929 to being a significant overhaul period. The ship would be placed back into full commission on March 1st, 1931.
USS Arizona Operations in the 1930s
The USS Arizona would operate with the United States Battle Fleet over the 1930s and take part in a variety of Fleet problems in the waters off of Alaska, the West Indies, and east of the lesser Antilles. By mid-September, 1938 (September 17th, 1938), the Arizona would become the flagship of Battleship Division 1 with Rear Admiral Chester W. Nimitz commanding. The final Fleet battle problem that Arizona would take part in was XXI. Following the conclusion of the problem, the
United States Pacific Fleet would be kept in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor. The Arizona would remain in Hawaii until the summer of 1940 when she traveled to Long Beach, California and ultimately to the Puget Sound Navy Yard located in Bremerton< Washington. The last “Change-of-Flag” command ceremony held onboard the ship occurred on January 23rd, 1941 when Rear Admiral Wilson was relieved by Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd.
Events Leading up to Pearl Harbor
The Arizona returned on February 3rd, 1941 to Pearl Harbor and immediately plugged into the training being conducted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The ship would make a final trip to the west coast of the United States pulling in to Long Beach for a short visit before returning to Hawaii on July 8th, 1941. Arizona and her crew would continue to train and conduct fleet exercises for the next several months. On October 27th, 1941, the ship underwent a minor overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard where she received the foundation for a search radar on top of the foremast. The Arizona, Nevada (BB-36), and Oklahoma (BB-37) conducted a night firing exercise the evening of December 4th, 1941. All three of the American battleships would moor at the quays located along Ford Island on December 5th, 1941.
Since the Arizona was scheduled to receive a tender availability, she took the Vestal (AR-4) repair ship alongside her on December 6th, 1941. On the morning of December 7th, 1941, the two ships were moored alongside each other with Rear Admiral Kidd and the Arizona’s captain, Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh onboard.
The Sinking of the USS Arizona
Just prior to 0800 Hawaii time, the Japanese aircraft from six Imperial Navy aircraft carriers commenced their attack on the United States Pacific Fleet while it was inport Pearl Harbor. The two waves of attack aircraft would inflict significant damage on the fleet as well as various military and air facilities around the navy base.
Five minutes prior to colors onboard the USS Arizona, the air raid alarm was sounded at 0755 and the ship was placed at General Quarters. As best as it could be ascertained, the ship took eight bomb hits shortly after the attack began. One of the bombs hit the ship’s forecastle, went through the deck, and exploded in the black powder magazine. This explosion resulted in the adjacent magazines exploding. As a result, a large explosion would rip through the front-end of the Arizona. The fires resulting would continue to burn down for two days and debris from Arizona was found on Ford Island and the surrounding vicinity of Pearl Harbor and ultimately sank the ship.
Underwater View of the USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Medal of Honor Awardees
There were a number of significant acts of heroism on the part of the officers and crew of the ARIZONA following the Japanese attack. Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua, the Arizona Damage Control Officer, was one of the most notable. He was responsible for leading the efforts to put out the numerous fires onboard the ship and helped get a number of the sailors off the ship at the same time. Due to his efforts, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Other posthumous awards of the MoH from the attack on the Arizona included the ship’s captain, Captain Van Valkenburgh who managed to make it ot the bridge of the ship and was
fighting her through the point of the magazine explosion that sank the Arizona as well as Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd who was the first U.S. Navy Admiral to be killed in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
USS Arizona Sinking Aftermath
When the USS Arizona was sunk, 1,177 sailors (of the 1,400 onboard the ship) lost their lives. This represented more than half of the deaths suffered by the American Fleet during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship would be struck from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register on December 1st, 1942. The wreck was subsequently cut down so that the amount of the superstructure visible above the water was minimized. The U.S. Navy would also remove the main batter turrets and guns and install them as coastal defense weapons.
USS Arizona Memorial
The USS Arizona wreckage remains on the bottom of the harbor at Pearl Harbor as a memorial to the crew who lost their lives on that Day of Infamy. Rear Admiral Arthur W. Radford, CICNC Pacific Fleet, instituted the raising of colors over the remains of the ARIZONA on March 7th, 1950. The wreckage was later declared to be a National Shrine during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, and the Arizona Memorial was dedicated on May 30th, 1962. Today, up to 4,500 tourists visit the Arizona Memorial daily.
USS Arizona References
Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers, 1905–1970. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. OCLC 702840.
Interactive USS Arizona Memorial Website, last viewed December 7th, 2013.
USS Arizona (BB-39), 1916–1941—Online Library of Selected Images (US Navy), last viewed: December 7th, 2013.
USS Arizona Memorial – National Park Service official website, last viewed December 7th, 2013.