The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor launched the United States into the Second World War. The assault on December 7, 1941 resulted in the loss of several important ships in the US Navy’s fleet. Among them was the USS Arizona (BB-39), which had been moored at Battleship Row when she suffered several torpedo strikes. Her wreckage has since been turned into the USS Arizona Memorial, with many, including the USS Bennington (CV-20), paying tribute to her lost crew over the decades.
When the Japanese launched the surprise attack, Arizona was moored at Ford Island. She suffered several devastating strikes, with the fatal blow coming at just after 8:00 AM. A 1,760-pound torpedo struck the battleship, igniting her munitions and fuel. The subsequent explosion was so strong that it lifted Arizona out of the water.
Arizona sunk to the bottom of the ocean, some 40 feet down. Of those stationed aboard the vessel that morning, 1,177 perished. While efforts were initially made to try and retrieve the bodies of the fallen, conditions made the endeavor difficult. The remains of around 900 crewmen were still within the wreckage when the decision was made to call off the recovery mission.
While Arizona‘s superstructure was removed, her hull remained submerged in the watery depths of the Pacific. With approval from President Dwight D. Eisenhower and fundraising help from an unexpected source (Elvis Presley), a memorial was erected over the battleship’s wreckage. Officially known as the USS Arizona Memorial, it’s part of the much larger Pearl Harbor National Memorial, and is visited by millions of people annually.
During a transit on May 31, 1958, the USS Bennington (CV-20) was traveling through the area where the USS Arizona Memorial is located. Wanting to pay tribute to the crewmen who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor, those aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier formed the word “ARIZONA” on her flight deck – a truly touching sight.
December 7, 2021 marked the 80th anniversary of the deadly attack. It’s important we never forget the devastation the Japanese assault caused and the lives that were lost that day. Memorials like the one erected over the USS Arizona serve as a reminder of the costs of war and the fragility of life in times of conflict.