- Published: Friday, 01 October 1999 00:00
USS Arizona Memorial History
Provided in part by
Vincent James "Jim" Vlach, Jr., USS Arizona Survivor
Built as part of America's pre-World War I modernization of the Navy, Arizona began her career as a gunnery training ship and cruised the coastal waters of the Atlantic Seaboard. She later served as flagship of the Atlantic Fleet and of various battleship divisions in the Pacific, including one based at Pearl Harbor. It was there on December 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack, that Arizona's magazines were pierced by a 1,760-lb bomb that shattered the battleship, instantly killing most of her crew and sinking the ship in 36 feet of water. Arizona's burning superstructure and listing masts became one of the most reproduced scenes of the Pacific war as the nation rallied to the cry, "Remember Pearl Harbor!" One of only two ships not refloated after the attack (USS Utah is the other), Arizona was left a shattered hulk on Battleship Row. 1,177 USS Arizona crew members were killed that day and of those men, over 900 remain entombed on the ship.
In the years immediately following the end of World War II, the wreck was largely ignored. The USS Arizona Memorial grew out of wartime desire to establish some sort of memorial at Pearl Harbor to honor those who died in the attack. Suggestions for such a memorial began in 1943, but it wasn't until 1949, when the Territory of Hawaii established the Pacific War Memorial Commission, that the first real steps were taken to bring it about.
Initial recognition came in 1950 when Admiral Arthur Radford, Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), ordered that a flagpole be erected over the sunken battleship and the tradition of raising and lowering the colors over the ship daily was started. On the ninth anniversary of the attack, a commemorative plaque was placed at the base of the flagpole. Momentum gradually began to build toward providing a memorial for the ship and those who died on her.
It took until 1958, to get some executive action, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower, approved the creation of a Memorial, using funds from Congress and private donations. The memorial needed half a million dollars.
In December 1958, the Ralph Edward's program "This is Your Life" honoring the USS Arizona and Admiral Samuel G. Fuqua raised $95,000.
Construction began on the memorial in 1960. By 1961, the total raised was $250,000, which was only half of what they needed. On March 25, 1961, Elvis Presley gave a unique live concert at the Bloch Arena in Pearl Harbor to raise funds for the USS Arizona War Memorial raising nearly $65,000.
AmVets National Commander Harold Berc lobbied Congress and they appropriated $150,000 to finish the Memorial effort. The Memorial was completed in 1961 and dedicated on Memorial Day, 1962. The USS Arizona Memorial became a National Park Service area in 1980.
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