On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the empire of Japan."
With that statement describing the attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, this nation was thrust into World War II. The first wave of Japanese aircraft attacked at 7:53 a.m. and by the end of the second wave at 9:45 a.m., the U.S. had suffered casualties of 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians, while 1,178 were wounded.
Of the dead, 1,177 were men stationed on the USS Arizona, which was destroyed when a bomb hit the forward magazine, starting a series of explosions. Eight Arizona residents were listed among the dead on the battleship, which was moored near Ford Island on that dreadful morning 65 years ago.
Today the remains of the Arizona still lie in the same shallow water where she sat helpless during the attack. In 1962, the ship was declared a national shrine and a memorial was built across her remains. A room within the shrine lists the names of the dead crew members, and regular memorial services are performed to respect their memory. A new U.S. flag is raised each day above the site, and at the end of the day is folded and given to various dignitaries.
Time has taken its toll on the memorial and in September, 2005, Governor Janet Napolitano toured the site and pledged Arizona’s help in raising $34 million to build a new visitors’s center. ("Napolitano to help raise $34 million for USS Arizona," The Arizona Republic, Oct. 20, 2005).
"It’s Arizona’s battleship," she said in the article. "When it was commissioned (1916), they broke not just a bottle of champagne over its bow, but a bottle of water that had just come from the newly created Roosevelt Dam. We’ve always had a close connection with the USS Arizona."
Napolitano also declared 2006 as the "Year of the USS Arizona Memorial."
Many of the dead from the Arizona are still entombed within its hulk. Oil still seeps from the wreckage after 65 years and is sometimes referred to as "the tears of the Arizona." Each year the number of survivors decreases and many of them have made arrangements to be cremated with their ashes placed by their fallen shipmates at the site. Many of these men believe that the oil will continue to leak until the last survivor dies.
This column originally posted on December 7, 2011
(The New Pearl Harbor Museum Opened on 12-7-2010)