Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

NH 57665: USS Arizona (BB 39)
Description

USS Arizona (BB 39)

Tags
Related Content

USS Arizona, a 31,400 ton Pennsylvania class battleship built at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, was commissioned in October 1916. After shakedown off the east coast and in the Caribbean, she operated out of Norfolk, Virginia, until November 1918, when she made a brief cruise to France. She made a second cruise to European waters in April-June 1919, proceeding as far east as Turkey. During much of 1920-21, the battleship was in the western Atlantic and Caribbean areas, but paid two visits to Peru in 1921 in her first excursions into the Pacific. From August 1921 until 1929, Arizona was based in Southern California, making occasional cruises to the Caribbean or Hawaii during major U.S. Fleet exercises.


In 1929-31, Arizona was modernized at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, emerging with a radically altered appearance and major improvements to her armament and protection. In March 1931, she transported President Herbert Hoover and his party to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In August of that year, Arizona returned to the Pacific, continuing her operations with the Battle Fleet during the next decade. From 1940, she, and the other Pacific Fleet battleships, were based at Pearl Harbor on the orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Arizona was moored in Pearl Harbor's "Battleship Row" on the morning of 7 December 1941, when Japanese carrier aircraft attacked. She was hit by several bombs, one of which penetrated her forecastle and detonated her forward ammunition magazines. The resulting massive explosion totally wrecked the ship's forward hull, collapsing her forward superstructure and causing her to sink, with the loss of over 1100 of her crewmen. In the following months, much of her armament and topside structure was removed, with the two after triple 14" gun turrets being transferred to the Army for emplacement as coast defense batteries on Oahu.


The wrecked battleship's hull remained where she sank, a tomb for many of those lost with her. In 1950, she began to be used as a site for memorial ceremonies, and, in the early 1960s a handsome memorial structure was constructed over her midships hull. This USS Arizona Memorial, operated by the National Park Service, is a permanent shrine to those Americans who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor and in the great Pacific War that began there.