Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Date Which Shall Live in Infamy...

Ford Island in 1986
U. S. Navy Photo by PH2 Thompson
It looks so peaceful now...

73 years ago, the day started peacefully enough...

Pearl Harbor on October 30, 1941, looking southwest
U. S. Navy from the National Archives

It did not end peacefully.

Hell visited Pearl Harbor 73 years ago today.

Hell in the form of 353 Imperial Japanese Navy fighters, bombers and torpedo planes from six Japanese aircraft carriers. Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Zuikaku and Shokaku. Of those six carriers, four (underlined) would be sunk at the Battle of Midway, six months after Pearl Harbor. Zuikaku and Shokaku would survive a while longer but neither would survive the war.

But that was in the future...

On December 7th, 1941, a date which still lives in infamy, Hell came to Pearl Harbor.

Aerial photo from one of the Japanese aircraft, battleship row is on the other side of Ford Island

She was a proud ship, displacing over 31,000 tons (deep load) designed for a crew of 55 officers and 890 men. She was 608 feet long, with a beam of 97 feet and she drew 29 feet 3 inches of water (deep load). She could make 21 knots at flank speed

Her armament comprised twelve 14-inch/45 guns in four turrets and she mounted twenty-two 5-inch/51 guns, four 3-inch/50 AA guns and two 21-inch torpedo tubes.

She was a magnificent warship, a product of American skill and ingenuity.

USS Arizona (BB-39) after 1931 modernization
Public domain photo in the National Archives
USS Arizona, underway.

She did not survive the attack...
Shortly before 08:00 local time on 7 December 1941, Japanese aircraft from six aircraft carriers struck the Pacific Fleet as it lay in port at Pearl Harbor, and wrought devastation on the warships and the facilities defending Hawaii. On board Arizona, the ship's air raid alarm went off at about 07:55, and the ship went to general quarters soon after. Shortly after 08:00, 10 Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers, five each from the carriers Kaga and Hiryū, attacked Arizona. All of the aircraft were carrying 410-millimeter (16.1 in) armor-piercing shells modified into 797-kilogram (1,757 lb) bombs. Flying at an estimated altitude of 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), Kaga '​s aircraft bombed Arizona from amidships to stern. Soon after, Hiryu '​s bombers hit the bow area. (W)
Arizona '​s forward magazines explode
Arizona burns

In the days after the attack, Arizona lies on the bottom of the harbor,
her twisted superstructure still above the waves.

After the attack, several sailors received medals for their conduct and actions under fire. Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua, the ship's damage control officer, earned the Medal of Honor for his cool-headedness while quelling fires and getting survivors off the ship. Posthumous awards of the Medal of Honor also went to Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, the first flag officer killed in the Pacific war, and to Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh, who reached the bridge and was attempting to defend his ship when the bomb that hit the ammunition magazines destroyed her. The ship herself was awarded one battle star for her service in World War II.

Arizona was placed "in ordinary" (declared to be temporarily out of service) at Pearl Harbor on 29 December, and was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 December 1942. She was so badly damaged by the magazine explosion that she was not thought fit for service even if she could be salvaged, unlike many of the other sunken ships nearby. Her surviving superstructure was scrapped in 1942, and her main armament was salvaged over the next year and a half. The aft main gun turrets were removed and reinstalled as United States Army Coast Artillery Corps Battery Arizona at Kahe Point on the west coast of Oahu and Battery Pennsylvania on the Mokapu Peninsula, covering Kaneohe Bay at what is now Marine Corps Base Hawaii. This battery, known as Battery Pennsylvania, fired its guns for the first and last time on V-J Day in August 1945 while training, while the nearby Battery Arizona was never completed. Both forward turrets were left in place, although the guns from Turret II were salvaged and later installed on the battleship Nevada in the fall of 1944 after having been straightened and relined. Nevada later fired these same guns against the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
The wreck of Arizona remains at Pearl Harbor to commemorate the men of her crew lost that December morning in 1941. On 7 March 1950, Admiral Arthur W. Radford, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet at that time, instituted the raising of colors over her remains. Legislation during the administrations of presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy resulted in the designation of the wreck as a national shrine in 1962. A memorial was built across the ship's sunken remains, including a shrine room listing the names of the lost crew members on a marble wall. The national memorial was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 15 October 1966. The ship herself was designated a National Historic Landmark on 5 May 1989. Upon their death, survivors of the attack may have their ashes placed within the ship, among their fallen comrades. Veterans who served aboard the ship at other times may have their ashes scattered in the water above the ship. (W)
USS Arizona still lies at her mooring, where she was on that Sunday morning so long ago. Where she will lie for all eternity. Her crew, ever faithful to their ship, lie there with her, until the sea gives up her dead.

Tears of the Arizona
USS Arizona oil seepage by JGHowes
© by James G. Howes, November, 2005*
We remember them still. We remember them always.

USS Arizona Memorial U. S. Navy photo by: PH3(AW/SW) Jayme Pastoric

The USS Arizona Memorial marks the final resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and marines killed on the USS Arizona (BB-39).

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) rendering honors to USS Arizona
U. S. Navy photo by PM3 Kittie Van den Bosch

We shall never forget.

Pearl Harbor survivor Bill Johnson,

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist David Rush

* The copyright holder of this file, James G. Howes, allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted.


  1. As I've said before, I like the Arizona Memorial better with the addition of the Missouri. Presents a better, fuller picture. We'll honor and remember our dead....and will avenge them!

    1. Nice sentiments, juvat, but I'd sure as hell rather see the Mizzou and the other three BBs reconditioned, updated and on active duty to provide shore bombardment capability which we now lack. LOTS of places in the Med I Persian Gulf within range without using expensive limited precision bombs or risking the lives of the aircrews. (I'd also give them a nuke powerplant) Their hull design is still one of the most advanced: they are some of the fastest ships in the world. They have PLENTY of deck space and internal capacity for add-on/"bo;t-on" wpns. And their armor makes them the most unsinkable ships around when it comes to air-to ground, ship-ship or shore to ship missiles. (I'd add a rear hanger deck for some armed helos too..)

    2. VS, I'm certainly good with that. Lord knows, there are SOBs in the world that need 16 inch shells dropped around them to guide them to truthfulness and light. But, may I suggest Wisconsin and Iowa first? One should provide warning first, biblically, I mean.

    3. December 1979. Mom and Dad came to Whidbey Island to visit.............
      We took the ferry from Fort Casey to Port Townsend and then drove to Bremerton.
      Missouri was moored there in the inactive ship facility......................It was one of those moments for a 25 year old AMH2. My Dad was amazingly muted in his demeanor that day.

    4. I remember when IOWA was tied up in Newport next to FORRESTAL and SARATOGA, a most impressive sight.

      The need for Naval Gunfire Support has not gone away with the mothballing of the battlewagons. One could argue (and Virgil has) that the need for being able to reach and touch someone with 16" guns has never been greater.

      But hey, Big Navy knows best. Right? /snark

  2. I was there most recently in March; the Missouri marks the end of our involvement in WWII, just as the Arizona marks the beginning. A fitting tribute, I think.
    And it never fails to get dusty in here when I think about it.

  3. There's a marker in our local cemetery for F1c Kenneth Robert Bickel.

    Marker only, of course, for he lies with his shipmates.

  4. I have been aboard Ranger and Kitty Hawk when arriving at Pearl Harbor. All hands are in Dress Uniform and The Rails are Manned....................Honors are rendered................Attention To Port! Hand Salute! Two!
    The same was done for Utah on the other side of Ford Island when departing..............for either the Western Pacific/Indian Ocean or Homeport in CONUS.
    In September of 1980, on my second cruise on Ranger, several of us rode the motor launches to the Arizona. The Memorial was closed at that time for some reason. The striking memory is of a regular civilan tourist that had problems paying attention to the Coxswain........................Please remain seated did not seem to sink in with this guy.................I think it was AMS3 Bobby Butterfield who told the guy to park his ass...................................otherwise we would send him to the bottom feeders in the Harbor...........................He never moved after that..........................I guess having a half dozen sailors smile at the possibility got through...................Today, in Palmdale on a run for Missus ORPO, the flag at Walmart was at Half Staff....................I took a picture on my phone. I was duly impressed..............
    ORPO sends.

  5. I have an uncle that was killed at Pearl Harbor. He was on the USS Oklahoma (BB-37). Yes, we will never forget. Thank you for another great post!!

    1. I had no idea that your uncle had died at Pearl Harbor. The personal connection must make it particularly poignant.

      To the memory of your uncle and his shipmates.

  6. Thank you. I never know what to say when I consider the enormous thanks for the reminder

    1. This was not an easy post to write. It got very dusty...

  7. Thanks for the re-post. These are trying times and we, who study history, can hold our collective breaths that our country is not caught again unprepared but I'm afraid that we are setting ourselves up for a repeat. Two, three generation of our youth have been taught mush for our nation's history. 9-11 is a distant memory. Most young people don't even know where Pearl Harbor is much less what happened there.

    1. Sigh...

      Which is why we old warriors need to spread the word, and hope someone listens...


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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