Americans associate the USS Arizona with Pearl Harbor and World War II, but the forty-first battleship of the U.S. Navy was actually a World War I vintage ship, commissioned on October 17, 1916. During World War I, the Arizona served as a gunnery training ship and patrolled the U.S. eastern seaboard. In 1918, it escorted the ship carrying President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference. During the following decades, it operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific, helping to keep the peace and protect American shores.
The Arizona was docked at Pearl Harbor for repairs when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. At 8:10 a.m., a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb slammed through her decks, and a few seconds later one of her ammunition magazines exploded, shredding the forward part of the ship. The Arizona sank in less than nine minutes, and 1,177 crewmen lost their lives – half of the casualties suffered at Pearl Harbor on that day of infamy.
Today the remains of the battleship rest on the harbor’s bottom, in forty feet of water, with the bodies of about 1,000 men entombed aboard. The USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated in 1962, sits above the ship. Each year more than 1.4 million people visit the memorial, where the names of the crewmen who died are carved in marble. Overhead an American flag flies from a flagpole attached to the sunken ship’s mainmast – a somber reminder of a terrible sacrifice for freedom.