Ship's History

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"We are here today to witness the laying of the keel of the 41st battleship of the United States Navy. We want to make a world's record in length of time between the laying of the keel and the launching of this ship. Judging by the records of the Navy yard in the past, with the Connecticut, the Florida, and the New York, I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that number 39 should be ready to slide down these ways in ten months from today."

With these words, Commander of the New York Navy Yard Captain Albert Gleaves began the keel laying of what was to become the USS Arizona, one of the most well known battleships in US and World History. USS Arizona was one of two Pennsylvania class battleships. Their design was started in response to the arms race started by the increased capabilities of the British battleship Dreadnought, launched in 1906. The ceremony in which she was laid down at the New York Navy Yard took place on March 16, 1914 and was attended by Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, later president of the United States. Also in attendance for the birth of the ship was three-year-old Henry Williams Jr. who was given the honor of placing the first bolt in place. Williams would be present twenty-six years later as a Lieutenant in the US Navy on the day of Arizona's death.

She was launched on June 19, 1915 and christened "Arizona" with a bottle filled with some of the first drops of water to flow over the new Roosevelt Dam in the state of Arizona. At the time this action was hotly debated; sailors feeling that christening with water was a bad omen, but the move for prohibition was strong at this time and the Navy aquiest to the wishes of the Govenor of Arizona.

Following the launching, fitting out began on the empty hull. Guns and turrets were installed and her machinery and engines were added. A small superstructure and two large cage masts rose above her wood decks. Ventilators to move air below decks were installed and ships boats were embarked. The bright red primer she had been covered with on the day of her launching was covered by Navy Gray paint.

Finally, the mightly USS Arizona was comisshioned on October 17, 1916, officially becoming a ship of the US Navy at 4:09PM . Her crew begain to learn the systems of their new ship as they cleaned up after the yard workers and took on provisions of food and ammunition. She departed New York a month later for her shakedown trials off the east coast, down to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Her 5-inch broadside guns were fired first, on the 19th of December, and her mighty 14-inch main battery let loose with their first volley on the 23rd.

Her new engines would plague her with trouble until a major overhaul later in life; the turbine blades on one of the low-pressue turbines had stripped coincidentally on December 7th and following the shakedown she had a four-month overhaul back in New York to repair the engine. Portions of the aft quarterdeck and two decks under that had to be removed to allow the damaged engine to be removed and repaired. The turbine was not back on ship until early March, at which point Arizona was put back together, cleaned up, and attached to Battleship Division 8.

The Pennsylvania class battleships were a new design, one fired by oil rather than the more traditional coal. Because of this Arizona and her crew never deployed to Europe during World War one. Instead, they were kept off the eastern seaboard based out of Norfolk, Virginia. Arizona served as a gunnery training ship and patroled the sea lanes off the coast until the end of the war. One

The week after the Armstice was signed Arizona stood out of Hampton Roads, Virgina, for a journey to Portland, England. Once there, she served with other ships in her division as an escort for President Woodrow Wilson during his journey to the Paris Peace Conference. Following this she headed west, carrying 238 veterans home to New York, arriving off the coast on the afternoon of Christmas day, 1918.

The next day, Arizona and crew passed in review before Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels on the yacht Mayflower, moored just off the shore from the Statue of Liberty. Following this there was a short stay in New York before she sailed for her home port in Virginia in January of the new year.


The 1920's


The 1930's


The 1940's

Arizona and her crew were stationed at Pearl Harbor with the rest of the Pacific fleet following Fleet Problem XXI in April of 1940.

On December 4th, while sailing in formation with USS Nevada and West Virginia when a message came to the bridge, "Submarine 300 yards off our starboard bow and I have my 5-inch battery trained on it. Request permission to fire, sir!” This message was sent by Ensign Vernon Osterberg, a gunnery officer serving on one of the 5" broadside guns on the main deck. Capt. Van Valkenburgh denied permission to fire, and was killed three days later when Arizona was sunk, so we will never know for sure if Osterberg did actually see a submarine and what a legitimate sighting would have done.

Pearl Harbor

Only two bombs hit Arizona that day. The first hit the side of turret #4 and richocheted off into the deck next to it, penetrating the deck and starting a small fire that was quickly extinguished.

The second hit between the forward turrets on the starboard side. It penetrated not only the main deck but two armored decks below and started off a chain reaction in the ammunition stored in teh forward end of the ship. Enormous heat and pressure built up inside, setting off more ammunition and buckling the insides of the ship. Within seconds of the hit, the pressure built up so much that the hull of the Arizona began to deform; inflating outward as if a balloon. Soon it was too much for her hull to take and the sides of the forward end blew out.

An unearthly howl filled the air as a massive explosion erupted from her hull. Flames burst from the shattered steel and leapt hundreds of feet into the air. A thick blast of smoke shot straight up from her smoke stack, leading to rumors that she had been destroyed by a single bomb that had gone down her stack. Fuel Oil tanks had been demolished by the explosion and hundreds of thousands of oil from Arizona fed the conflagoration for days and threatened to destroy other ships as well.

In that instant, nearly a thousand men died. More qould quickly follow.




As of December 7th, 2000, 18 survivors of the attack who were on Arizona that day have been interred with their shipmates. As much as we know, there are 963 men aboard Arizona.

15th Donald Starks July 14, 2000 Making the total 961.
16th Lewis P. Robinson December 7th, 2000 (died in 1997 at age 78)
17th &18th (same ceremony)
James Lenox Lawson December 7th, 2001 died (June 15, 2001)
George Dewey Phraner Jr. December 7th, 2001 (died Sept. 7, 2001)