U.S.S. Arizona, BB-39

When ship was designed it was a new style of battlewagon for its time. Officially the battlewagon was listed as BB-39 or battleship number thirty-nine. It was the second of two battleships that were classified as the “ Pennsylvania ” class type of battleships. You can best use the word battleship for this class and onwards in time for large ship development. The “battle wagon” was a term that was now fading away. Battleships were named after a State so both Pennsylvania and Arizona was now properly represented in the United States Navy.

She was built in the New York Ship Yard where she was launched in 1915 and was officially commissioned on October 17, 1916. The ship weighed in at 32,600 tons and was 612 feet long, 106 feet wide. The architecture of the ship gave it a low bridge location and with a superstructure of two tall cage masts.

As time passed naval advancements required the Arizona to be upgraded. The battle ship was re-commissioned in 1931 after three years of many new improvements. She sailed with new engines powered by new boilers giving the Arizona the top speed of 21 knots. She was also equipped with new guns and tall observation masts. The cage type structures had been removed being replaced with tri-pod structures. The superstructure and profile of the battleship had in effect been raised. The battleship had two aircraft catapults one on each gun turret on the rear of the ship. The types of seaplanes that were carried onboard were the Grumman “Duck” of which three were carried when under sail.

In March of 1931 the Arizona hosted the President of the United States for an official trip. Herbert Hoover traveled on the battleship for a visit to Puerto Rico along with the Virgin Islands . The history I have does not tell me what the visit was all about but it does fit the President properly to be sailed around in a mighty battleship like the Arizona . Battleship One; think about it.

In August of 1931 the battleship was sailed to join the Pacific Fleet. The battleship would remain in service in the Pacific until the end of its service. She was docked in a California Navy Base until 1940 when the Pacific Fleet was then harbored at Pearl Harbor , Hawaii . By 1940 the battleship was armed with twelve 14inch main guns grouped three each in four different turrets. Two turrets were in the front of the ship and two were facing the rear. Her secondary armament was twelve 5inch guns which could be used on sea and air targets.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Arizona was considered an old battleship. Though she never saw combat before December 7, 1941, she helped train many thousands of American sailors who called the Arizona their “Home.”

On the day of the attack the Arizona was docked by Ford Island with the USS Vestal moored right next to the battleship on the outside of a double row of warships. The ship was attacked by B5N “Kate’s flying around ten thousand feet who were attacking with armor piercing bombs rather than the Kate’s that were gliding across the top of the water in the harbor delivering torpedoes. One of two bombs that hit the ship found the forward magazines full of explosives. When the room of munitions detonated the ships bottom and sides were blown out sinking the ship quickly sinking bow first. The heavy superstructure then collapsed forward into the gutted forward section.

On the day of the attack the battleship did not have very many anti-aircraft guns in place because the entry of aviation into Naval warfare had not been taken into consideration at the conception of the Arizona . However the ship was scheduled to have 1.1inch guns mounted along both sides of the ships enclosed in metal tubs for protection. During the attack the ship was only able to muster a few fifty caliber guns before the ship was fatally hit. Yet everyman on that battleship including the cooks were manning their stations as best they could. They fought together as a crew until the very last moment.

The Japanese pilot that led the flight of “Kate’s” that attacked “Battleship Row” was Commander Mitsuo Fuchida. It was his Kate armed with one 800kg armor piercing bomb that tore through the deck of the Arizona and detonated in the forward ship’s magazine. In the first attack there were a total of forty Kate’s armed with Mark 91, “Long Lance” torpedoes. Torpedo Specialist Maruyama was carrying a torpedo in the first wave that would sink the Oklahoma . Also in the first wave were forty-nine Kate’s armed with 800kg armor piercing bombs. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida leading the flight of Kate’s over the battleships carried one of the 800kg bombs that would sink the Arizona . In the second wave of the attack there were fifty-four Kate’s armed with one 250kg and six 60kg bombs each. They used these attacks to “pattern bomb” an area. They could have carried the heavier weapons and done more damage than their carpet-bombing. None in the second wave carried torpedoes or the 800kg armor piercing bombs.

The submerged hull of the once proud battleship is now a tomb for 1,100 sailors; her crew that were unable to escape. The remains of the battleship is now a National War Monument where it sank those many decades in the past now. Never forget those who died first, within the first few minutes of the Second World War.