USS Arizona HistoryProvided by Vincent James Vlach, Jr.

 
Launching of USS Arizona

Introduction

Vincent James "Jim" Vlach, Jr. was a USS Arizona Survivor. He provided us with this history of the USS Arizona in 1999. Jim spent years researching and fine-tuning the history of the ship both from official records and his time on the ship. He was instrumental in creating the lists of casualties and survivors in the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He continued to follow up and correct these lists until his death in 2008. He was our "go-to" guy for factual information regarding the USS Arizona and is greatly missed.



Shortly before 0800, Japanese aircraft from six fleet carriers struck the Pacific Fleet as it lay in port at Pearl Harbor, and the ensuing two attack waves wrought devastation on the Battle Line and on air and military facilities defending Pearl Harbor.

On board ARIZONA, the ship's air raid alarm went off about 0755 and the ship went to General Quarters soon thereafter. Insofar as it could be determined soon after the attack, the ship sustained eight bomb hits; one hit on the forecastle glancing off the face plate of Turret II, penetrating the deck to explode in the black powder magazine, which in turn set off adjacent smokeless powder magazines. A cataclysmic explosion ripped through the forward part of the ship, touching off fierce fires that burned for two days; debris showered down on Ford Island in the vicinity.

Acts of heroism on the part of ARIZONA's officers and men were many, headed by those of Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua, the ship's damage control officer, whose coolness in attempting to quell the fires and get survivors off the ship earned him the Medal of Honor. Posthumous awards of the Medal of Honor also went to Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, the first flag officer to be killed in the Pacific war, and to Captain Van Valkenburgh, who reached the bridge and was attempting to fight his ship when the bomb hit on the magazines destroying her.

The blast that destroyed ARIZONA and sank her at her berth alongside of Ford Island consumed the lives of 1,177 of the 1,400 on board at the time - over half of the casualties suffered by the entire fleet on the "Day of Infamy."

Placed "in ordinary" at Pearl Harbor 29 December 1941, ARIZONA was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 December 1942. Her wreck was cut down so that very little of the superstructure lay above water; her after main battery turrets and guns were removed to be emplaced as coast defense guns. ARIZONA's wreck remains at Pearl Harbor, a memorial to 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 ARIZONA's remains, and legislation during the administrations of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy designated the wreck a National Shrine. A memorial was built; it was dedicated 30 May 1962.

ARIZONA (BB-39) was awarded one Battle Star for her service in World War II.

Remember the Arizona!
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