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USS Arizona (BB-39) Wreck
National Historic Landmark Study
by James P. Delgado, 1988
Designated May 5, 1989

USS Arizona on trial manuevers, 1918. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.

Present and Historic Physical Appearance

The hulk of the United States Ship Arizona (BB-39) lies in 38 feet of water off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. She is located at the berth (F-7) to which she was moored on the morning of December 7, 1941, when she was sunk by attacking Japanese forces. In the documentation of the United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, as a (1965) National Historic Landmark, USS Arizona and the modern (1961) memorial which spans her hulk are merely mentioned, and then not specifically as contributing elements. More recent studies (1978) resulted in the determination that the memorial itself, as well as the USS Utah memorial, were contributing elements to the Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark District. Yet the hulk of Arizona has not been assessed or documented under the criteria of the National Historic Landmarks. Recent detailed maritime archeological assessments and documentation of the submerged remains of USS Arizona reveals her to be substantially intact. This study therefore addresses the hulk of USS Arizona as a property of exceptional national significance worthy of individual designation as a National Historic Landmark.

USS Arizona Before the Japanese Attack

As built in 1915, USS Arizona (BB-39), third United States warship to bear her name, was a steel-hulled battleship. Second and last of the Pennsylvania class, Arizona was 608 feet in length, with a 97.1-foot beam and a 29.10-foot draft. [1] Displacing 31,400 tons standard, Arizona and her sister Pennnsylvania represented a modest improvement of the previous Nevada-class battleships: "length and displacement were somewhat increased and two further 14" guns were shipped, the main armament now being arranged in four triple turrets...." [2] The significant change was concentrated in the firepower of the vessel; Arizona's four turrets(respectively labelled "1,2,3, and 4") each mounted three 14-inch naval guns. Arizona additionally carried 22 5-inch/51-caliber guns, four 3-inch/50-caliber AA guns, 39 45-cal. machine guns, and two 21-inch torpedo tubes. [3] The original configuration of the vessel included the typical "cage" masts of the period; these were removed in 1929-1931 during modernization when tripod masts were installed. Arizona's four shafts were driven by four paired Parsons turbines and 12 Babcock and Wilcox boilers which developed 33,375 h.p. Arizona was able to achieve a speed of 21 knots. The battleship's propulsion and engineering systems remained basically unaltered throughout her career. [4]

During her career Arizona was refitted and modernized several times. Early alterations and modifications to the ship were made as a result of First World War experiences of other American battleships. This included doubling the anti-aircraft armament to eight 3-inch/50-caliber guns, the removal of eight 5-inch/51- caliber guns (four aft and four forward and sealing those casemates), improvements to the masts, bridge, and fire control system, and the installation of light fighter "flying off" platforms mounted on the fantail and atop turret 3. Arizona's first planes were 1919 Sopwith Camels, followed by 1919 Nieuport 28s, and 1919 Harriot HD-2 fighters, 1920 Vought VE-7Hs, and 1926 Vought FU-1 fighter/observation
floatplanes. [5]

On February 25, 1929, reconstruction and modernization of USS Pennsylvania and USS Arizona was authorized by Congress. Decommissioned in 1929, Arizona received extensive modifications before reentering service in 1931. Torpedo bulges were added to the battleship's sides, extending her beam to 106.2 feet and increasing her displacement to 32,600 tons standard. The engines were upgraded with new geared unit and the original boilers were replaced with six Bureau Express, 3-drum boilers. Arizona's fuel capacity was increased from 2,332 to 4,630 tons of oil. Extra armor was added to the turret tops and decks; this, along with the torpedo bulges, increased Arizona's protection. [6]

USS Arizona at sea with President Hoover on board in 1931, just off Hampton Road, Virginia. Note presidential flag from mast. Photo courtesy USS Arizona Memorial, National Park Service.
The battleship's armament was also improved during the 1929-1931 modernization. "The development and use of aircraft with the fleet had forever altered the standard `line of battle' techniques.... Aircraft had provided a new means for spotting gunfire, extending battle ranges well beyond the horizon." [7] Because of this the range of the main battery of 14-inch guns was increased when the maximum elevation of the guns was increased from 15 to 30 degrees. The secondary armament of 5-inch/51- caliber guns was reduced from 14 to 12 guns. The 5-inch guns were moved from their original casemates and placed one deck higher on the superstructure. Additional anti-aircraft guns were added, Arizona receiving eight 5-inch/25-caliber guns. Mounts for 1.1-inch guns and .50-caliber machine guns were added, but Arizona never received the 1.1-inch weapons. The last armament change was the removal of the 21-inch torpedo tubes.[8]

Other modernization changes included superstructure deck and bridge alterations, replacement of the masts, director towers and fire control systems, and an increase in the crew accommodations. The modernized quarters could house 2,037 men. The aircraft catapult was changed, and the battleship after modernization carried Vought 03U Corsair spotting planes, Curtiss SOC Seagull spotting planes, and, after July 1941, OS2U-2 Kingfisher monoplanes. Even with minor changes during overhauls in 1934, 1936, 1937, 1939, and 1941, "Arizona's appearance...changed very little since her reconstruction." [9]

Battle Damage

USS Arizona received the most serious battle damage of the ships attacked on December 1941. Survivors of the attack claimed that Arizona was hit by one or possibly two torpedoes. Several bombs were dropped on Arizona, one 1,760-lb. projectile reportedly penetrating the deck near turret 2 and detonating near the magazine. [10] The resultant explosion of ammunition and fuel showered the harbor with debris, demolished the forward section of the vessel, which collapsed inside the hull, and killed most of the ship's complement. Six days after the attack, the senior surviving officer from Arizona forwarded the ship's action report to CINCPAC Adm. Kimmel and noted; "The USS Arizona is a total loss except the following is believed salvageable: fifty caliber machine guns in maintop, searchlights on after searchlight platform, the low catapult on quarterdeck and the guns of numbers 3 and 4 turrets." [11] The battleship had sunk to the bottom of Pearl Harbor in approximately nine minutes, her burning superstructure and canted masts projecting from the water in perhaps the best known and most stark image of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

USS Arizona Today

Most of the superstructure, masts and most of the armament, including the 14-inch guns in turrets 2, 3, and 4, and all 5- inch/51-caliber and 5-inch/25-caliber and .50-caliber machine guns, were salvaged from Arizona during the Second World War. Portions of the forecastle and the forward sections of the hull were cut and raised, and holes were cut into the hull to remove equipment and permit access for salvage crews before a decision was made not to attempt raising the hulk. Only a small number of bodies were recovered and around 1,000 members of the ship's complement entombed inside the hulk, Arizona was left as a war grave and later as a memorial. New quays for a battleship berth and a flagstaff on which the national flag is flown as a special tribute to Arizona's dead were installed on the battleship. The present memorial, a gently arched 184-foot long concrete structure, was constructed in 1961-1962 and straddles the submerged hulk on concrete pilings. The memorial structure is divided into three principle areas, including a large entryway, a central assembly area for viewing the visible portions of the wreck and ceremonies, and a shrine chamber with a white marble wall engraved with the names of the 1,177 members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps killed on the battleship. [13]

Archeological survey of the submerged hulk of Arizona in 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987 has determined that the battleship lies at a five to ten degree list to port and, while intact, readily evidences the severity of her battle damage. The hull just aft of the bow is distorted and cracked from gunwale to keel on the port side and nearly so on the starboard side, indicating the bow was either nearly blown off or has since settled and cracked. The armored deck forward was blown forward by the force of the explosion that appears to have wrecked Arizona; torn and twisted portions of the deck have folded together near the bow, with one large section of deck peeled back toward the port bow and jutting over the side of the hull. Debris consisting of twisted and torn fragments of steel and numerous miscellaneous fittings, litter the decks. Surprisingly, even in this severely damaged area, the battleship's teak decks remain intact and undeteriorated except for areas where silt does not protect the deck. The hull is covered with a thick growth of barnacles, oysters, sponges, corals, grasses, and sea anemones, which has retarded ongoing corrosion; nonetheless, the starboard side of the battleship evidences a higher level of corrosion, with loose hull plates that flex and shift with current and tidal flow. Perhaps the most striking hull feature are the rows of deadlights, blast- covers still fixed, that line the hull. Some have air trapped between blast cover and the glass of the deadlight and provide an an eerie reminder that Arizona is the watery grave of some 1,000 men.

Moving aft from the bow, the first major feature encountered is turret 1. With its three 14-inch guns trained forward in a slightly depressed elevation, this turret dropped intact with the deck when the latter collapsed. The guns and machinery, as well as the top of turret 2 have been removed, but the armored sides and back plate of the turret mark its position with the tops of the turret sides visible just above the surface of the water at low tide. The bottom portion of the superstructure remains intact; its formerly enclosed spaces are discernable through the stubs of bulkheads and features such as the base of Arizona's stack, the blue and white checked tiles of the galley, and the legs of galley stoves and other kitchen equipment which remain attached to the deck. A surprising array of small artifacts litter this area; among them are dishes and silverware. It is at this area that the Arizona Memorial spans the wreck and the outline of the superstructure area forms the basic outline of the ship that visitors see on one side of the Memorial.

Moving aft from the superstructure, the stub of the battleship's mainmast rises toward the surface; welded to it is the steel flagstaff from which the Memorial's flag flies. Aft of the mainmast is the barbette for turret 3, which rises above the surface of the water. The round barbette is the most prominent above water feature of the battleship. Attached on supports to the port side of the turret 3 barbette and on the port side of the former bridge area are the rusting remains of 1942 steel and concrete quays which were constructed as a new battleship berth. Aft of turret 3 is the submerged barbette of turret 4 was located. This turret was hit a glancing blow by a bomb, and according to one survivor who was standing on the turret when it was hit, "it scooped out the side of the turret with a big mound of molten steel." Another feature aft is the mount for the observation plane's catapult at the stern. The original casemates for the 5-inch/51-caliber guns line the stern quarter; at the stern itself the raised letters forming Arizona's name are present. [14]


1. James L. Mooney, ed. The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, Volume I. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1972) p. 61.

2. Robert C. Stern, U.S. Battleships in Action, Part 1 (Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1980) p. 30.

3. Mooney, Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, p. 61.

4. Norman Friedman, Arthur D. Baker III, Arnold S. Lott, and Robert F. Sumrall, USS Arizona Ships' Data: A Photographic History (Honolulu: Fleet Reserve Association, 1978) pp. 15-16.

5. Chesnau, Roger, ed. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946 (New York: Mayflower Books, 1980) p. 91; also see Friedman, et. al., pp. 15-16.

6. Friedman, et. al.,op. cit., p. 22.

7. Ibid., p. 29.

8. Ibid., pp. 30-31.

9. Ibid., pp. 32-34.

10. Mooney, op cit., p. 61.

11. Memorandum, Commanding Officer, USS Arizona to CINCPAC, Pearl Harbor, T.H., December 13, 1941. Copy on file at the USS Arizona Memorial.

12. Memorandum, Commandant, Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor to Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Pearl Harbor, T.H., July 10, 1942. Copy on file, USS Arizona Memorial.

13. See Michael Slackman, Remembering Pearl Harbor: The Story of the USS Arizona Memorial(Honolulu: Arizona Memorial Museum Association, 1984, 1987).

14. Archeological descriptions of the vessel may be found in Roger E. Kelly, "Assessing U.S.S. Arizona," CRM Bulletin VIII (6), December 1985, pp. 1-3; and Larry Murphy, "Preservation at Pearl Harbor," APT Bulletin IX (1) 1987, pp. 10-15. The survivor's quote is from John Anderson of Roswell, New Mexico as quoted in Joy Waldron Murphy, "Diving Into the Past: A Rare View of Pearl Harbor," Impact/Albuquerque Journal Magazine, March 10, 1987.

Statement of Significance

The battle-scarred and submerged remains of the battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) are the focal point of a shrine erected by the people of the United States to honor and commemorate all American servicemen killed on December 7, 1941, particularly Arizona's crew, many of whom lost their lives during the Japanese attack on the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Arizona's burning bridge and listing masts and superstructure, photographed in the aftermath of the attack and her sinking and emblazoned on the front pages of newspapers across the land, epitomized to the Nation the words "Pearl Harbor" and form one of the best known images of the Second World War in the Pacific. Arizona and the Arizona Memorial have become the major shrine and point of remembrance not only for the lost battleship but also for the entire attack. Indelibly impressed into the national memory, Arizona is visited by millions who quietly file through, toss flower wreaths and leis into the water, watch the irridescent slick of oil that leaks, a drop at a time, from Arizona's ruptured bunkers after more than forty years on the bottom, and read the names of Arizona's dead carved in marble on the Memorial's walls. Just as important as the shrine, as embodied in the form of the modern memorial that straddles Arizona, is the battleship herself. Intact, unsalvaged, and resting in the silt of Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona is a partially frozen moment of time, her death wounds visible and still bleeding oil, and her intact hulk holding most of the battleship's crew. Overlooked in the original designation of Pearl Harbor as a National Historic Landmark, Arizona, the greatest victim of the Pearl Harbor attack and the nation's focal point for remembering a day of infamy, is of exceptional national significance.

The preceding statement of significance is based on the more detailed statements which follow.

USS Arizona's Career Prior to the Pearl Harbor Attack

Laid down at the New York Navy Yard and launched there on June 19, 1915, USS Arizona (BB-39)was named for the former territory and then recent (February 14, 1912) 48th state. Commissioned on October 17, 1916, the battleship, the second and lst of the Pennsylvania class, joined the United States Atlantic Fleet. Commissioned in time for the entry of the United States into the First World War, Arizona did not see action in that conflict. Employed in training on Chesapeake Bay, the battleship was ordered to British waters following the cessation of hostilities in 1918. There, on December 12, 1918, she steamed from Portsmouth, England, as part of the escort for President Woodrow Wilson, aboard George Washington, as he sailed to Brest, France. Following this duty, Arizona returned to the United States, crossing the Atlantic once again in early 1919 when she was sent to the Mediteranean on a few months' cruise. Returning to the United States in July 1919, Arizona served an uneventful career with the Atlantic Fleet, cruising the Atlantic coast of the United States and the Caribbean. In 1921 the battleship was sent into the Pacific to join the United States Pacific Fleet. She remained with the Pacific Fleet until the end of her career, with a three-year break in service when she returned to the Atlantic coast to undergo modernization under the Naval appropriations of 1929-1931. Before rejoining the Pacific Fleet in 1931, Arizona carried President Herbert C. Hoover on a cruise to the West Indies. The battleship remained with the Pacific Fleet, moving with the other vessels of the fleet to Pearl Harbor on Oahu when it was decided to shift the homeport from San Diego.[1]

The Attack of December 7, 1941, and Arizona's Destruction

Nationalistic and militaristic fervor in Imperial Japan and a strong belief in Japan's destiny and divine right to rule all of southeast Asia brought Japan and the United States into increasing diplomatic confrontation throughout the 1930s. Compounding the matter was a bloody undeclared war the Japanese were waging in China and the weakening of European control in Asian colonies as a result of the Second World War. American diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions and a feeling that the time was ripe to conquer American, French, Chinese, and Dutch territories in Asia pushed militaristic factions in Japan closer to war with the United States. Fearing that the United States' Pacific Fleet would pose a formidable obstacle to Japanese conquest of southeast Asia, Adm. Isoruko Yamamoto, Commander-in- Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, visualized a bold attack on the Pacific Fleet while it lay at anchor at Pearl Harbor. Such a "surprise strategical" attack, bold and daring in its execution, would secure the Pacific and initiate the war in the tradition of the Japanese naval victory over the Russians at Port Arthur in 1904. [2]

The actual plan of operation, formulated by a young tactical genius in aerial warfare, Cmdr. Minoru Genda, was agreed to after months of internal dissension and disagreement among the ranks of command in the Japanese Navy. When negotiations with the United States were deemed unlikely to continue to the satisfaction of the Japanese government of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, a task force of 33 vessels--most notably carriers Akagi, Hiryu, Soryu, Kaga, Zuikaku, and Shokaku sailed for Hawaii. Arriving at position 200 miles north of Oahu early in the morning on December 7, 1941, the Japanese forces launched two waves of fighters, high-altitude and dive bombers. At 7:55 a.m., Hawaii time, the first wave, under the command of Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, hit Pearl Harbor, Hickam Air Base, Ewa, Wheeler, and Kaneohe Air Base, catching the Army, Navy, and Marine forces off guard. The second wave, under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Shigekazu Shimazaki, struck Bellows Airfield, Kaneohe, Hickam, and Pearl Harbor approximately one hour later at 8:50 a.m. Japanese torpedos, bombs, and projectiles slammed into ships, aircraft and men, wreaking a terrible toll.

Arizona burns after her forward magazines have exploded, Decmeber 7, 1941. Photo courtesy USS Arizona Memorial.
USS Arizona was moored at berth F-7, with the repair ship USS Vestal moored alongside. The vessel suffered hits from several bombs and was strafed. Then, around 8:10 a.m., the battleship was dealt a death-blow. Petty Officer Noburo Kanai, in a high- altitude bomber, had earned a sobriquet of crack bombadier while training for the mission. Kanai was credited with dropping the bomb that blew up Arizona. [3] The 1,760-lb. projectile hurtled through the air, reportedly striking near turret 2 and penetrating deep into the battleship's innards before exploding near the forward magazine. In a tremendous blast, Arizona blew up. Within an instant, most of the men aboard were killed, including R. Adm. I.C. Kidd and Capt. F. Van Valkenburgh, both of whom were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions aboard Arizona. [4] The blast from Arizona blew men off the decks of surrounding ships and threw tons of debris, including parts of bodies, all over the harbor. The fury of the attack continued unabated, with Arizona reportedly receiving eight bomb hits as she sank. Abandoned at 10:32 a.m., Arizona's burning superstructure and canted masts loomed through the smoke that blanketed the harbor. When the attack was finally over, the American losses totalled at least eight battleships, three light cruisers, three destroyers and four auxiliary craft either sunk, capsized or damaged, 188 aircraft lost and 159 damaged, and 2,403 killed or missing and 1,178 wounded. [5] About half of the dead came from USS Arizona; of the approximately 1,177 men aboard her, less than 200 survived.

The aftermath of the attack witnessed the United States' entry into the Second World War determined to win the absolute, unconditional surrender of Japan, inspired in part by the popular slogan "Remember Pearl Harbor!" Admiral Yamamoto's summation of the attack, a fear that the Japanese had "awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve," was realized. Four of the six attacking carriers--Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu--were sunk in combat at Midway just six months after Pearl Harbor, Admiral Yamamoto was shot down over Bougainville on April 18, 1943, and after four years of bloody combat waged hand-to- hand on Pacific islands and at sea, Japan was defeated and surrendered following the dropping of two nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Arizona after the Japanese attack and as salvage work began. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.
Arizona After the Attack

In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack the United States Navy commenced repair and salvage work and succeeded in raising all of sunken vessels with the exception of USS Arizona and USS Utah. Of the vessels raised, all were salvaged and returned to duty with the exception of USS Oklahoma, which sat in drydock through the war, was sold for scrap, and sank while under tow in 1947. While Arizona was investigated and surveyed, it was decided only to remove her topsides, which stuck above the water, and salvage her armament since wartime priorities precluded further work. When the limited salvage work was done, the vessel was left as memorial to her crew. [6] In 1942 a new battleship berth was constructed on Arizona hulk. The steel and concrete quays were also used as landings by Navy crews who came to raise and lower the United States flag flying from a pole welded to the severed stub of the battleship's mainmast and for memorial services.

USS Arizona Memorial at Ford Island, 1988. NPS photo by James Delgado.
The need for a larger, more fitting memorial was realized in 1958, and in 1961 appropriations for the current structure were approved and the memorial structure was completed in 1962 at a cost of $500,000. By the late 1970s visitation at the memorial had increased tremendously, and following 1980 legislation authorizing the National Park Service to operate the new USS Arizona Memorial, the National Park Service and the U.S. Navy worked cooperatively to preserve and interpret the story of Arizona, Utah, the Pearl Harbor attack, and Pacific forces' wartime actions through the Battle of Midway in 1942. A modern visitor center, managed by the National Park Service, houses major exhibits, including attack artifacts, and models and graphics of the battleship as she was and as she sits now beneath the arched memorial's gleaming white walls and the oil-stained waters of Pearl Harbor.


1. James L. Mooney, ed. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships Vol. 1. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1972) p. 61. Also see Norman Friedman, Arthur D. Baker III, Arnold S. Lott, and Robert F. Sumrall, USS Arizona Ships' Data: A Photographic History (Honolulu: Fleet Reserve Assocation, 1978).

2. See Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981) and Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986), and Paul S. Dull, A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945 (Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1978).

3. Prange, et al., At Dawn We Slept, p. 513.

4. Donald K. Ross and Helen L. Ross, "0755": The Heroes of Pearl Harbor (Port Orchard,Washington: Rokalu Press, 1988) pp. 18,25.

5. Prange, At Dawn We Slept, p. 539.

6. See VADM. Homer N. Wallin, Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1968).

Link to Submerged Cultural Resources Unit Page on USS Arizona

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Last Modified: Fri, Mar 31 2002 11:49:48 am EDT

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