Seventy years ago today, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared war on Japan, the USS Arizona lay at the bottom of Pearl Harbor — sunk by a Japanese torpedo the previous morning.
Today, the Arizona is the final resting place for more than 900 sailors. The majority of those entombed in the ship perished when a torpedo cut through the decks of the Arizona igniting nearly 100,000 pounds of gunpowder and causing a horrific explosion. More than 30 survivors also are entombed in the Arizona, having chosen to return to their ship where their brothers have lain for the past seven decades.
Dedicated on Memorial Day 1962, The USS Arizona Memorial was always meant to honor the sacrifices made on December 7, 1941 — and the subsequent 1,300 days of fighting in the Pacific — according to a Pacific Historic Parks document. An iconic representation of that fateful day, the memorial’s open, white architecture floats above the hull of the Arizona providing some 50 million visitors a place to pay their respects.
Time, exposure to the elements, and the daily foot traffic have left the memorial in need of some sprucing up, however.
“Perhaps the most notable restoration needed is the deteriorating Shrine Room Wall, which lists the 1,177 Marines and sailors who lost their lives on December 7, 1941,” said Laurie Moore, development and community relations director for Pacific Historic Parks, the organization leading the restoration efforts. “The wall and surrounding floor are stained, chipped and rusted.”
The price tag for the renovation — an estimated $800,000 — includes replacing sections of flooring, repairs to the entry hall, flag room, mezzanine, and assembly hall, and refurbishing the exterior. The cost also covers the verification of names on the wall and correction of any misspelled names or incorrect ranks, she said.
The restoration has already begun and repairs to areas viewable to visitors are expected to be completed by the memorial’s 50th anniversary, Memorial Day 2012.
“The USS Arizona Memorial reminds us of a time that rather than submit to despair, we stood resolute, acted powerfully and decisively and made a resounding difference in the world,” Moore said. “With the renewal of the memorial, the legacies of the men that rest beneath her will be surrounded with new life, hope and aspirations.”
Those who rest beneath The USS Arizona Memorial welcomed one more brother-in-arms yesterday. Vernon Olsen, a resident of Port Charlotte, Florida, died in April at the age of 91. He survived not only the attack on the Arizona, but the destruction of USS Lexington in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
“One of the Arizona survivors’ … last wishes was to be cremated and placed in an urn and [have] the divers place that within the ship,” said Eileen Martinez, chief of interpretation at World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. “This will be the 33rd interment on the Arizona.”
For more information on The USS Arizona Memorial or the restoration, please contact Laurie Moore at LMoore@pacifichistoricparks.org.
Samantha L. Quigley is the editor in chief of ON★PATROL.