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On 7th December 1941 the US Pacific Fleet was attacked in Pearl Harbour by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy, bringing the United States of America into World War II. The attack lasted 90 minutes and resulted in the loss of 2,386 American lives and wounding a further 1,139. Eighteen ships were either run aground or sunk during the attack, including five battleships, one of which was the USS Arizona which sank when her magazine exploded. Of her 1385 crew, 1,177 lives where lost. Following the attack many of the ships were salvaged and refloated, but the Arizona and a target ship named Utah were too heavily damaged and they remain where they died to this day. The USS Arizona is now a War Memorial and national shrine, but there are (probably unsubstantiated) stories circulating suggesting that she may be haunted.
USS Arizona BB-39
The USS Arizona was the second* and last Pennsylvania class battleship and was launched before a 75,000 strong crowd on 19 June 1915. She was completed in October 1916 but suffered engine problems during her sea trials which required several months in dry dock. In March 1917 she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, acting as a gunnery training vessel throughout World War I.
She burned oil instead of coal as fuel and as oil was in short supply in Britain during the war she served on the US side of the Atlantic, operating out of Norfolk with Battleship Division 8 and not joining Battleship Division 6 assigned to the British Grand Fleet until November 1918, following the official signing of the armistice. Though she did not see action, USS Arizona did act as part of the honour guard for President Wilson’s ship when he crossed the Atlantic to attend the Paris Peace Conference in December of that year.
During the inter war years the USS Arizona served time alternately as the flagship for several Battleship Divisions including 7, 2, 3, 4 and 1. Between 1929 and 1931 she was again in dry dock whilst being upgraded and modernised with additional weapons, armour, boilers and turbines.
Displacement: 31,400 tons
Main Armament: Twelve 14” Guns
*The other Pennsylvania class battleship was the USS Pennsylvania BB-38 which was only slightly damaged during the Pearl Harbour attack as it was in dry dock.
Pearl Harbour Attack
Just before 8.00am on 7th December 1941 the bombing of Pearl Harbour began from aircraft launched from six Japanese carriers attacking in two waves. The USS Arizona was moored along with the USS California, USS Maryland, USS Nevada, USS Oklahoma, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee, USS West Virginia and the repair ship USS Vestal in Battleship Row alongside Ford Island. It was these vessels that the Japanese attack concentrated on.
The color detail was on deck for the 8.00 am scheduled raising of the flag when the air raid warning sounded on the Arizona at 07.55 am. The first bomb hit it causing minor damage just after 8.00am. Sometime between 8.06am and 8.10am Petty Officer Noburu Kanai dropped a 800kg bomb which penetrated the deck between the Arizona’s Number One and Number Two Gun Turret, resulting in the devastating explosion of the ship’s ammunition magazine, effectively destroying and the ship. The explosion destroyed the supports for the two huge turrets which dropped about 20’ into the ship and the forward superstructure fell into the hole created by the blast.
Of the other ships in Battleship Row the USS California, USS Oklahoma and USS West Virginia were also sunk. USS Vestral was damaged and USS Nevada actually got underway and attempted to leave the harbour under sustained attack, eventually beaching herself. All but USS Oklahoma and USS Arizona were eventually repaired and returned to service.
There are a few pieces of folklore or stories that have grown from the sinking of the USS Arizona. When each of the surviving crewmen from the Arizona at the time of the Pearl Harbour attack dies they have the choice of having their ashes interred within the ship. It is said that oil currently leaking from the ship at a rate of about 0.95L per day will continue to bleed oil until the last of the ships survivors dies.
Another common piece of folklore often recounted about the USS Arizona is that it was cursed from the outset as it was christened with water, not the traditional wine. Two bottles were used to christen the ship, of which one held water, actually it held the first water over the spillway of the Roosevelt Dam. The other was champagne provided by the M Hummel Wine Company.
It has been suggested that the ship is haunted by one of its crewmen, the officer of the deck who, according to the story was away from his post when the attack began. I don’t know of any actual witness accounts of anyone seeing this ghost but as always I am keen to hear of any genuine experiences.