THE USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL
The bombs and bullets had barely stopped flying in 1946 when O’ahu businessman and former Navy officer H. Tucker Gratz began lobbying for the creation of a memorial in Hawaii for the Pacific theater of World War II. Three years later the then Territory of Hawaii established The Pacific War Memorial Commission in which Gratz held various titles, but served as its primary fundraiser. The commission was ultimately responsible for constructing the USS Arizona Memorial, completed in 1961 and dedicated in 1962.
It was a long, grueling process that was made more difficult because the war was so fresh in people’s minds. 1941 through 1945 were years of doubt, deprivation, and death. Many wanted to put the war, and memories of the war, behind them and start anew with marriage, family, jobs, and perhaps a GI Bill-funded education. Long before they became The Greatest Generation, these men and women were The Silent Generation. Again and again, we hear stories of veterans never sharing their wartime experiences with their families. This reticence to talk much about the war was a real difficulty in raising both awareness and funds for some type of memorial. The time span back to the actual event was just too close.
While Tucker Gratz spearheaded civilian efforts toward the creation of a shrine or shrines, there were still questions about just what to honor – the Pacific War in its entirety, the December 7 attack as a whole, or the sunken battleship Arizona. And the Arizona’s fate itself was not entirely clear. During the war, there were suggestions floated to use her as a test site for shaped-charge torpedo heads, and after the war, there were proposals to raise and scrap the hull. In both cases, it was too close to the war in which millions had been killed that there was little thought of the ship being a sacred tomb for the nearly one thousand souls still within her.
The tortured hull lying in the muck of Pearl Harbor, and its grisly contents, eventually came to be representative of both the attack and by extension, the war. The Pacific War Memorial Commission agreed with Navy brass like CINCPAC Admiral Arthur Radford that the Arizona was a good place to start for a monument. Radford’s erection of a flagpole on Arizona and the symbolic daily raising and striking colors became a tradition during the 1950s embraced by both the Navy and the community. USS Arizona was on her way to immortality. The far-sighted Radford even requested funding for the creation of a shrine in the early 1950s, but the nation was again at war and monies were not made available. Finally, on March 15, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law authorizing the creation of the USS Arizona Memorial.
Now that the wreckage of the USS Arizona and her entombed crew had finally been selected as the monument’s ultimate site, the committee had to find a way to raise the privately financed half-million dollars required by the law authorizing the Memorial. Ultimately, somewhat more than half of the funding was from private sources, including sales of plastic models of the ship, a television program featuring an Arizona Medal of Honor recipient, and a sold out concert at Pearl Harbor by the recently returned from Army duty rock star Elvis Presley.
After the process of selecting a design and then building it, the USS Arizona Memorial was finally dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1962 by Texas Congressman and Chairman of Veteran Affairs Olin E. Teague and Hawaii Governor John A. Burns.
After the catastrophic loss of life aboard her on December 7, 1941, the name USS Arizona will never grace another Navy ship.
Source: USS Arizona, Warship – Tomb – Monument, MacKinnon Simpson
“If our country is to survive and prosper, we must summon the courage to condemn and reject the liberal agenda, and we had better do it soon.”
A SIMPLE TRUTH FOR TODAY
“These are words that are enemies of the Constitution … socialism, communism, totalitarianism, progressivism, and liberalism.”
Gordon Ellis (Epson, New Hampshire, Veterans Day speech to students 2010)
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces launch a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base in Hawaii. Six months later, the Battle of Midway commences on June 4, 1942, as the Japanese navy once again plans a strike against American ships in the Pacific. For the next three days, the U.S. Navy and a squad of brave fighter pilots engage the enemy in one of the most important and decisive battles of World War II.
The Editor: Could you explain Veterans Day to our new readers, LL ?
PFC Cat: It’s to honor members of the armed forces that have served their country.
Here are our own Tolley’s Topics veterans.
Here is a special honor.