Battleship USS Arizona’s 100th Birthday

By: Bruce D.

100 years ago today, the Battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) was launched at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was the world’s largest battleship, a super-dreadnaught. Arizona cost $15 Million. She waited until high tide to be christened and launched. Senator Ashurst and Miss Esther Rose joined Arizona Governor Hunt in the delegation from Arizona to launch the magnificent ship.

USS Arizona launch Ticket

When Battleship USS Arizona was launched she was red from the primer. The battleship gray paint had yet to be applied.

Arizona’s 12 14-inch guns had a range of 12 to 13 miles, which was considered ample at the time of her launch.  She could outgun and outrun any of the Oregon class ships. The Oregon class ships had a speed of 16 or 17 knots while the Arizona could steam away at 21 knots. The technology that allowed her to fire and steam faster did not require any additional crew.

Even with her great strength and size, Arizona was designed with a beam under 100 feet wide and could fit the Panama Canal.

The Battleship USS Arizona Christening Controversy

At the time of her christening, alcohol was illegal in the State of Arizona. This caused a bit of controversy because many sailors believe that it is necessary to christen a ship with alcohol. Champagne is most commonly the spirit of choice.

In the end battleship USS Arizona was christened with champagne as well as a carboy of the water first spilled over the Roosevelt dam. Opponents of prohibition enjoyed the fact that the bottle containing water failed to break during the christening.

The editorial page of Arizona’s Tuscon Citizen had this about the Christening:


The hull of what will eventually be the great superdreadnaught, Arizona, now rests upon the waves and Governor Hunt and the launching committee have done their duty. The controversy between those who favored using champagne at the christening and those who wanted only water broken over the bow of the latest addition to the navy was settled in favor of the former and a tradition of the navy upheld.

It certainly looks out of place to christen with wine a warship named after a dry state. About the only reason given for using champagne was that seafaring men are very superstitious about sailing on a ship which has not be christened with alcoholic spirits. If the navy is governed by such foolish superstitions, the sooner they are broken up the better.

But after all, while some of the radical drys may think that the Arizona is doomed to go to an early grave in the deep because she was christened with alcoholic spirits and a few superstitious sailors may look on her as a luck boat because champagne was used at the christening, all sensible people will pay no attention to this foolishness and when the superdreadnaught is completed she will sail the seas to carry to many lands fame of one of the greatest states for the Union. There will probably be few native or adopted sons among her crew, for men with sea legs are pretty scarce in Arizona, but may her valiant crew carry her to victory in many a fight if ever they are called upon to defend the colors against the aggression of a foreign nation. The people of the United States do not want war, but they are generally coming to realize that preparedness is the best preventative against war, and the need for many more great ships like the Arizona and many submarines do defend our coasts has been demonstrated by events of the past year in Europe.

Arizona launched as a proud battleship prepared for war. She never fired her 14 inch guns in battle. She was never in battle until the attack on Pearl Harbor. She has since become a symbol of a day that changed the world forever.

Sadly, at the time of the christening many of the crew who died on Arizona were not even born. Many of them were teenagers when Arizona suffered her terrible fate on December 7th, 1941.

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