The Lost Remains of the USS Arizona

June 06, 2017

Ask anyone who's been to Pearl Harbor about the USS Arizona and they’ll likely tell you about the memorial that sits in the middle of the harbor. As a guest at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, you can visit the wreckage site of the ill-fated American battleship, but there’s actually more to the Arizona than what lies on the harbor floor.

Most of what remains of the once-mighty battleship is the wreckage at the bottom of the harbor, dripping out oil as if she was still crying over the loss of her 1,100-plus crewmen. It’s a flagship attraction of Pearl Harbor, embodying the unbelievable level of destruction and devastation experienced that day. But other remnants of the Arizona exist beyond the broken vessel that lies beneath the serene memorial constructed in honor of the sailors lost during the attack.

Away from public view, and restricted to select military personnel, are other pieces of the Arizona wreckage.

Breaking up the Arizona

In the midst of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Arizona suffered a fatal blow when an armor-piercing bomb erupted within the ship, igniting a deadly combination of explosives within the vessel’s magazine. Under the force of the explosion, the ship lifted out of the war, nearly splitting in two, before sinking to the harbor floor. 1,177 sailors who died aboard the vessel are interred within the wreckage, their remains never pulled from their doomed ship.

While much of the Arizona lies where she sank, there were elements of the battleship that breached the surface of the water. To make room for the construction of the memorial, these sections of the ship were removed, the damage done during the attack still evident in the burned and twisted metal. This removal accounted for several tons of material that was never used for scrap but rather brought to Waipio Point, to the west of Ford Island

To further extend the reach of the USS Arizona, the US Navy eventually started breaking down the salvage from the wreckage to send to veteran’s groups and historical organizations. These distributed pieces continue to tell the story of the battleship, the valiant efforts of her crew that day, and the tragic end that many of them met at the outset of the attack.

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