Military Wiki
USS Arizona Memorial
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
USS Arizona Memorial (aerial view).jpg
Location Pearl Harbor
Nearest city Honolulu, Hawaii
Coordinates 21°21′54″N 157°57′0″W / 21.365°N 157.95°W / 21.365; -157.95Coordinates: 21°21′54″N 157°57′0″W / 21.365°N 157.95°W / 21.365; -157.95
Area 10.50 acres (42,500 m²)
Established 30 May 1962
Visitors 1,556,808 (in 2005)
Governing body U.S. Navy
National Park Service

The USS Arizona sunk and burning during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941

The USS Arizona Memorial, located at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 by Japanese imperial forces and commemorates the events of that day. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oʻahu was the action that led to the United States' direct involvement in World War II.

The memorial, built in 1962, is visited by more than one million people annually.[1] Accessible only by boat, it straddles the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it. Historical information about the attack, shuttle boats to and from the memorial, and general visitor services are available at the associated USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, which opened in 1980 and is operated by the National Park Service. The sunken remains of the battleship were declared a National Historic Landmark on 5 May 1989.[2]

The Memorial

Conception and funding

During and following the end of World War II, the Arizona's wrecked superstructure was removed and efforts began to erect a memorial at the remaining submerged hull. The Pacific War Memorial Commission was created in 1949 to build a permanent memorial somewhere in Hawaiʻi. Admiral Arthur Radford, commander of the Pacific Fleet attached a flag pole to the main mast of the Arizona in 1950 and began a tradition of hoisting and lowering the flag. In that same year a temporary memorial was built above the remaining portion of the deckhouse.[3] Radford requested funds for a national memorial in 1951 and 1952 but was denied because of budget constraints during the Korean War.

Throughout the 1950s there was discussion of scrapping the Arizona altogether. President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the creation of the National Memorial in 1958. Enabling legislation required that the memorial budgeted at US$500,000 be privately financed; however, $200,000 of the memorial cost was actually government subsidized.

Principal contributions[4] to the memorial included:

  • $50,000 Territory of Hawaiʻi initial contribution in 1958
  • $95,000 privately raised following a 1958 This is Your Life television segment featuring Rear Admiral (ret.) Samuel G. Fuqua,[5] Medal of Honor recipient and the senior surviving officer from the USS Arizona
  • $64,000 from 25 March 1961 benefit concert by Elvis Presley
  • $40,000 from the sale of plastic models of the Arizona in a partnership between the Fleet Reserve Association and Revell Model Company
  • $150,000 from federal funds in legislation initiated by Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye in 1961


USS Arizona Memorial.JPG

The national memorial was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis who had been detained at Sand Island at the start of the war as an enemy of the country because of his Austrian birth. The United States Navy specified that the memorial be in the form of a bridge floating above the ship and accommodating 200 people.[citation needed]

The 184-foot (56 m)-long structure has two peaks at each end connected by a sag in the center of the structure. It represents the height of American pride before the war, the sudden depression of a nation after the attack and the rise of American power to new heights after the war. Critics initially called the design a "squashed milk carton".[6]

The architecture of the USS Arizona Memorial is explained by Preis as, "Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory ... The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses ... his innermost feelings."[7]


"To the Memory of the Gallant Men Here Entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on 7 December 1941, on the U.S.S. Arizona"
—inscription in marble with the names of Arizona's honored dead

There are three main parts to the national memorial: entry, assembly room, and shrine. The central assembly room features seven large open windows on either wall and ceiling, to commemorate the date of the attack. The total number of windows is 21. Rumor says this symbolically represents a 21 gun salute or 21 Marines standing at eternal parade rest over the tomb of the fallen, but guides at the site will confirm that this was not the intention of the architect. The memorial also contains an opening in the floor overlooking the sunken decks. It is from this opening that visitors come to pay their respects by tossing flowers in honor of the fallen sailors. In the past, leis were tossed in the water, but because string from leis poses a hazard to sea life, leis now are placed on guardrails located in front of the names of the fallen.

One of the three 19,585 pound anchors of the Arizona is displayed at the entrance of the visitor center. (One of the other two is at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix.) One of the two ship's bells is in the visitor center. (Its twin is in the clock tower of the Student Memorial Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson.)

The shrine at the far end is a marble wall that bears the names of all those killed on the Arizona, protected behind velvet ropes. To the left of the main wall is a small plaque which bears the names of thirty or so crew members who survived the 1941 sinking and chose prior to their death, or whose family chose after their death, to have a canister containing their ashes interred within the wreck by US Navy divers. Any surviving crew members of the Arizona (or their families on their behalf) can elect to have their ashes interred within the wreck.[8]


The USS Arizona Memorial was formally dedicated on 30 May 1962 (Memorial Day) by Texas Congressman and Chairman of Veteran Affairs Olin E. Teague and Hawaiʻi Governor John A. Burns. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 15 October 1966. While the actual wreck of the USS Arizona was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989, the memorial itself does not share in this status. Rather, it is listed separately from the wreck on the National Register of Historic Places. The joint administration of the memorial by the United States Navy and the National Park Service was established on 9 September 1980.

The "tears of the Arizona". Oil slick visible on water's surface above the sunken battleship.

Oil leaking from the sunken battleship can still be seen rising from the wreckage to the surface of the water. This oil is sometimes referred to as "the tears of the Arizona"[9][10] or "black tears."[11] In a National Geographic Magazine feature published in 2001, concerns were expressed that the continued deterioration of the Arizona's bulkheads and oil tanks from saltwater corrosion could pose a significant environmental threat from a rupture, resulting in a significant release of oil.[12] The National Park Service states that it has an ongoing program closely monitoring the condition of the submerged vessel.

The Park Service, as part of its Centennial Initiative celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, is developing a "mobile park" to tour the continental United States to increase exposure of the park. The mobile park will also collect oral histories of the attack on Pearl Harbor.[13]

USS Missouri

The USS Missouri and USS Arizona memorials.

In 1999, the battleship USS Missouri was moved to Pearl Harbor from the United States west coast and docked near, and perpendicular to, the USS Arizona Memorial (parallel to the Arizona). Upon the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese surrendered to United States General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz, ending World War II. The pairing of the two ships became an evocative symbol of the beginning and end of the United States' participation in the war.

Memorial staff initially criticized the placement of the Missouri, saying the large battleship would "overshadow" the Arizona Memorial. To help guard against this perception Missouri was placed well back of the Arizona Memorial, and positioned in Pearl Harbor in such a way as to prevent those participating in military ceremonies on Missouri's aft decks from seeing the Arizona Memorial. The decision to have Missouri's bow face the Memorial was intended to convey that the Missouri now watches over the remains of the Arizona so that those interred within the Arizona's hull may rest in peace. These measures have helped preserve the individual identities of the Arizona Memorial and the Missouri Memorial, which has improved the public's perception of having both Arizona and Missouri in the same harbor.[14]

Visiting the memorial

An observation site with interpretive materials; Battleship Row is in the distance

65 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, retired Lieutenant Commander Joseph Langdell, a USS Arizona survivor, recalls the experience at the memorial

The Visitor Center operated by the National Park Service is free to the public and has a museum with exhibits about the Pearl Harbor attack, such as the ship's bell from the USS Arizona. The Pacific Historic Parks Bookstore revenue helps support the museum.[10]

Access to the USS Arizona Memorial itself is by U.S. Navy boat, for which a numbered ticket, obtained at the Visitor Center and valid for a designated departure time, is required. The memorial is visited by more than one million persons annually.[1] Because of the large number of visitors and the limited number of boat departures, the 4,500 tickets available each day are often fully allocated by mid-morning.[15] Before boarding the boat for the short trip to the Memorial, a 23-minute documentary film depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor is presented. Touring of the Memorial is self-guided. The National Park Service website provides visitor information, including hours of operation and ticketing advisories.

USS Arizona and museum (center left)

A one-hour audio tour of the Memorial and Center exhibits, narrated by actress Jamie Lee Curtis, is available for rent at the Visitor Center. On the center's grounds along the shoreline are more exhibits and a "Remembrance Circle". Nearby is the USS Bowfin, a World War II diesel submarine, which may be toured with separate, paid admission. The battleship USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor may also be visited, but require a bus ride to Ford Island.

Every President of the United States since Franklin D. Roosevelt, and both Emperors Hirohito and Akihito, have visited the site.[citation needed]


Crew of USS Abraham Lincoln (left) manning the rails near the Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial

Every United States Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine vessel entering Pearl Harbor participates in the tradition of "manning the rails". Personnel serving on these ships stand at attention at the ship's guard rails and salute the USS Arizona Memorial in solemn fashion as their ship slowly glides into port. More recently,[when?] as foreign military vessels are entering Pearl Harbor for joint military exercises, foreign troops have participated in the traditional manning the rails.[citation needed]

The USS Arizona is no longer in commission, but is an active U.S. military cemetery. As a special tribute to the ship and her lost crew, the United States flag flies from the flagpole, which is attached to the severed mainmast of the sunken battleship.[16] The USS Arizona Memorial has come to commemorate all military personnel killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.[citation needed]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Remembering Pearl Harbor: The USS Arizona Memorial". U.S. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 15 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  2. "Arizona, USS (battleship) (shipwreck)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  3. After The Battle magazine, Issue 38
  4. Arizona Memorial Museum Association. "Creating the Memorial". AMMA website. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  5. United States Army Center of Military History (updated 16 July 2007). "Samuel Glenn Fuqua". Medal of Honor Recipients, World War II (A-F). 
  6. By Treena Shapiro (27 May 2002). "Arizona Memorial seen as a dedication to peace". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 
  7. National Park Service (updated 18 September 2006). "USS Arizona Memorial - History & Culture". NPS website. 
  8. "USS Arizona Interments". USS Arizona Preservation Project 2004. 18 December 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2011. 
  9. Horst Bendzulla. "The Tears of the Arizona". Artist's website. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Christine Hansen (September/October 2007). "Little Big Store". Hana Hou! Vol. 10, No. 4. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  11. Tritten, Larry (7 December 2003). "`Black Tears' Still Shed For U.s.s. Arizona". Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  12. "Oil and Honor at Pearl Harbor". National Geographic Magazine. June 2001. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  13. Bomar, Mary A. (August 2007). "Summary of Park Centennial Strategies" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  14. Gregg K. Kakesako (15 October 1997). "Will ‘Mighty Mo’ be too much?". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 
  15. "Plan Your Visit (USS Arizona Memorial)". National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  16. "USS Arizona Memorial (National Park Service website)". Retrieved 2010-05-09. 

External links

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