On December 7, 1941, some 1,177 sailors lost their lives on the USS Arizona when Japanese forces launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The following day, America entered World War II.
Over 70 years have passed since President Franklin Roosevelt called the attack “a date which will live in infamy,” and yet for many of us, Pearl Harbor is merely another page in the history books. Time is funny like that. While it can heal a great many wounds, it can also enable us to forget. Everyday, we are losing more and more survivors of that war… members of the Greatest Generation. Tributes on the anniversary have become brief. We often fail to take time out to mourn the lives lost and contemplate the enormity of that day.
They say past is prologue, and that is a terrible shame. Still, there are those who rise to the occasion and make it their mission to remind us that events like Pearl Harbor and World War II should never be forgotten.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett is such an individual. He is working on a monumental project to honor the Arizonans who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor and in the war that followed. “There is a memorial for every US war except World War II,” says Secretary Bennett. “We have a couple of artifacts from the Arizona and people think that’s our memorial.”
The plan involves relocating two gun barrels — one from the USS Arizona and the other from the USS Missouri — to Wesley Bolin Plaza. Indeed, the two guns symbolize the beginning and the end of the war: The Arizona’s demise brought America into World War II and Japan’s surrender took place on the Missouri in 1945. Once these historic barrels are refurbished, they will be positioned as “bookends” at the new memorial, which is being designed to represent the structural support profile of the Arizona using steel pylons. In addition, name plates will be fastened to the pylons. “Adding the names will help put the focus on the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” says Secretary Bennett.
So how did the project come to be? When the Arizona was attacked, it sank without barrel 41L3 — the gun was removed prior to the attack so it could be relined and test fired. Fast-forward and the decommissioned barrels from both ships were left to rust at two separate Virginia naval yards. Secretary Bennett and his team, which included Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake and his Director of Communications and Community Outreach, Matthew Roberts, decided to acquire both guns for the memorial.
The entire effort has been funded by donations. If you wish to make a donation to this project, you can visit: www.gunstosalutethefallen.com or text SOS to 50555 and your donation will appear on your next cell phone bill.
Secretary Bennett and his team hope to unveil the memorial on the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.