December 7th, 1941 was, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it, “A date which will live in infamy.” Lost at Pearl Harbor that day were over 3,400 men – 1,177 of who were on the U.S.S. Arizona, one of the many ships sunk by the Japanese.
On September 2nd, 1945, the Japanese formally surrendered on the U.S.S. Missouri. By then, about 2,000 Arizonans had died in the war.
This December 7th, 2013, the 72nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor , was chosen as the day to honor these men and women, along with all veterans of WWII, as Arizona dedicated its new World War II memorial at the Wesley Bolin Plaza in Downtown Phoenix.
The memorial was conceived by “a former worker of the state’s House of Representatives,” John Thomas. Mr. Thomas noted that these last-remaining gun-barrels – from the Arizona and the Missouri – might be sold for scrap. He contacted Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett with the idea. Secretary Bennett contacted the Navy’s Department of Inactive Ships, and managed to get the barrels shipped to Arizona.
Over the last couple of years, Secretary Bennett has championed this memorial into existence – traveling around the state, planning, organizing, raising money, and having it built. Pictured here, he presents the plan to Tucson’s Boy Scout Troop 007 (Yes, as in “Bond – James Bond,” but stirred, never shaken!)
The entire project was privately financed by over $600,000 in donations, around $200,000 of which came from the state’s Veteran’s Donation Fund, and with donations of time and materials – marvelous. I recorded Secretary Bennett’s presentation and tribute today for anyone interested.
The two gun-barrels now sit mounted at each end of the memorial, one from the Arizona and one from the Missouri, signifying the beginning and end of the war.
The 14″, 60 ton from the Arizona is shown above on the right; the 16″ 70 ton from the Missouri is shown left. The barrels are spaced 405″ apart. An 18″ wide, 405″ limestone path between the barrels is a “horizontal marker,” divided into one-inch increments. Each inch represents one-thousand American lives lost in the war.
Between the guns are nine steel pylons – Mediterranean Blue, like the Arizona, suggesting her hull –representing the nine minutes it took her to sink. The mast (and anchor) in the background are also from the USS Arizona.
Hanging from these pylons shimmer almost two-thousand “dogtag-style,” stainless-steel plates, commemorating each of our honored dead by name, waving like water in the wind.
Around the base of these guns are memorial pavers – personal messages from supporters, friends and loved ones.
Here, Derrick Pfannenstiel and Bob Greenway, from AZ Semper Fi Vets, dedicate a paver with Bob, a WWII vet:
Danna Spence Koelling, Arizona State Regent of Daughters of the American
Revolution, and her friend were also among those who were here to dedicate a paver:
Mr. Maurice Storck, Pearl Harbor survivor, is on-hand and honored today. Here he is, dressed in red, white and blue, as he promised last week in his interview, to be published soon. If you’re interested in military history, don’t miss it:
“When they come back strafing we was running for the building. As I was running for the building, the bullets was pingin’ in the rubbish cans along the side. Somebody must have pushed me and I fell down, I don’t know who. But I guess I said, “Goodbye everybody” …. but after that … I got inside.” – Maurice Storck
John, a WWII vet and his proud daughter. Said John, “For two years I was in the jungle. I didn’t see a house a can or a barn or a woman [laughter]. I got on the end of Guadacanal, and we got bombed there every day. That’s when ol’ Tojo’s son was killed over there.”
These are great Americans!
Among the innumerable groups of vets and supporters were the Buffalo Soldiers and Patriot Guard Riders:
Festivities began around 9:00am, with the arrival of hundreds of vets and their supporters on around 2,000 motorcycles – the 2013 Run To The Guns. It was loud and proud!
Riders were greeted by The Lone Marine, Sgt. Tim Chambers (Ret.), who renders a long salute to honor fallen American service members:
Following the bikers came vehicles of all shapes and sizes:
And then came Pearl Harbor Day Walk – Parade of Patriots.
The official program began with the laying of memorial wreaths. These were sponsored by every military support group imaginable, from The American Legion to the American Rosie the Riveter Association. Talk about diversity! …
Secretary Bennett was the keynote speaker. The 108th Army Band provided the music.
I counted three USS Arizona survivors, ten Pearl Harbor survivors, numerous WWII vets, a multitude of other vets, thousands of other family and supporters.
A Boeing B17-G Flying Fortress made two “Sentimental Journey” passes over the field:
Services concluded with a 21-gun salute to the fallen, the Sounding of Taps, and releasing of the white doves.
God bless the men and women of the United States armed forces – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines – and God bless their families. Thank you all for your service to our country.
With a final salute to the fallen, sailors pictured here honor the USS Arizona: