History of USS Arizona
USS Arizona in the 1930s, during its service with the U.S.
Pacific Fleet. U.S. Naval Historical Center photo NH57663.
The construction of the USS
Arizona (BB-39), named for the 48th state in the Union, began on March
16, 1914, when the keel was laid. After a year of intense labor, it was
launched on June 19, 1915, as the second and last of the Pennsylvania
The launching was a grand
affair, and Esther Ross, daughter of an influential pioneer citizen in
Prescott, Arizona, was selected to christen the ship. The battleship's
commissioning took place on October 16, 1916, under the command of
Captain John D. McDonald.
The newly-commissioned USS Arizona in the East River, New York
City, c. 1916. U.S. Naval Historical Center photo NH94785.
The dimensions of the ship
were quite impressive for the time. Its overall length was 608 feet (two
American football fields long) with a beam of 97 feet 1 inch. It
displaced 31,400 tons with a mean draft of 28 feet 10 inches. Arizona's
four shafts were driven by four paired Parsons turbines and 12 Babcock
and Wilcox boilers that developed 33,375 horsepower, enabling a top
speed of 21 knots. The designed complement was 55 officers and 860 men.
Arizona was well-armed for ships of its period. The original
armament consisted of 12 14-inch 45-caliber guns; 22 5-inch 51-caliber
guns; four 3-inch 50-caliber guns; and two 21-inch submerged torpedo
tubes. It was protected by 18 inches of armor at its maximum thickness.
Arizona and its sister ship Pennsylvania represented a modest
improvement of the previous Nevada-class battleships: "length and
displacement were somewhat increased and two additional 14-inch guns
were shipped, the main armament now being arranged in four triple
turrets. . . ." The significant change was concentrated
in the firepower of the vessel: Arizona's four turrets (labeled No.
1, 2, 3 and 4) each mounted three 14-inch naval guns.
On Nov. 16, 1916, Arizona departed on its shakedown cruise and training off the Virginia
Capes, Newport and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Two months later it returned to
Norfolk, Virginia to conduct test-firing of its guns and torpedo-defense
exercises. On December 24 it entered the New York Naval Shipyard for a
post shakedown overhaul, completed by April 3, 1917.
While in New York,
Arizona received orders to join Battleship Division 8 at Norfolk,
which was to be its home port through World War I while it served as a
gunnery training vessel. Due to the scarcity of fuel oil in the European
theater, Arizona, an oil burner, was retained in American home
waters to patrol the East Coast. When the Armistice was signed, it
sailed for Portsmouth, England to operate with the British Grand Fleet.
USS Arizona at sea with the U.S.
Atlantic Fleet, c. 1917. U.S. Naval Historical Center photo NH95244.
A month later the new
battleship was ordered to rendezvous with the transport George
Washington that was carrying President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris
Peace Conference. President Wilson carried a bold proposal intended to
ensure a lasting world peace. In his outline for world cooperation,
Wilson proposed 14 points to act as guidelines for a peace without
victory and a new world body called the League of Nations. Arizona would act as
honor escort for the voyage to Brest, France.
In June 1919 Arizona
entered New York Naval Shipyard for maintenance and remained there until
January 1920, when it departed for fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean.
That summer Arizona became the flagship for Battleship Division 7,
commanded by Rear Admiral Eberle, the future chief of naval operations.
USS Arizona at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, in January 1920. Guantanamo Bay was a frequent training area
for the U.S. Navy in the 1920s and 1930s. U.S. Naval Historical Center