Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQ) on
USS Arizona and the National Park Service
1. Why is USS Arizona
2. How many men were lost on the
3. Why were Arizona
and Utah the only ships not salvaged
after the attack on Pearl Harbor?
4. Is there still oil on
5. How long will Arizona
6. Can anyone dive on
7. How long has the NPS been
8. Who provides funding
for this work?
1. Why is USS
USS Arizona, a
National Historic Landmark — the highest level of national historic
significance — is administered cooperatively by NPS and Navy and among
the most recognized and visited war memorials in the nation. More than
1.5 million people annually visit the USS Arizona Memorial, tomb
of more than 1,000 US sailors and the most visible warship lost in World
War II. This ship, a national shrine and Naval memorial that remains
deeply ingrained into American consciousness, still commands an honor
guard from the many capital ships that ply Pearl Harbor today as it did
during the war when it served as inspiration to Navy personnel going
The war memorial above
the ship commemorates the largest US naval loss in history and the
ultimate American victory, made horribly poignant by recent events. The
memorial structure symbolizes America’s initial defeat and determined
rise to victory. The memorial design incorporates architect Alfred Preis’
views of the US as an essentially peaceful nation, one that inevitably
would sustain the first blow in war, but once aroused will overcome any
obstacle and make any sacrifice along the road from defeat to victory.
USS Arizona has come to be a symbol of what can happen should the nation
be caught unaware; and it is mute testimony for the necessity of
military preparedness, alertness and for the danger of underestimating
USS Utah, the other battleship still remaining after the Pearl Harbor
attack, is often called “the forgotten monument” as most public
attention is focused on the remains of Arizona. Utah also is a monument
to the attack and the loss of life that resulted. As caretakers of
America’s history, NPS will extend the results and management
recommendations of the Arizona project to encompass Utah as well.
2. How many men were lost on
A total of 1,177 sailors and marines were killed on USS
Arizona the morning of December 7, 1941. This represents the
greatest loss of life in U.S. Naval history, and more than half of the
2,335 U.S. servicemen from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps killed during
the Pearl Harbor attack. One question still haunts visitors to the
Arizona Memorial even to this day. Why were the dead not removed?
Initially, about 105 bodies were removed, but because the ship was never
raised, the remainder could not. The priority at that time was salvage
of ships that could be repaired -- the Arizona was not in that
category. As a result, the bodies deteriorated to the point of not being
identifiable. Even as late as 1947, requests were made in regard to
removal of the dead, but rejected. They are considered buried at sea by
the US Navy.
Oklahoma, Arizona and target ship Utah were sunk
during the attack; battleships California and West Virginia,
and minelayer Oglala were sunk but later raised and returned to
service. The battleships Nevada, Pennsylvania,
Tennessee and Maryland, cruisers Raleigh, Honolulu
and Helena, destroyers Cassin, Shaw and Downes,
and auxiliary ships Curtiss and Vestal were damaged but
repaired. A total of 98 Naval aircraft were lost, as well as 64 Army
3. Why were Arizona
& Utah the only ships not salvaged after the attack on Pearl
Of all the ships lost or damaged at Pearl
Harbor, the USS Arizona offered the most pathetic sight. Despite
the crumpled superstructure and main decks awash, divers began exploring
the wreckage of the ship within a week.
It was soon discovered that the after part
of the ship from the break in the deck to the stern was relatively
intact. Removal of safes, valuables and documents of a sensitive nature
had begun by early 1942.
Assessment dives continued to evaluate the
feasibility of raising the Arizona. Salvage officers initially
considered building a cofferdam around the vessel's perimeter, thus
sealing the ship off from the harbor to allow the pumping of water from
interior spaces. Examination of the harbor's coral bottom concluded that
it was too porous and would not allow this process.
Throughout 1942 and 1943, examination dives
continued inside and outside the ship. Meanwhile, ordnance divers began
to remove ammunition and projectiles in May 1942. Eventually guns,
machinery and other equipment were removed for use on other ships or
stations. On May 5, 1942, the toppled foremast of the Arizona
was cut away and removed. The mainmast was taken away by August 23.
Other features removed were the stern aircraft crane (December 23) and
the conning tower (December 30).
The Navy decided that the Army would receive
gun turrets No. 3 and 4 for use as coastal defense guns. Two sites were
selected: one at Mokapu Head (Kaneohe) known as Battery Pennsylvania and
the second at an area known today as Electric Hill (HEI generating
plant) on the western shore of Oahu, up the slopes of the Wianae
Mountains. Only Battery Pennsylvania was completed. A test firing took
place four days before the surrender of Japan. Today both sites are
abandoned; the guns were removed and cut up for scrap shortly after the
Despite the work done to remove all useful
materials from Arizona, it was apparent the ship itself was
lost. A memorandum from the Commandant of the Navy Yard to Washington in
June 1942, suggested abandoning salvage work on the Arizona
because it was a "task of great magnitude entailing the diversion of
large numbers of men and equipment from other work." In his mind, as
well as others, the conviction had formed that Arizona would never
fight again. On December 1, 1942, the vessel was struck from the books
of commissioned ships. By October 1943, the last salvage work was
completed. The ship had been stripped down to the main deck, none of the
graceful superstructure remained. In 1961 the USS Arizona was
altered once more. In order to place the present memorial over the ship,
a section of the boat deck that rested over the galley amidships was cut
away. Initially this had been the area of a flag and platform for
ceremonies and visits to the site from 1950-1960. This portion of the
Arizona was removed to Waipio Point where it remains today.
The immediate problem faced by the salvage
teams on Utah was to determine the extent of damage and whether
the ship could be righted. In November 1942, a series of surveys was
completed that included establishment of a mud line from bow to stern.
Early thinking believed that an air bubble could be used to float the
hull to drydock. Closer examination determined that Utah simply
could not hold enough compressed air to make such a trip.
Another approach was considered. The
conditions that faced Utah were similar to those in the righting
of Oklahoma. Captain Wallin and his staff decided that
Oklahoma 's method would accomplish the task. In preparation, during
the month of January 1943, workers removed ordnance material, painted
frame marks on the hull, constructed a floating walkway to the F-11-N
quay, installed a landing for boats, and drilled access holes to remove
the ship's oil supply.
Like Oklahoma, a series of 17
electric winches, cables and wooden struts was used to right the ship.
Work on Utah proceeded slowly but effectively until early in
1944. As the ship began to roll back to an upright position, the vessel
failed to grip the bottom. As the winches pulled, the vessel slid toward
Ford Island. Immediately work stopped, and salvage engineers pondered
the problem. It was resolved that continued salvage would be costly for
a ship that was not valuable in the war effort, so by March 1944 work
stopped. Utah rested on its side at a 38-degree angle.
In 1956, a new effort to remove Utah
was rekindled by the commandant of the Fourteenth Naval District, who
felt that Essex-class carriers had insufficient space to initiate
transfer of ammunition, special weapons and guided missile components.
Perhaps in an effort to make his case more solid, the commandant
suggested that Utah obstructed navigation in the channel and
should be removed. This was seconded by the Service Force, the fleet
maintenance officer and the Pacific Fleet.
The cost for removal was estimated at
$4,000,000 (about $27 million today), but soon a number of issues began to plague the commandant's
effort. First, no funds were available. Second, the equipment used
initially to right the vessel had been sold. Third, the project could
take one and a half to two years. Perhaps the most important factor
leading to discontinuing the plan was raised by the Chief of Naval
Operations: he simply stated that the vessel was the final resting place
of 58 sailors and should not be disturbed.
Early in 1970 it was proposed by the
shipmates and supporters from the state of Utah that a memorial be built
to honor the dead. On May 27, 1972 Senator Moss of Utah, who had led the
fight for approval and construction, dedicated the memorial.
The legacy of Utah was ever-present
in the struggle of the Pacific. The training it had provided to the
pilots, warships, subs and antiaircraft gunners enabled the Pacific
Fleet to be an effective fighting force early on. The testing weapon
system had allowed that fleet first-hand experience in working
effectively. The ship had contributed significantly to the scientific
testing of remote systems, gunnery training and aerial attack. In a
larger sense, Utah helped prepare America for war.