Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, June 19, 2019: Coming Full Circle, OTD 104 & 75 Years Ago
NARA Photo UA 476.12
As a special Warship Wednesday, above we see Battleship No. 39, PCU USS Arizona at her launch on her builder’s ways at the New York Navy Yard, 19 June 1915– some 104 years ago today.
The second ship of the Pennsylvania-class, Arizona‘s keel had been laid on 16 March 1914 with then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt in attendance. The ceremony included FDR closely observing the nailing up of the ship’s good luck horseshoe.
Laying Keel of U.S.S. Battleship Number 39, Nailing of the Horseshoe. NARA 10-a2-131-0004-00011 AC
Detail of the above, with a very mobile and bowler-wearing FDR circled, peering down on the ceremony. He would not be stricken with polio until 1921
Her launching, just 15 months after she was laid down, was attended by a reported crowd of 75,000 including Roosevelt, NYC Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, most of the big name naval brass of the era– the modern battleships Florida, Utah, Wyoming, Arkansas, New York, and Texas were in the Hudson for the event– and various luminaries of the day. It was quite the affair.
USS ARIZONA (BB-39) Launching Ticket. Courtesy of Mr. R. Lincoln Hedlander, USS LEVIATHAN Veterans Association. NH 75450
Secretary of the Navy invitation to the ship’s launching, at the New York Navy Yard, 19 June 1915. Note Secretary of the Navy flag and Arizona State seal. Courtesy of Mrs. Worth Sprunt, 1974. Collection of Rear Admiral B. F. Hutchison. NH 81429
There was a huge delegation from her namesake state led by Arizona Gov. George W. P. Hunt and including Sen. Henry F. Ashurst and pioneer Miss Esther Rose– the latter a sponsor who brought a carboy of the water from the state’s Salt River first spilled over the Theodore Roosevelt Dam in 1911, for use in the double christening of water and wine across the ship’s bow.
The good people of Arizona would, over the next year while the ship was fitting out at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, go on to fund an extensive Reed & Barton silver service for “their” new battleship by popular subscription. It was ready to present to the dreadnought upon her commissioning in 1916.
Removed during a “strip ship” by the US Navy at Bremerton, Washington in late 1940-early 1941 in preparation for the war, the service was later carried aboard the light cruiser USS Tucson (CL-98) and returned to the state in 1953. Today, the treasured relics are on display at the Arizona Capitol Museum
The 1915 event was, by contemporary accounts, the top news of the day.
Heading down the ways. NARA Photo 19-N-3339
USS Arizona afloat after launch NARA 19-LC-19A-24
USS Arizona pushed by tugs after launch. The third warship named after the territory/state; the Navy has never again issued the name. NARA 19-LC-19A-10
Fast forward from that joyous day in 1915 and Arizona would be a happy and lucky ship– remaining stateside during World War I– across more than two decades of faithful service until that fateful Day of Infamy, as later-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would describe her loss to the world.
On 7 December 1941, she was hit multiple times in the first few minutes of the Japanese attack with one air-dropped bomb penetrating the armored deck near her forward ammunition magazine, sparking a massive explosion that killed 1,177 of the sailors and Marines on board. Mortally damaged, Arizona still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row.
Curiously, on the 29th anniversary of Arizona‘s christening (19 June 1944– 75 years ago today) the opening acts of the pivotal Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the last gasps of the Imperial Japanese Navy, was well underway.
Remembered as the “Marianas turkey shoot”, the Japanese lost three precious aircraft carriers and 600 warplanes of their fleet air arm along with their irreplaceable pilots– which amounted to something like 90 percent of their effective naval aviation strength across the IJN.
A VF-1 Top Hatter F6F-3 Hellcat fighter is launched from USS YORKTOWN, to intercept enemy forces during Mariana’s turkey shoot 19 June 1944. Note target information board under the propeller. 80-G-248440
Among those Japanese flattops scratched that day included Shokaku, one of six Japanese carriers of the Kido Butai to participate in the Pearl Harbor attack that sunk Arizona. Shokaku was struck at 11:22 on 19 June by three to four torpedoes from the submarine USS Cavalla (SS-224) and slipped below the waves just after midnight on the 20th, taking some 1,272 men with her.
The scale, you could say, was balanced.
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