The World Wars

Uss Arizona Battleship

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The USS Arizona battleship was a battleship of the U.S. Navy. It was a super-dreadnought battleship that was approximately 32,000 tons. Whilst the battleship was rarely sent into combat, it remains one of the most famous U.S. warships to have been constructed.

The USS Arizona's construction began in 1913. It was constructed at the Brooklyn Naval Yard in New York. The keel of the Arizona was laid down in 1914 and construction continued until 1915. This was one of a number of new dreadnought battleships that were being added to the U.S. Navy.

In 1915 the USS Arizona was launched. Thousands were in attendance as the battleship left its harbour. Afterwards the Arizona headed towards Brooklyn Naval Yard for further fitting-out. The battleship officially joined the U.S. Navy in 1916.

It joined the U.S. Navy shortly before the United States joined the war in Europe. But then, in 1917, war was declared with the German Empire. The USS Arizona was added to Battleship Division 8, although the Arizona played little part in this war. The German U-boat peril ensured that the ship was largely left in port until the November 1918 armistice brought the war to an end.

For much of the 1920s, the USS Arizona was a flagship of the U.S. Navy. During this period the battleship was involved in numerous training missions such as fleet manoeuvres and Marine amphibious landings. At the end of the decade the battleship returned to port to be refitted and modernized. This included upgrading engines, replacing boilers and increasing the battleship's fuel storage load.

When the modernization was complete, the battleship headed to the Pacific in the early 1930s. The Arizona joined the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaiian waters where it was docked at Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was the base for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and it included eight battleships of Battleship Row. The USS Arizona was among them.

By the early 1940s, the Japanese Empire was expanding in China, and then into Indochina. The U.S. economic embargo was depleting their oil supplies. In 1941, Japan targeted thee U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor with a group of Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers. As negotiations with the United States stalled, the go-ahead was given for the operation which was supposed to wipe out the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

On the 7th December, hundreds of Japanese aircraft flew briskly over Pearl Harbour. Their planes had not been detected, which left the battleships below them with no air cover as the surrounding airfields were set ablaze during the first wave. Radio messages from Patrol Wing Two blared, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not a drill!” However, it was a little too late. Japanese aircraft dropped armor piercing bombs from their high-altitude bombers over the USS Arizona. An explosion aboard the Arizona ensured the demise of the ship. The battleship went down in the harbor, leaving little more than scrap metal for salvaging.

As such, it was not among the Pearl Harbor battleships that were salvaged at Pearl Harbour. Only the main armament was recovered and refitted on other battleships. It remains at the bottom of the harbor today, more or less as a ghost ship.

More about this author: Matthew Adams

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