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U.S.S. Arizona

December 7, 2019


Remembering The Fallen - On this day in 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at its main base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. This action would have far reaching consequences that at that time would not have been realised.

For one thing it brought the United States into World War 2 on the side of the Allies. It was the massive economic and military might of the US that would be a major factor in bringing about the defeat of the Axis powers of Germany, Japan, Italy and their allies nearly four years later - the war would not just be decided by what happened on the battlefields and on the seas and oceans but also in the factories and the shipyards.

The attack also changed the face of naval warfare and how battles at sea would be fought. It effectively brought to an end the era of battleships in a stately line hurling huge shells at each other. Instead, fleet actions would be fought at the range of the carrier-based planes with hundreds of miles of ocean between the two opposing fleets who would never even see each other.

Although the Pearl Harbour air strike was a tactical victory for the Japanese, strategically it was a disaster - they did not get the US aircraft carriers as they were absent from Pearl Harbour on that day. In the months that were to follow this would be a costly mistake for the Japanese. The war winning fast carrier task group concept emerged from the Pearl Harbour disaster as the US Navy was now forced into using its aircraft carriers as the spearhead to take the fight to the Japanese because there was no alternative as the battle fleet was now gone. President Franklin D Roosevelt in his speech to the US Congress the next day described it as "a day that will live in infamy."

Those very same carriers the Japanese failed to sink at Pearl Harbour would later haunt them in the decisive battles at Coral Sea and Midway.

As for the ships in Pearl Harbour, the one that suffered the most was the USS Arizona, a Pennsylvania class battleship of pre World War 1 design. She'd been hit several times in the early minutes of the attack. The bomb which did the most damage was a 1757lb armour-piercing shell that had been converted into a bomb. It landed on her fo'c's'le near turret 2 and drilled through her armoured deck into her forward magazine where it detonated. It caused a cataclysmic explosion that swept men off her deck and also off other ships nearby. They were the ones who were fortunate enough to survive. Out of her crew of 1512, 1177 perished. She settled upright in the shallow waters although the force of the explosion caused her forward turrets and mast to collapse.

Today, a concrete memorial stands over her remains where she settled upright. The remains of at least 1103 of her crew remain entombed in her hull.  It commemorates the 2403 naval and civilian personnel lost in the attack, almost half of them were on board the Arizona.

Of the other ships that were sunk or damaged, apart from the Arizona, only one other ship, the battleship USS Oklahoma, also became a total loss. All the other ships were either raised, repaired and rebuilt and went on to play vital roles against the Japanese in the Pacific and some would also serve in European waters.

Today we remember those who were lost in this attack and also the contribution made by an important ally to ensure peace and freedom would eventually prevail.

Oh hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea.






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