Launched in 1915, in honor of Arizona, which had been granted statehood three years earlier, the USS Arizona was a United States Navy battleship. Twenty-seven years later, the USS Arizona was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii during World War II. Despite his relatively short career, the Arizona was present for several notable events and today the battleship is memorialized in the capitol building of her namesake.
THE Arizona spent World War I primarily in the United States, mostly used in training missions, and only crossed the Atlantic Ocean after the signing of the armistice ending the war. THE Arizona was part of the convoy escorting President Woodrow Wilson to Europe for the Paris Peace Conference and later of the fleet that escorted him to the United States. In 1919, tensions rose between the Greek, Italian and Turkish governments over the division of land after the war and the Arizona was placed between disgruntled parties to ensure the treaty was enforced.
In the early 1920s, the Arizona was moved to San Pedro, California, which was to be his home base for most of the next two decades. In 1924, the Arizona and her crew were part of a scandal in which a prostitute named Madeline Blair was smuggled aboard by sailors and ply her trade in exchange for secret passage from New York to California where she hoped to become a Hollywood movie star. Shortly after crossing the Panama Canal, she was discovered and sent back by train to New York and 23 sailors were court-martialed and sentences of up to 10 years were handed down. In addition, each officer on the ship received a letter of reprimand.
In addition to the training exercises, the Arizona was used as a floating embassy, welcoming diplomats to foreign ports and in 1931 was even used by President Herbert Hoover while vacationing in the Caribbean. In 1934, the Arizona and his crew starred in the romantic comedy film “Here Comes the Navy,” which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. In 1940, as tensions between the United States and Japan rose, the Arizona was transferred to Hawaii.
On December 7, 1941, the naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. Shortly after the attack began, a bomb from a Japanese aircraft detonated one of the from arizona ammunition magazines, resulting in a cataclysmic explosion. 1,177 of the 1,512 sailors aboard the ship died in the attack, more than half of the total American casualties in the battle.
Most of the ship remains underwater where it was sunk and is managed by the National Park Service as a national memorial, but several pieces have returned to the state of its namesake. An anchor, mast and one of the ship’s big guns sit in a plaza in front of the Capitol building in downtown Phoenix. Additionally, part of the ship’s superstructure, the ship’s bugle, the flag the ship was flying when she sank, and her ceremonial silverware are on display at the Arizona Capitol Museum.