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Did You Know: USS Arizona Had A Long Service Before Pearl Harbor Attack

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, June 19, 2015 - 3:05pm
Updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - 11:10am
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(Photo courtesy of the University of Arizona Special Collections Library, USS Arizona Collection, AZ 517)
USS Arizona at the Brooklyn Bridge, circa 1920.

One hundred years ago, it honored Arizona. It was meant to travel in protection of our country. What it ultimately became was a symbol of our will and endurance.

Most people know the story of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. It was among the most modern battleships of its time.

Did you know the USS Arizona was in service for more than two decades before she was destroyed during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941?

“It had a very active life span prior to that time," said Steve Hussman, director of the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections.

The school has an extensive compilation of photos, items and documented history about the USS Arizona.

“Among the many duties this ship performed was service with the British Grand Fleet at the end of World War I; taking President Hoover on a cruise of the Caribbean in 1931; providing aid after 1933 Long Beach earthquake; and serving as a location for the filming of the ‘Here Comes the Navy," said Hussman.

Construction of the USS Arizona started in 1914. It was christened in June 1915. The ship was part of the Pennsylvania Class, which included the USS Pennsylvania and the Arizona.

"At the time, USS Arizona and her sister ship were among the most powerful in the world when they were launched. They had larger keels, they had more armament, more armor, larger crews, and larger capabilities than battleships previously built," Hussman said.

The USS Arizona mostly served as a training battleship along the U.S. East Coast. She traveled throughout the Caribbean and Central America. She escorted President Herbert Hoover to the Paris Peace Conference. And on her trip back, brought home more than 200 U.S. veterans returning from the first world war.

The USS Arizona also went to Turkey at the start of the Greco-Turkish War carrying the Marine detachment that guarded the American Consulate.

In the late 1920s, the USS Arizona was modernized. Among the add-ons was additional armor to protect its vital areas from torpedo or near miss bomb damage. Around 1938 it was moved to the Pacific Fleet. The USS Arizona’s last training exercise was on Dec. 4, 1941. Three days later, she and most of the crew were buried forever at Pearl Harbor.

“Many of us think about the tragedy of what happened in 1941, but we also remember the significant and tremendous service USS Arizona provided for the Unites States and for U.S. Navy over a period of many years," said Hussman.

Historians say there was speculation that the USS Arizona was going to originally be named the North Carolina in honor of the then Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniel. The name was changed to honor the newest state to enter the Union.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The photo slideshow with this article has been modified. A photo initially identified by the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections as the USS Arizona docked at the Panama Canal is believed to be the USS New York instead. The photo has been removed.

Updated 6/23/2015 at 11:09 a.m.

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