USS Arizona Gun Barrel begins trek to Arizona Capitol Museum after more than 63 years at Virginia Naval Base
DAHLGREN, Va. – The last USS Arizona gun – bound for a new World War II memorial exhibit over 2,000 miles away – attracted Arizona state officials and Navy leaders who watched the mammoth gun barrel lifted onto a trailer that departed Naval Support Facility Dahlgren April 10.
"This gun from the USS Arizona is a significant World War II Navy artifact," said Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Commander Capt. Michael Smith. "We are grateful for the opportunity to help the state of Arizona preserve and display it at the Arizona Capitol Museum where visitors can see rare artifacts from the USS Arizona and its crew."
The 14-inch gun barrel will join a gun from the USS Missouri – en-route to Arizona from Virginia’s Norfolk Naval Shipyard – to exhibit at the Arizona Capitol Museum in Phoenix, scheduled to be dedicated on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, 2012.
"We also want to thank Arizona for preserving the 16-inch Battleship Missouri gun barrel,” said Smith. “The USS Arizona and USS Missouri gun barrels represent ‘bookends’ of World War II - the beginning and end – and will greatly enhance their memorial exhibit."
World War II began after the Arizona was sunk at Pearl Harbor and ended when the Japanese capitulated aboard the Missouri battleship.
“Thank you for sharing some of your history with our state,” Ken Bennett, Arizona’s Secretary of State, told onlookers, including retired Navy commander Ernie Saunders – commanding officer of Missouri turret gun No. 2 – who witnessed the surrender in Tokyo Bay.
“This (event) brings back memories that I have not thought of in many years,” said Saunders, who traveled from Newport News, Va., to see the Arizona gun move after its hiatus of more than 63 years at Dahlgren. “It fulfilled all my expectations.”
The gun barrel - removed from the Arizona to be relined before World War II - was at the Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground for proof testing when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on Dec. 7, 1941.
“It was important to me, personally, to just be out here and see it,” said Bennett. “We are very fortunate because this is our 100th anniversary as a state, so to have this come to fruition in 2012 is really neat for Arizona.”
The gun was part of the USS Arizona from 1925 to 1938 and used in support of multiple World War II operations – including the D–Day invasion on June 6, 1944 – after its installation aboard the USS Nevada in 1942. The gun fired 244 rounds between June 25, 1943, and Aug. 26, 1944.
"Dahlgren is proud to support the State of Arizona in honoring and commemorating their citizens’ World War II service, dedication and sacrifice,” said NSWCDD Operations Department Head Pete Kolakowski who led Dahlgren’s efforts to transfer the gun to Arizona. “NSWC Dahlgren Division was instrumental (during World War II) in ensuring the weapons and tools to defend our freedom were the best available – this is still true today.”
Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Washington Transportation Director Ronald Cheek – on site to ensure a successful lift and transportation of the 147,000 pound gun with its barrel, breech mechanism, and yoke – said that part of his support of the Navy involves “preserving history,” adding that “it's necessary so future generations know what our fathers and grandfathers did to serve this country and keep us free."
“In addition to mounting the two gun barrels - one representing the beginning of the war and one representing the end - we're going to have a monument dedicated to the Arizonans who died in World War II,” said Bennett. “Each name will be inscribed on a plate. We think it will be something that thousands of families across Arizona, and even across the country, can come and see – (the names of) their uncle or father or grandfather who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It's a big part of saying thank you to the veterans who protected our country and preserved our freedoms as well as the freedoms of tens of millions of people around the globe.”
“We are proud to be a participant in preserving the U.S. Navy's heritage by contributing the last gun from the USS Arizona to the State of Arizona," concluded Kolakowski.