The new USS Arizona Mall Memorial slated to be unveiled on the University of Arizona mall at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. is just one of several UA tributes to those who served on the battleship, which was bombed by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, launching the United States into World War II.
One of the two original bells salvaged from the USS Arizona wreckage has resided at the UA since just before the first student union was built in the 1950s, said David Carter, one of the forces behind the latest memorial. When the new Student Union Memorial Center was built in the early 2000s, a number of its design elements were meant to mimic the USS Arizona.
Three years after the ship sank in Pearl Harbor, UA alum Bill Bowers discovered the bell from the Arizona in the Puget Sound Naval Yard where it was scheduled to be melted down and recycled. Bowers saved the bell and ensured that it be brought to the UA at the end of the war, said Jane Prescott-Smith, special assistant to the dean of libraries.
That bell now hangs in a tower at the Student Union Memorial Center and is rung regularly. Bill Bowers was 99 when he had the honor of ringing the bell for the first time in its new location on September 11, 2002, according to the UA Student Union’s website.
The bell is traditionally rung by the student body president on the Sunday before Pearl Harbor Day, on the Student Union’s birthday, Nov. 18, and after athletic victories over out-of-state schools, according to the website.
‘The Life and Legacy of the USS Arizona’
The UA library houses the world’s second largest archive of materials from the USS Arizona. Some of these pieces are on special exhibit in honor of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
“Most people don’t know that the USS Arizona had a 25-year career before the fight in Pearl Harbor,” Prescott-Smith said.
The ship was built in the New York Navy Yard and launched in 1915.It had a noteworthy career in the Atlantic during the end of the First World War, according to Prescott-Smith. It was one of the battleships that escorted Woodrow Wilson to Europe.
“The important thing about the exhibit is that it shows the ship through the eyes of the men who lived and worked for her,” Prescott-Smith said. “What people don’t understand is how big it was. There were 1,500 men on board at any given time so it was really like a small town.”
The exhibit features life on the Arizona when crew members could join the ship’s band, football team, rowing team, baseball team or even the ship newspaper.
“I’m a mother of six children so the pieces that resonated most with me were some of the things that were exchanged between mothers and sons,” Prescott-Smith said. “We have a silk pillow cover that seems to have been embroidered by a mother for her son. There is correspondence between sailors and their families. Those things probably mean the most to me.”
A few other related pieces are also located in the USS Arizona Lounge at the Student Union Memorial Center.
The UA had significant involvement in World War II service, Prescott-Smith said. The Naval training program based in Old Main graduated more than 10,000 men during the war.
“One of my hopes is that the students, when they spent time at the plaza and look at the medallions (containing the names and ages of sailors on the ship), it will kind of sink in that these young men who gave their lives for their country were the same age as them,” Prescott-Smith said. “That maybe there is something bigger, more important than just yourself as an individual. Not saying that we all need to serve in the military, but that we all need to do something for our country.”