USS Arizona memorial on UA Mall to be dedicated Sunday, Dec. 4
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USS Arizona memorial on UA Mall to be dedicated Sunday, Dec. 4

The battleship USS Arizona on Dec. 25, 1916, photographed from the Manhattan Bridge on the East River in New York City.

There’s a battleship on the University of Arizona Mall.

A new monument to the USS Arizona outlines the actual size of the ship that was destroyed Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and launched the U.S. into World War II.

The monument will be dedicated Sunday, Dec. 4, marking the upcoming 75th anniversary of the bombing.

The 6-inch curb of running-track material outlines the size and shape of the ship’s deck. At the approximate site of the ship’s foremast is a brick path lined with waist- high concrete walls. The walls are adorned with 1,177 bronze medallions, each engraved with the name, birthdate and home state of a sailor or Marine who died on the ship.

“It represents the beginning of a tremendous war tragedy, but it’s also symbolic of the ship that, if you think about it, is the second best known ship in the world,” said Charles Albanese, a former UA dean of architecture and one of the leaders of the project. “This memorial represents an opportunity to remind young men and women that it takes sacrifice and unmentionable bravery to give us the lives that we all appreciate today. I spent the majority of my life working with young people, and this is an opportunity to help remind them to remember that our freedom came at a cost.”

The fact that the memorial is located on a college campus drives the tragedy home all the more deeply.

“You discover that almost 70 percent of these young men were an average age of about 20, the same age as the majority of our students,” Albanese said. “In this way, standing in one place, looking around the plaza, you can see, in one view, 1,100 reflecting bronze medallions each representing a young man who perished that day. It really is very moving.”

David Carter’s father spent most of World War II in the Pacific theater. After his father’s death in 1991, Carter began to attend reunions of his destroyer crew. It was at one of these reunions that Carter came up with the idea for this memorial.

“If you could outline the ship on the Mall, that would convey a sense of the huge, massive scale of the ship as well as the enormous human scale of the loss of life on a single ship,” Carter said.

Over the next few years, as the idea was developed, Albanese and Bill Westcott joined the project and they began working on logistics with Bob Smith at the UA. Official construction began during this fall semester, with a rush to finish it in time for the dedication.

Through word-of-mouth and social media, the project idea spread across the country. Carter, Albanese and Westcott raised approximately $175,000 from 450 individuals and veterans organizations based in 20 states, covering the cost of building the monument.

Donations ranged from $5 to $20,000 and many included stories of donors’ personal connections with the ship. There is an ongoing fundraiser for upkeep of the monument.

“It’s a wonderful story and the concept is rich,” said Albanese. “The three of us are very proud and feel both honored and fortunate.”

Natalia V. Navarro is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticing at the Star.

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