Remembering Pearl Harbor: Arizona seeks gun from battleship Arizona

Click here to see more photos from Pearl Harbor.On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Arizona officials have their sights on a rusty gun barrel sitting in a Navy yard in Virginia.

It’s a barrel from the battleship Arizona, which was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack, which killed about 2,400 U.S. service members, including 1,177 aboard the Arizona, catapulted the United States into World War II.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has been leading an effort to bring the barrel, which wasn’t on the ship the day it was sunk, and a barrel from the battleship Missouri to Phoenix for a World War II memorial. Plans call for displaying the barrels -- along with a signal mast and anchor from the Arizona -- outside the state Capitol.

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The effort to bring the barrels to the desert is no easy task. The Arizona barrel, removed from the ship before the attack for relining, is 54 feet long and weighs 70 tons. The Missouri barrel is 68 feet long and weighs 140 tons.

Bennett, alerted to the Arizona barrel earlier this year by a former statehouse employee and fellow history buff, said that when he contacted the Navy, he was told, " 'Oh, it’s our last one from the Arizona. I’m not sure that we want to let that one go,’ although we would later see pictures of it that it had been sitting in a field rusting for 50 years."

In an interview Tuesday, Bennett said the Navy offered a barrel from the Missouri, on which the Japanese signed the surrender. Then the thought came to him that the barrels could be displayed together to represent the beginning and end of the war.

Stacia Courtney at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., called the former Arizona gun barrel a historic naval gun.

The barrel was on the Arizona from 1925 to 1938. It was removed for the relining and sent to Dahlgren for testing. It was installed on the battleship Nevada in 1942, probably as part of the ship's repair after the Pearl Harbor attack, and was used in the D-Day invasion, she said.

It was removed from the Nevada near the end of the war for relining again and has remained in a storage area at Dahlgren since then. Bennett has set up a website to raise funds to bring the barrels to Arizona. So far, about $20,000 has been collected.

He’s hoping to get the barrels to the state in time for Arizona's statehood centennial on Feb. 14

"We’re also receiving a couple of shells, one 14-inch shell from the Arizona barrel, and a 16-inch shell from the Missouri," Bennett said. "We’re thinking of drawing a map of the Phoenix area, starting where the guns will be here at the Capitol, and go out 20 miles the Arizona shoots its shell and 24 miles the Missouri shoots its shell and draw two concentric circles ... and have markers saying, here’s where a shell would land."

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-- Richard Simon in Washington

Photo: A gun barrel removed from the U.S. battleship Arizona before it was sunk in the Pearl Harbor attack sits in a Navy yard in Virginia. Arizona officials want to bring the barrel to their state for a World War II memorial. Credit: Jim Drake / Arizona deputy secretary of state

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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