100 Years Ago - Remembering the USS Arizona

Dennis Riley 2 years, 2 months ago

USS Arizona Slips from the Launching Ways, National Archives, RG19 Records of the Bureau of Ships, ARC identifier 6003991

100 years ago today, the USS Arizona (BB-39), named after the newest state in the union, was launched at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  The Arizona was one of nine modern battleships completed at the Yard.  The largest and most powerful naval ship in service at the time of its launching, she was also the first U.S. battleship to use oil rather than coal for fuel – with a storage capacity of 2,322 tons of oil.

Esther Ross, the 17-year old daughter of an Arizona pioneer family, was given the honors of ship sponsor at the christening.  To acknowledge Arizona’s state ban on alcohol, two bottles were used to christen the ship: one full of champagne, and another filled with water which had been collected in 1911 when the Roosevelt Dam was opened.  This double christening, unique in the history of Navy launchings, was the subject of some discussion among Navy officials, Yard workers, and temperance movement members.  62 years later, Ross would be called upon to christen another Arizona – this time a 27-foot model of the original battleship at Pear Harbor.

From the June 20, 1915 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Among the dignitaries at the launching were John Purroy Mitchel, mayor of New York City, Lewis H. Pounds, Brooklyn Borough President, George W. P. Hunt, governor of Arizona, Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, and Julius W. Atwood, Episcopal Bishop of Arizona.

According to contemporary accounts the launching required 36,000 pounds of grease and 350,000 board feet of lumber – a launching which took only 30 seconds from the time the Arizona was released until she floated clear of the launching ways.

After the launching, Secretary Daniels hosted a luncheon in Ordinance Building 32 (no longer extant, it was located on the site of today’s Building 50).  At this luncheon there were large sugar replicas of the Arizona.  In the evening, a dinner attended by 1,500 Yard workers was held at the 23rd Regiment Armory on Bedford Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street.  Dignitaries at this dinner included Secretary Daniels, Governor Hunt, Representative James Maher, Secretary of Labor William Wilson, Yard Commandant Rear Admiral Nathaniel R. Usher, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Peters, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Arizona would return home to Brooklyn a number of times during its career.  First in 1918, to help escort President Wilson, aboard the S.S. George Washington, to the Paris Peace Conference, and again in 1919 and 1921 for overhaul and modernization work at the Yard.  She was transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1921 and eventually relocated to Pearl Harbor in 1940 when the fleet was re-positioned from California in the face of Japanese expansion in Asia.

In some irony, on June 6, 1915, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on construction progress aboard the Arizona stating “New steel and a new fireproof protection is now being placed in the engine and ammunition rooms, so that the Arizona will never have to fear from an internal explosion.”

Sunk in 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Arizona continued to inspire the men and women at the Yard throughout the Second World War.

For more images from from the launching, check out the BLDG92 Tumblr post.

From the January 20, 1942 issue of the Shipworker