In conjunction with the approaching 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the University of Arizona (Tucson) is about to present its USS Arizona Mall Memorial, an addition to the Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona-related artifacts already at the university.
The mall memorial is not a sculpture, but a plaza/walkway with a full-scale outline of the deck of the battleship that was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, killing 1,177 of the nearly 1,500 men aboard.
The outline stretches 600 feet across the University Mall, the outdoor brick-and-grass pathway that bisects the main campus. As visitors walk the length of the mall, they will get a sense of the ship's size - 597 feet long and 97 feet wide. The design includes four curved walls embedded with 1,177 bronze medallions, each one etched with the name of a sailor or Marine who died on the ship.
The USS Arizona Mall Memorial is expected to be completed in time for a campus ceremony on Sunday on the south side of the Student Union Memorial Center.
The event will pay tribute to the men who went down with the ship. Except for the memorial at the actual USS Arizona, which rests on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, the completed USS Arizona Mall Memorial will be the world's largest memorial to the ship.
"We designed this memorial to honor all veterans with the intent that they would visit the site for many years to come," said Chuck Albanese, a retired dean and professor of the University of Arizona College of Architecture.
The memorial, funded entirely with community contributions, has a personal meaning for Tucson philanthropist William C. "Bill" Westcott, who wrote the first check to get the project started. His uncle William P. Westcott Jr. died in the USS Arizona explosion. He was 18.
"The majority of those killed on the USS Arizona were between the ages of 17 and 22," Westcott said. "In putting the memorial to the ship directly into the path of students coming and going across the campus, the hope is that they will take a moment to reflect on an entire generation, just like them, who instantaneously and completely set their lives aside to serve and defend their country and restore peace in the world."
The USS Arizona Mall Memorial isn't the university's only tribute to the ship and to the "date which will live in infamy," President Franklin D. Roosevelt's unforgettable description of the attack.
A bell that was once near the bow of the USS Arizona was salvaged and is now in the clock tower belfry of the Student Union Memorial Center. It was by sheer coincidence that the bell ended up at the University of Arizona.
Wilber Bowers, an Arizona alumnus, was searching for electrical components at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Washington in 1944 when he chanced upon the bell. It was about to be melted down. Determined to save it, Bowers contacted the president of the University of Arizona, who contacted the governor of Arizona, who wrote to the Secretary of the Navy. In 1946, the Navy gave the bell to the university.
The bell now rings at 12:07 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month (symbolizing Dec. 7).
An imposing sculpture on the north side of the outdoor walkway of the Student Union Memorial Center has no name, but its symbolism is powerful. It pays tribute to the 1,511 men assigned to the USS Arizona on the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing.
Artist Susan Gamble's poignant sculpture represents an 18-foot ship's mast with 1,511 pieces of metal resembling dog tags, inscribed with the men's names. The tags of the 334 survivors are above the tile base of the sculpture and the tags representing the 1,177 men who perished are arranged to create a diamond-shaped Ojo de Dios (God's eye), in the center of which is a tile representing the Arizona flag.
The Arizona lounge at the student union displays USS Arizona memorabilia given to the university by the ship's former seamen and their families. More than 15,000 relevant items are on the campus.
Until Dec. 23, a university library gallery will exhibit artifacts and photos about the USS Arizona's history and activity, from its christening at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1915 to insights into the men who served aboard the ship.