The USS Arizona: The Ship, the Men, the Pearl Harbor Attack, and the Symbol that Aroused America

by Joy Waldron Jasper, James P. Delgado and Jim Adams

Published by Truman Talley Books, St. Martin's Press


Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

In our post-September 11 world, it does us well to recall another attack on America, when symbols of American power were struck in a surprise attack which turned a beautiful morning into a nightmare of horror and death. That event was, of course, the attack on Pearl Harbor which catapulted our nation into World War II. And just as the image of the Twin Towers burning and collapsing became the iconic image of 9-11, there was one image that came to symbolize that attack for an entire generation -- the battleship Arizona stricken and burning, entombing the vast majority of her officers and crew in her twisted wreckage.

Here is the story of the fateful day, assembled from interviews with the last few surviving eyewitnesses, both those who were aboard the doomed ship and managed to escape, and those who witnessed it from other nearby ships or ashore. These recollections are priceless primary source records of an event which is passing out of living memory all too rapidly.

In addition, this book includes the accounts of the various salvage and historical diving expeditions undertaken in and around the wreck. The earliest, undertaken while the war was just beginning, aimed primarily to recover as much desperately-needed war materiel as possible, with a secondary aim of recovering personal possessions for surviving seamen and for the families of the deceased. As the wreck became a national symbol with strong overtones of a sort of secular sacredness, further expeditions restricted themselves to studying from the outside, seeking to determine how the continuing deterioration of the wreck would affect the environment of the harbor and what could be done to ameliorate any damage while treating the wreck and its entombed human remains with the utmost of respect. This is no place for idle curiosity.

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Last updated October 26, 2014.