PHOENIX – Guns from the USS Arizona and USS Missouri now rusting on the East Coast would become part of the state’s monument to its namesake battleship if proponents can raise $500,000 to move them.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who is leading the fundraising effort, said it would be fitting to display guns from the USS Arizona, whose demise began America’s involvement in World War II, and the USS Missouri, where Japan’s surrender ended it.
Even more fitting, Bennett said, would be to have the guns displayed alongside the USS Arizona’s anchor by Dec. 7, the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I thought it would be neat if tens of thousands of Arizonans felt like they had participated in helping bringing these guns out and getting them on display to honor our veterans both past and present,” Bennett said.
The $500,000 fundraising goal is the estimated cost to transport, clean and display a 14–inch USS Arizona gun barrel weighing 70 tons and a 16–inch USS Missouri gun barrel weighing 140 tons. The guns are at U.S. Navy storage facilities in Virgina and Maryland, respectively.
They would become part of the Arizona Capitol Museum, which oversees monuments in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.
The USS Arizona gun wasn’t on the battleship when it was destroyed. It was removed two years prior to the attack for relining and was scheduled to be reinstalled when the attack occurred.
More than a decade ago, John Thomas, who was chief counsel for the Arizona House of Representatives when Bennett was in the state Senate, read an article saying the gun was sitting outside at the Navy base.
“It didn’t seem to be right,” Thomas said in an interview. “It seemed to be something we should have in Arizona.”
But nothing came of the idea until Bennett took up the charge.
He reached out to the Navy, which he said balked because the gun was the last from the Arizona and instead offered one of the USS Missouri’s guns. Promoting the state’s ties to the USS Arizona, Bennett said he eventually reached an agreement for Arizona to take ownership of both guns by explaining that they would represent the beginning and end of the war.
Bennett said he is seeking private contributions, corporate sponsorships and individual donations, which can be made at www.GunstoSalutetheFallen.com
If 100,000 of Arizona’s 600,000 veterans contributed $5 apiece, for example, the guns could be on their way, Bennett said.
“Veterans have a direct and emotional connection to it, having served,” he said.
Rachel Jimenez is a reporter for Cronkite News Service