PARIS — A piece of World War II history will be unveiled at a public ceremony on Dec. 7, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, at the Maine Veterans' Home.
Part of the battleship USS Arizona has been acquired through the assistance of U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe's office. The Arizona was sunk by Japanese bombers during an early-morning surprise attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The 10- by 30-inch metal piece is from one of the battleship's two rear masts. The artifact will be unveiled at the 1 p.m. ceremony and afterward will be on permanent display at the home.
“I am incredibly pleased the Maine Veterans' Home in South Paris has been bestowed with a section of the USS Arizona, which can now be proudly displayed for the community and visitors alike,” Snowe wrote in an email to the Sun Journal on Tuesday afternoon. “Since 1995, this tremendous facility has provided indispensable services to our state’s heroic veterans with the highest levels of quality and commitment to their well-being. It is certainly fitting that South Paris is now home to this piece of American history, honoring all who lost their lives aboard the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941.”
Snowe’s office was contacted by staff at the Maine Veterans' Home in Paris to determine how best to put in a request for a section of the USS Arizona, the senator's spokesman, Brandon Bouchard, said Tuesday afternoon.
“Our office worked with the U.S. Navy Liaison Office in the Senate to put them in touch with the historian at Navy Region Hawaii. Our staff also expressed Sen. Snowe’s support for the project to the historian and encouraged them to quickly approve their proposal, which they did in May 2012,” Bouchard wrote in an email to the Sun Journal.
“We are always looking for military artifacts that reflect the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform," Veterans' Home administrator Joel Dutton said. “Part of our mission at MVH is to remember and honor those who have served in uniform for the security of our nation.”
According to information from the U.S. Navy's Naval History and Heritage Command, the USS Arizona was a 31,400-ton Pennsylvania class battleship built at the U.S. Navy Yard in Brooklyn, N.Y., and commissioned in October 1916.
She made her first excursion to the Pacific, on a trip to Peru, in 1921 and was based in California until 1929, making occasional trips to Hawaii. The ship was modernized at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va.
The USS Arizona spent most of the 1930s in the Pacific. In 1940, she and the other Pacific fleet battleships were based at Pearl Harbor on the orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The ship was moored in Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese carrier aircraft attacked.
According to a description in the U.S. Navy's Naval History and Heritage Command Web page, “She was hit by several bombs, one of which penetrated her forecastle and detonated her forward ammunition magazines. The resulting massive explosion totally wrecked the ship's forward hull, collapsing her forward superstructure and causing her to sink, with the loss of over 1,100 of her crewmen."
It was the greatest loss of life on any U.S. warship in American history.
In the months that followed, much of the ship's armament and topside structure was removed, according to U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.
The battleship's hull remained where it sank. By the 1960s, a memorial structure was built over the ship's hull. The site is operated by the National Park Service as a permanent shrine to the crew.