Pearl Harbor - USS ARIZONA

As Petty Officer Noboru Kanai, one of Japan’s best bombardiers, took aim at the Arizona, most of her crew was on board. Kanai’s bomb penetrated Arizona’s main deck, forward of the bridge. It ignited fires in her forward compartments.

At about 8:10 a.m., seconds after the attack, nearly 2 million pounds of powder and high explosives detonated into a monstrous fireball. More than 900 of Arizona's crew were killed at that moment. One sailor said the ship "seemed to jump at least 15-20 feet upwards in the water and then sort of break in two."

Everything was on fire. The ship. The water. The men. From the Vestal, alongside Arizona, Lt. Commander Harley Smart witnessed what happened:

I could see the men on Arizona walking on deck and burning alive. They had their helmets on. Their clothes were all seared off. They were a ghostly crew as they walked out of those flames. And then they just dropped dead.

Within minutes after Arizona exploded, she was totally obscured by smoke. As she sank, she set a record not broken to this day. Never in the history of the United States Navy had a ship taken so many men down with her.

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, most Americans did not want to join World War II. The country was divided. People remembered the horrors of the First World War. They didn’t want to lose more family members to someone else’s fight.

After Pearl Harbor, however, things changed.  The disastrous situation aboard the Arizona, in particular, changed American attitudes overnight. Galvanized, the country was united in its desire to avenge the unprovoked attack.

Countless stories of amazing courage and patriotism made the country proud. Proud of its heroes. Heroes like Dorie Miller.

 

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