By Rear Adm. Rick Williams
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
We are extremely fortunate to share the USS Arizona Memorial stamp commemoration ceremony March 13 with living monuments – brave warriors who survived the attack of December 7, 1941, and who fought across the Pacific in World War II. Several Pearl Harbor survivors are among the veterans attending the ceremony.
USS Arizona Memorial is a symbol honoring all those who lost their lives here in Pearl Harbor and a reminder of our nation’s resolve to achieve victory and preserve peace.
One hundred years ago, the New York Navy Yard was ready to begin construction of battleship-39. The ship’s keel was laid down March 16, 1914.
Twenty-seven years later, BB-39 – USS Arizona – was tied up here next to Ford Island on the day of infamy that ignited the War in the Pacific.
Almost 80 percent of USS Arizona’s crew was killed in the attack – nearly 1,200 men – more than half of those killed in the Pacific Fleet on December 7.
“Remember Pearl Harbor” was a rallying cry for Americans during World War II, and USS Arizona came to symbolize the sacrifice of all Sailors and Marines who fought against tyranny in the Pacific.
In 1950, the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Arthur W. Radford, re-raised the flag above USS Arizona on a small platform not accessible to the public.
Since that time, the Navy achieved significant milestones to make the publicly accessible Arizona Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center a reality – with the strong support of the people of Hawaii, public and private groups, the National Park Service and veterans of our Greatest Generation.
In 1959, the Navy selected the architect, Alfred Preis, and on Memorial Day 1962 sponsored a dedication ceremony.
In 1967, the Navy requested appropriations to build a full-scale center with a museum and theater complex. The Navy was a key partner in the design of the new visitor center, too.
Over the years, we have continued to collaborate and cooperate with the National Park Service on behalf of our veterans and their families.
Each decade, the number of visitors to Pearl Harbor has grown by hundreds of thousands. Today, Navy biodiesel boats – named after Medal of Honor recipients such as John Finn, Samuel Fuqua and Peter Tomich – carry nearly 2 million visitors each year – with our Sailors at the helm.
International visitors learn about the history and heritage of our past, the strategic economic importance of the Pacific today, and the dynamic opportunities of tomorrow. Our Navy in Hawaii helps build partnerships in the Pacific, responds to calls for humanitarian assistance, and provides maritime security as part of our rebalance to protect those opportunities.
This week’s ceremony is another example of the Navy’s, Hawaii’s and our nation’s commitment to remember Pearl Harbor and preserve the enduring legacy of peace that the USS Arizona Memorial represents.