USS Arizona (BB 39)

USS Arizona (BB 39) was a Pennsylvania class battleship that was destroyed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and remains where she sank as a memorial to the people killed during the battle.

USS Arizona (BB-39) from above
USS Arizona (BB-39) from above

The Arizona was laid down in 1914, launched in 1915 and commissioned in 1916, making her one of the most modern battleships in the US Navy when American entered the First World War in 1917. Neither of the oil burning Pennsylvania class ships were part of the American battleship squadron sent to join the British Grand Fleet, and the Arizona only reached Europe after the war, when she served as part of the escort for President Wilson as he travelled to Paris. On her return trip the Arizona carried 238 American troops home from the war. The Arizona served as a flagship for most of the 1920s, and was the flagship of Battleship Division 1 from 1938.

Both Pennsylvania class ships underwent a major refit during the 1920s. Their maximum gun elevation was raised to 30 degrees, increasing their maximum range. Anti-torpedo bulges were installed underwater. An aircraft launching catapult was fitted. New boilers were installed, using machinery ordered for the USS Washington, a newer battleship scrapped under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. The secondary guns were removed from the hull and moved up one level into a deckhouse arrangement that contained eight 5in anti-aircraft guns and two 5in single purpose guns. The cage masts were removed and replaced with tripod masts.

Pearl Harbor
USS Arizona
burning during
the Pearl Harbor raid

USS Arizona (BB-39), 1928
USS Arizona (BB-39), 1928

On 7 December 1941 the Arizona was moored at position F-7 on battleship row, Pearl Harbor, with the fleet repair ship Vestal moored alongside. She was badly damaged early in the Japanese attack, suffering one torpedo hit and probably eight bomb hits. One of these bombs penetrated into the forward magazines, triggering a massive explosion that ripped the ship apart. The resulting fires burnt for two days, and oil fires floating on the current caused great problems for other ships on battleship row. A total of 1,177 of the 1,512 men onboard were killed, including Rear Admiral Kidd and the ship's captain Van Valkenburgh. Both men were awarded posthumous Medals of Honor, as was the highest ranking officer to survive the attack, Lt. Commander Samuel G. Fuqua.

The Arizona was so badly damaged that there was never any question of raising her. Instead the superstructure was cut down to water level, while the rear guns and turrets were removed for use as coastal defence guns. The Arizona became an official memorial to the dead of Pearl Harbor. 

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



8,000nm at 10kts

Armour – belt


 - deck


 - turret faces

18in or 16in

 - turret sides


 - turret top


 - turret rear


 - barbettes


 - coning tower


 - coning tower top





97ft 1in


Twelve 14in guns in four triple turrets
Twenty two 5in guns
Four 3in guns
Two 32in submerged beam torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

16 March 1914


19 June 1915


17 October 1916


Sunk 7 December 1941

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 September 2011), USS Arizona (BB 39),

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