PHOENIX — A two-year effort to erect a World War II memorial near the
Arizona State Capitol will come to fruition with a dedication ceremony Dec. 7.
The ceremony will include the arrival of 2,000 motorcyclists from the American
Legion and other veterans’ groups, a B-17 flyover and the 108th Army Band, the
Arizona Capitol Times reported.
It has taken a year to build the memorial, which features historic gun barrels
from two U.S. battleships – the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri. Names of
Arizona military personnel who died during the war will be displayed on a steel
structure between the gun barrels.
The Arizona was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the
beginning of America’s involvement in the war. Nine vertical pillars at the
memorial represent the nine minutes it took for the ship to sink to the bottom
of the harbor.
The memorial was championed by Secretary of State Ken Bennett after hearing
from John Thomas, a former attorney in the Arizona House of Representatives,
about the rusting relics in East Coast surplus yards. Bennett took action after
learning the military treasures could be sold for scrap metal.
When Bennett began pursuing the acquisition of the USS Arizona gun barrel, the
U.S. Navy first offered one from the USS Missouri, which was the site of the
Japanese surrender ceremony that ended the war. Bennett continued to negotiate
and eventually landed both.
“The concept that was developed displays the gun barrels to represent the
beginning and end of the war with a steel structure in between presenting the
names of those who perished,” said Matt Roberts, a spokesman for the Secretary
of State’s Office. `”It’s believed these two visible bookends from the war will
encourage people to reflect and admire the strength and courage it takes to
defend a nation.”
It was last December that Bennett and other officials gathered for the
Roberts said no tax dollars were used to construct the memorial.
“We’ve raised more than $600,000 in cash and in-kind contributions,” he said.
Among the contributions was nearly $200,000 from the Veterans’ Donation Fund,
according to Dave Hampton, public information officer and legislative liaison
for the Arizona Department of Veterans Services.
Hundreds of World War II veterans and several Pearl Harbor survivors are
expected to attend the Dec. 7 ceremony.
Hampton called it a “fitting tribute to World War II survivors.”
Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com