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UA's Navy ROTC tours new USS Arizona exhibit

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Jesus Barrera | The Daily Wildcat

Professor of naval science and Colonel Patrick Wallconverses with ROTC member Alexander Heydt on Wednesday, Aug. 31. UA's special collections gave UA NROTC a special tour of the USS Arizona exhibit.

The UA Special Collections faculty and curators hosted a special tour through their new USS Arizona exhibit for UA's Navy ROTC.

Three groups from the ROTC took turns walking through the chronological layout of the ship’s history. The exhibit takes visitors through time from the launch of the ship to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7,1941, and then to the USS Arizona Reunion Association.

Cody Maddox, an active Navy sailor on the STA-21 program studying chemical engineering, said a tradition that comes with launching a ship is when a distinguished guest, usually female, throws a bottle of champagne against the hull of the ship.

This is one of the first things guests may notice during “The Life and Legacy of the USS Arizona” exhibit. Instead of one bottle, there are two broken bottles in the first display case.

Since the USS Arizona was launched during Prohibition, the tradition was altered by christening the ship with both a bottle of champagne and a bottle of water collected from the first spills over the Roosevelt Dam, hence the two bottles in the case.

Jane Prescott-Smith, University Libraries' special assistant to the dean, said that guests start to understand the ship functioned as a small town as they walk through the exhibit.

Prescott-Smith said the ship had its own newspaper, a musical group and even sports like baseball, rowing, boxing and football.

“We wanted to create an exhibit to celebrate the life of a ship, but also memorialize the destruction of a ship and the men who lost their lives,” said Trent Purdy, assistant librarian, archivist and curator for the USS Arizona exhibit. “It is a tribute to the culture that existed on the ship throughout its history but also how the country and the world has memorialized the men who served and who also lost their lives.”

The ship holds a special place at the UA campus in the form of memorabilia and memorials. The original bells from the USS Arizona were discovered in the Bremerton Navy Yard, as it was in line to be melted down by UA alumnus Wilbur Bowers. Now students, faculty, alumni and family can see one of the original bells in the Student Union Memorial Center.

Purdy said the bell and the flag from the ship were the first two major donations to the collection, which began in 1951 and has had memorabilia donated by men who served and their families for the past 65 years.

UA Special Collections will be hosting another event on Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 6-8 p.m., with Dr. James Delgado, an underwater archaeologist who participated in the early dives on the USS Arizona and the USS Utah in the 1980s.

The exhibit runs until Dec. 23 at UA Special Collections, right next to the Main Library. Bring your CatCard from 9 a.m to 6 p.m during the week for a unique look into history.

READ: UA exhibit gives glimpse of life on the USS Arizona, commemorates Pearl Harbor attack

“I hope they learn about the history and that it existed for 25 years before Pearl Harbor,” Purdy said. “I hope that they understand that a piece of the U.S. history is available to them."

The event ended with the folding of an original USS Arizona American flag outside of Special Collections and the UA Main Library. The flag will be brought back to Hawaii with the UA men's basketball team in December.

“It is really important to know your traditions; know the heritage,” Maddox said. “The battle ship was named after this state; you should have a little bit of pride of what those sailors went through.”


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