Servicemen and servicewomen of the past, present and future gathered with spectators on Sunday to honor those who served during the attack on Pearl Harbor 72 years ago.
The USS Arizona Memorial Service was held on the UA Mall and featured speeches from Rep. Ron Barber as well as UA President Ann Weaver Hart.
“We are honored and proud to have a piece of the USS Arizona at the heart of our campus,” Hart said. “The bell’s placement at the heart of our campus, symbolizes how close we hold the memory of the USS Arizona.”
Service members also read poems written about the bombing of the USS Arizona.
The Army Band of Fort Huachuca played and there was a bell tolling in honor of the eight service Arizonans who were entombed on the ship. The USS Arizona Memorial has been going on in Tucson since about 1976, but this year’s ceremony was the last one due to the dwindling number of survivors.
Alice Snow, a member of the USS Arizona Reunion Association, and her husband, Richard Snow, attended the event.
Richard Snow said his father, Rutherford Hayes Snow, was a USS Arizona serviceman but took the day off to be with his family in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, while someone else took his duty.
“Had we not been there, he would have died that day,” Richard Snow said. “I know he felt very upset and sad because, of course, the person that took his place was killed.”
Gunnery Sgt. John Hazel, assistant marine officer instructor for the UA’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps., said students should remember that these servicemen laid the groundwork for them to be able to come to school and pursue their interests.
“We absolutely need to have a military in the country,” Hazel said, “because if we don’t, then some other country that doesn’t believe in our freedoms or our beliefs is going to come in here and put their rule over us. Then, we won’t have [the] freedom to protest the military like we do.”
The events of that day remind people about the reasons why it is important to have people who can protect our country, said Commander Bruce Grissom, an associate professor of Naval Science and the executive officer of UA NROTC.
“Us remembering Arizona specifically as a ship, and that part of the attack on Pearl Harbor, is just a commemoration and an honor to how closely tied that battleship’s name is to our state,” Grissom said. “Us keeping those events in mind — that it could happen again at any time.”
The USS Arizona has an even closer connection to the UA, as the Student Union Memorial Center is modeled to resemble the ship and even includes some artifacts from the ship.
The bell tower represents a mast and sail and houses the bell that was salvaged from the ship in 1944 by Wilbur L. “Bill” Bowers, a UA alumus, according to the Arizona Student Unions website.
Andrew Desautels, a music and history teacher at Elvira Elementary School and secretary for the USS Arizona Reunion Association, gives an hour and 20 minute-long presentation about Pearl Harbor and the Arizona every year to around 200 of his fourth and fifth graders.
“They are on their seats, riveted,” Desautels said. “I would say more than half are often wiping tears, even.”
Desautels said that, too often, educators fail to show why the events at Pearl Harbor matter.
“So often, history is so much more interesting than anything you could make up in a movie,” Desautels said.
The survivors sustained third degree burns on two-thirds of their bodies and then pulled the skin off their arms like socks to climb across a rope dangling over oil fires to escape to the next ship, he added.
The event is Tucson’s best kept secret, Desautels said, because he attended the university for his master’s degree and said he had no idea the bell was housed at the university.
“The bell is the voice of the ship,” Desautels said. “We hear the voice of the Arizona when that thing goes off.”
- Follow Maggie Driver @Maggie_Driver