USS Arizona

Part One

Zdeněk Novák

The USS Arizona (BB 39) was one of ten dreadnoughts to be

built at the beginning of the twentieth century. For the US Navy,

these ships meant American membership to a group of decisively powerful navies, and ensured American influence in not

only the Atlantic, but also the Pacific Ocean. The latter witnessed a clearly increasing threat posed by the dynamic expansion of the Imperial Japanese Navy from the turn of the century.

The vast majority of her companion ships ended their careers

via naval asset limitation treaties or as a result of the end of the

Second World War. These ships then only remained preserved

in the minds of their crews, or in the archives of naval historians and enthusiasts. The fate of the Arizona would be different.

The USS Arizona would forever be written into history as a symbol of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941,

bringing about America’s entry into World War Two. The reason

for this lies in her spectacular devastation and the loss of life

amongst her crew, which accounted for practically half of all

losses as a result of the Japanese attack, and also the fact that

she currently lies at the bottom of the largest American naval

base in the Pacific.

The Arizona from a Technical Perspective

The Pennsylvania Class, to which the USS

Arizona belonged together with the lead

ship for which it is named, was the seventh class of dreadnought to be built for

the USS Navy, and the third to be armed

with 356mm (14-inch) guns. These closely

followed the pattern of the previous pair

of Nevada and Oklahoma and represented

a conceptually enlarged version of them,

with an increase in displacement of some

4,200 tons, to 32,500 tons. The basic conceptual scheme remained the same, with

the main armament consisting of four

turrets paired front and rear, positioned

over each other, as did the exhaust being

vented through a single smokestack

in the ship’s centre section. The ship’s

silhouette was characterized by a pair of


INFO Eduard

truss masts, and the number of 14-inch

guns went from ten to twelve placed in

three-gun turrets. Secondary armament

consisted of 22 127mm (5-inch) guns.

Twenty of these were placed in single

mounts, ten on each side of the ship, and

two were positioned on the superstructure deck on the sides of the bridge. These

weapons were rapid fire guns intended to

be used against surface targets, particularly torpedo boats. Anti aircraft protection was provided by four 76mm (3-inch)

guns. Two were positioned on Turret No.3,

and the other two were located at the rear

of the raised deck. The armament also in-

cluded the then-standard below waterline side mounted torpedo launch tubes

of 533mm caliber, or 21 inches. There

were eight searchlights grouped in fours

on the front and main masts. Power was

provided by twelve boilers made by Babcock and Wilcox burning fuel oil. These

powered four sets of Parsons steam turbines, each set of two turbines powering

one shaft, and each of these four shafts

drove a four blade propeller of 3.7m diameter. The power output was 31,500 shp

and provided the specified speed of 21

knots (24 mph). Fuel capacity amounted

to 2,332 tons and allowed for a range of

Title photo: USS Arizona pitching in heavy seas after her modernization in early 1930´s. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo: National


March 2022