Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: USS Arizona Survivors

Inside the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii, there is a listing of men who survived the initial attack on the Arizona on December 7, 1941, but later chose to be interred with their shipmates. According to a National Park Service (NPS) website,

Since the early 1980s, the cremated remains of men who served aboard USS Arizona have been deposited at the USS Arizona Memorial. Pearl Harbor survivors -- those men who were formally assigned to the ship on December 7, 1941 -- may have their ashes entombed within the ship, while other USS Arizona veterans may have their ashes scattered on the water directly over the vessel.

The most recent interment, of retired Lieutenant Commander Anthony Robert Schubert (then an ensign), occurred on May 7, 2010, about two weeks before our visit to the Memorial. Our tour guide, NPS ranger Kennedy Forsythe, described the ceremony, where at the end an NPS diver holds the urn of cremains above his/her head while slowly descending "into the open barbette of gun turret number four and proceed to a large open 'slot' that measures approximately 6" x 5'. The urn is placed into this slot and slides into the ship," (according to an NPS FAQ).

The ship is still leaking oil--you can sometimes see an oil sheen on the surface around the memorial. The "official" word is that the Arizona will leak for another 50-75 years, but the legend is that she will stop leaking once all of the survivors have passed away. There are at least 21 survivors left as of today. Forsythe said that all have announced that they plan to be interred in the Arizona with their shipmates. The ranger said that the survivors believe that the Arizona is "crying" and that will stop once the entire crew is together again.

© Amanda Pape - 2010


  1. I knew G. S. Flanagan Jr. Nice person gone too soon.

  2. were there any bodies still inside the ship when it went down

  3. Yes, Anonymous. From the same NPS FAQ mentioned above:

    "Out of a crew of 1,511 only 334 survived. Due to the immense fire, only 107 crewmen were positively identified. The remaining 1,070 casualties were placed into three categories: (1) Bodies that were never found; (2) Some bodies were removed from the ship during salvage operations. These remains were severely dismembered or partially cremated, making identification impossible (DNA testing was unheard of in 1941). These bodies were placed in temporary mass graves, and later moved and reburied and marked as unknowns, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in 1949; (3) Bodies located in the aft (rear) portion of the ship. These remains could have been recovered, but were left in the ship due to their unidentifiable condition, indicating most crew members died from the concussion from the massive explosion."