Behind the ExhibitSeptember 30, 2021
A Piercing Blow: The Aerial Attack on the USS Arizona Exhibit
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is the permanent home to a relic of the USS Arizona, displayed within the A Piercing Blow: The Aerial Attack on the USS Arizona exhibit in historic Hangar 37.
Placed between the Japanese Kate bomber and Zero fighter -- two aircraft in the skies that day -- the exhibit displays the full story of the fateful air raid on Pearl Harbor. Take a look behind the exhibit and learn more about the USS Arizona superstructure’s journey from the waters of Pearl Harbor to its place as a touchstones of history across the world, including the USS Arizona bulkhead exhibit at Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
Location of Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum's Relic on the USS Arizona
Through the USS Arizona Relics Program, the museum welcomed a 7 ½ ft by 14 ½ ft section of the USS Arizona Battleship. The bulkhead was removed from what was the galley porthole compartment on the port side of the battleship. The relic is a piece of the surviving salvage of the battleship’s superstructure. The portholes and framing of the bulkhead were the battleship’s vegetable locker in the galley.
If you were a sailor looking out the porthole windows of the USS Arizona Bulkhead on December 7, 1941 the USS Vestal would be in full view, moored port side to port side with the battleship.
Air Raid Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, shortly after 8:00 a.m., Japanese Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bombers and Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighters attacked Oahu. As many know, from an altitude of 10,000 feet, four bombs in total were dropped on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor in the course of the attack. The first three bombs resulted in minor damage, starting small fires on the decks below. The fourth bomb plunged down five decks near turret number 2 into a black powder magazine, igniting the ammunition and powder stores. A total of 1,177 lives were lost as the explosion burst with tremendous force, collapsing the decks and sinking the USS Arizona in a matter of minutes.
The galley compartment and superstructure, including Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum’s relic, was one of the few structures which still remained partially above the water following the attack.
Gun Turret and Superstructure Removal
In the years following the attack, the United States Navy began removing and salvaging the guns, turrets, ammunition, projectiles, documents and other equipment off of the USS Arizona for safety and to be used in the ongoing war effort.
In 1950, a temporary memorial platform was built onto the superstructure partially above water. Admiral Arthur Radford ordered a flag be raised every day to honor those lost in the attack. Soon after, plans began for a more permanent memorial to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while aboard the USS Arizona. When the permanent design and construction of the memorial began, the superstructure, including the galley and the original location of our relic, had to be removed.
On Memorial Day 1962 the permanent USS Arizona memorial was dedicated, sitting directly over top the location of the Museum’s relic.
USS Arizona Superstructure
Once removed, the superstructure of the USS Arizona was transported and stored in a secure location on the Waipio Peninsula.
In 1985, inquiries and requests for information about the saved superstructure of the USS Arizona began to filter in, leading to the creation of the USS Arizona Relics Program. It was ordered by the U.S. Navy to dispense the saved pieces to WWII veterans, Pearl Harbor survivors, museums, and educational organizations for display to the public.
The USS Arizona Relics Program manages the distribution of the relics to organizations and individuals who will ensure the relic is shared with the public, acting as a touchstone of history and the war in the Pacific to visitors all over the country and the world.
The U.S. Navy Seabees are responsible for the care, security, and the removal of relics from the superstructure, ensuring safe and organized distribution of these important pieces of history.
Creating the Exhibit
Still stained with oil residue, the relic was delivered to Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum in 2020. Once received, it was photographed and documented for the Museum’s records and collections.
Dean Kennedy and Mikey Tobin, along with Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum’s Shealy Restoration Team and Hangar Owl Restoration Team, envisioned, designed, and created the breathtaking exhibit. Due to the large size and weight of the relic, a steel base was created to support the bulkhead. The support was made wide enough to ensure it could hold the sizable weight and included vertical supports to brace the height. The steel framework was designed to mirror the plate steel used on 1940s battleships as well as remain true to the color of pre-WWII battleships, supported by National Park Service research.
Wheels were added to the bottom of the steel framework for mobility, which aided in relocating the relic from the Shealy Restoration Shop in Hangar 79 to its permanent home in Hangar 37.
A living piece of American WWII history on display in perpetuity
The USS Arizona relic is purposefully positioned within the Aviator Adversaries Gallery in historic Hangar 37. The exhibit is directly aligned with our Japanese 'Kate' bomber and opposite our Japanese 'Zero' fighter, to display and share the whole story of the fateful attack. When looking through the portholes of the USS Arizona bulkhead, hauntingly, the aircraft that caused its destruction can be seen.
The multi-angle exhibit allows visitors to imagine themselves both inside the galley looking out to the USS Vestal or looking in on the USS Arizona galley from the outside.
Viewing the aircraft used in the attack in line with a surviving relic of the immense damage done, while standing in historic Hangar 37, which was active during the attack, provides a new perspective and brings together the whole story of the air raid of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Learn more about the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and how the Museum acquired the USS Arizona relic by watching our Webinar: Insight into the USS Arizona Bulkhead at Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.