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USS Arizona lives on at UA Library

Special Collections exhibit through December 23rd
Posted at 10:17 PM, Nov 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-26 00:24:24-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The University of Arizona has a special bond with a warship thousands of miles away, where it is the grave of some of the first Americans to die in World War Two.
    
The battleship USS Arizona is Pearl Harbor Hawaii but the UA Library is showing a large collection of memories from the ship's good times, before one terrible day in December of 1941.
 
On the UA Mall a memorial is coming together to remember the Battleship Arizona and the men who died on her at Pearl Harbor.  It will stretch the length of the original ship and most of the length of the mall but over at the UA library there is an exhibit that remembers not just the death of the ship but the life of the ship and it's crew.
 
USS Arizona was launched at a time when Battleships were a measure of a nation's power and pride.
 
The ship carried a crew of about 15 hundred Sailors and Marines and sailed the seas for about 25 years.  For them USS Arizona was six hundred feet of guns, steel, fuel oil, and home.
 
Trent Purdy of Special Collections at the UA Library says, “Each ship had its own customs and rituals and what this exhibit really wanted to do was to pay homage to the culture that existed on that ship."
     
Now much of what's left of that culture is part of the special collections at University of Arizona's library.
 
There's the christening bottle that launched the ship with champaigne---and the water bottle chaser--since alcohol was illegal in 1915 Arizona.
 
Archivist Trent Purdy had to decide which of thousands of artifacts were the best choice to remember the life of the ship and her crew.
 
 “One of the things that sticks out in my mind, we have a whole case dedicated to the sports teams that existed on the ship.  The ship had a baseball team, a boxing team, a rifle team, a football team and so the camaraderie that existed among those sailors supporting those teams..">
 
The ship's rowing team beat other ships again and again and was a special point of pride.
 
Even in the spit and polish Navy, the crew was allowed to adopt a stray dog as the ship's mascot.
 
But then there's the day the exhibit can't ignore. The collections include twisted chunks of shrapnel---relics of the sunny Sunday 75 years ago when America went from peace to war in an instant and a Japanese bomb pierced the deck and touched off tons of gunpowder below.