The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Life and Death of a Lady

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

Out of the clouds came Lieutenant Zenji Abe, a Carrier Pilot with the Imperial Japanese Naval Task Force "Operation Z." Little did he know that he would go down in history as the first pilot to drop a bomb on the great battleship, the U.S. Arizona BB39!

The date is December 7, 1941, and the time is exactly 7:56 am. Lt. Abe dives down to almost tree top level with his Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bomber. Looming directly in his path is the mighty battleship, the USS Arizona. Over the battleship he pulls up sharply and drops his load of bombs. Thus begins the death throes of a gallant Lady! She took eight bomb hits and the last bomb exploded near the forward powder magazine. This caused the black powder to ignite, which produced a huge explosion. This completely blew apart the forward section of the ship. This killed Capt. Franklin Van Valkenburg, Rear- Admiral Isaac Kid, and 1104 of the ship's crew. The mighty warship sunk into the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor Bay forever.

How could this happen, it was supposed to be an impossibility? Rear-Admiral Patrick L. Bellinger, Pearl Harbor's Air Defense Officer, and Major-General Frederick L. Martin, Commander of the Army Air Force at Pearl Harbor, predicted that this attack would occur. "Our most local enemy (Japan) can probably bring a

Cecil Owen

maximum of six aircraft carriers against Pearl Harbor. An early morning attack is the best way. To avoid detection they will probably come from the North." (This is exactly what did happen.) They sent this information to Washington D.C. and it arrived there August 10, 1941! No one believed that this could ever happen because the water depth in the channel at Pearl Harbor was too shallow. It was only 40 ft. deep in most places and the Japanese torpedoes needed at least 70 ft. Then a Japanese Navy Officer invented a wooden box with both ends removed and one vane inserted. This fitted over the fins of the torpedoes and prevented them from going too deep. However, American Intelligence did not have this information, therefore, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, head of the United States Pacific Fleet said, Anti-torpedo nets were not necessary at Pearl Harbor!

The USS Arizona BB39 was a very special warship. She was considered the Queen of the "Great White Fleet" that sailed around the world. This was to show the other nations of the world our military might. (Sailors always call a warship a female, even if the name of the ship is George or John.) The Arizona was the biggest and most powerful battleship in the fleet when it was first launched. This was June 19, 1915. The state of Arizona's first governor, George W.P. Hunt and Miss Ester Ross, seventeen year old beauty queen, christened the battleship. A bottle of Champagne and a bottle of Arizona river

water were broken across the bow. The battleship was 608 ft. long and 97 ft. wide. The crew complement was 55 officers and 1620 enlisted men. The ship was armed with twelve 14" guns, twenty-two 5" guns, four 3" guns and two torpedo tubes. Top speed was 21 knots (about 23 1/2 mph). It carried four huge anchors

that weighed 20 tons a piece, and each link of the anchor chain weighed 100 lbs. What a beautiful and magnificent warship the USS Arizona was, for a while it was the flagship of the fleet. In 1931 President Herbert Hoover boarded the Arizona for a goodwill cruise down into the West Indies. When they docked in Puerto Rico, the whole crew was assembled on deck. Then the President sat down in their middle and had his picture taken. Next the USS Akron, a Navy Dirigible hovered over the Arizona to deliver airmail to the President. The Akron was a  helium filled duralumin-framed airship.

In 1934 the USS Arizona became a movie star, Warner Brothers studios filmed a movie aboard her. The name of the movie was "Here Comes The

Navy." The stars were Pat O'Brian and James Cagney. It became a big hit at the box office.

The Battleship Arizona has a very special place in my family (the Owen family)! For my Step-Father, Cecil George Worst, spent three years aboard her. He was Fireman First Class, down in the forward boiler

room. I grew up listening to his stories about the Arizona. He was my only "Dad," as my biological father died when I was only 18 months old. (He was the best Dad a boy could ever have.) On the ship, every night you had to hang up your hammock to sleep in. But first you had to stand at the foot and say a bed time prayer!

One time the Arizona sailed out of New York City Harbor, and everybody was very exited. This was to be a fun cruise down to the Virgin Islands in the tropics. After the ship had been out to sea for three days, a great storm struck. When a ship as big as the Arizona is tossed about in the Ocean, at least half of the

crew become "seasick." Cecil Worst, my Dad, was leaning over the deck rail as sick as an Arizona Coyote. Another sailor leaned over the rail, with a loose fitting shirt half unbuttoned. Surprise, Surprise! My Dad saw a large breast fall out of the shirt! Quickly it was retrieved and the sailor disappeared below deck. One of Dad's shipmates exclaimed, I know that is the same woman that we were dancing with three days ago back in New York City! As soon as this was reported to the Skipper, everyone was restricted to his quarters. You could only leave if you had to go on duty. And if you had to go to the "Head" (Navy bathroom), you had to show the lookout that you were a man! Finally, the woman was located and taken back to New York City. But no one ever did find out who the scalawag was, who smuggled her on board the ship!! Recently, I found one of my Dad's shipmates from The USS Arizona BB39, Horatio Nelson Warren, and he told the same identical story.

Today the USS Arizona BB39 still rests on the bottom of Pearl Harbor Bay. The eleven hundred and four (1,104) service men that went down with her are still entombed within her hull. Many survivors of that attack requested to be entombed there upon their death. Their requests have been granted.

On May 30, 1962, a beautiful Memorial was erected over the ship. It contains the names of all military personnel killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. At low tide, part of the super structure can be seen above water. Because of all the men entombed there, no diver is allowed to enter the ship. Every thirty seconds a drop or two of fuel oil escapes from the huge storage tank below deck. When it pops to the top of the sea water, it blends into a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors, as if paying homage to the dead. In the forward (No.1) gun turret, the gallant gun crew are still there, forever on silent sentry duty.

My Dad, Cecil Worst, was discharged from the Navy in 1928. If he would have stayed for his 20 years, he would still be on the Arizona. For his duty station was down in the forward fire room, where the biggest explosion occurred. I praise the Lord that he was not down there on December 7, 1941.

Let us all remember that day that will always live in infamy! And by all means, Let us remember the USS Arizona BB39!!