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USS Arizona
Country USA; Canada
Service 1916-1962
Branch United States Navy; Royal Canadian Navy
Current Status Museum ship, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Type Pennsylvania-class battleship
Engagements/Battle Honours Battle of San Francisco
USS Arizona (BB-39) - 1930s

The USS Arizona (BB-39) at sea after its modernization in the 1930s.

USS Arizona (BB 39) was a Pennsylvania-class battleship built for and by the United States Navy in the mid-1910s. Named in honor of the 48th state's recent admission into the union, the ship was the second and last of the Pennsylvania class of "super-dreadnought" battleships. Although commissioned in 1916, the ship remained stateside during World War I. Shortly after the end of the war, Arizona was one of a number of American ships that briefly escorted President Thomas R. Marshall to the Paris Peace Conference. The ship was sent to Turkey in 1919 at the beginning of the Greco-Turkish War to represent American interests for several months. Several years later, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and remained there for the rest of her career.

Aside from a comprehensive modernization in 1929–1931, Arizona was regularly used for training exercises between World War I and the Second American Civil War, including the annual Fleet Problems (training exercises). When the Second American Civil War broke out in 1933, Arizona provided support for Loyalist forces, including participating in the Battle of San Francisco, the last major battle of the war. Despite the Communist victory at San Francisco, Arizona managed to escape to Vancouver, where she was sold to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1934 for the symbolic price of one Canadian dollar.

HMCSArizonaBB39

The Arizona at anchor in Halifax in late 1937, still flying the US Flag and with her original float planes on board.

In 1936, the RCN sailed Arizona to Halifax under the escort of both the RN and RCN Pacific Fleet, where she was stationed throughout the Second World War.

Early in 1939, the Canadian government considred scrapping her or at the very least selling her to someone who might need a battleship and could actually maintain her. Attempts were made to sell the Arizona to Argentina, Brazil, and even Sweden though all three nations refused the offer.

The Arizona spent most of the Second World War undergoing an extensive overhaul which started in August 1939 and was expected to be completed in late 1941.[1]

In December 1941, the Arizona was working up with a projected recommissioning date in early to mid 1942. The initial sea trials however would expose numerous issues which pushed back the date of commissioning.[2]

Thus kept from doing what they wanted to do, the Canadian Naval Staff did what they were forced to do, even though they knew that an enormous amount of effort and scarce resources would be needed to accomplish things.

The biggest issue up front was the armament of the ship. While using the new dual-purpose secondary guns and light anti-aircraft artillery pieces the British were using presented only a relatively minor challenge, the main battery almost ended up a deal=breaker. Initially the Canadian Navy looked at using the 14" ammunition for the proposed BL 14"/45-caliber Mk.VII naval guns.

In the end it was a young Franco-Canadian Lieutenant who was at the time a bag carrier for one of the Officers in the working group tasked with coordinating the rebuild, asked why they wouldn't just look at fitting the existing British 14"/45-caliber gun to the turret. The dimensions were roughly the same for the version used in the erstwhile American Dreadnought. It was pointed out to the Lieutenant, and somewhat acidly, that the British guns may have the same length, but they weighed a lot more, in fact a difference of nearly forty tons per, and that was without the balancing weight.

But in the end no one could come up with a better idea except not firing her guns at all to save on wear, and teams of engineers went out to study what sort of modifications would need to be made to the turrets. Much to their surprise, it turned out that the turrets themselves would need only need relatively minor modifications to accept a British-style mounting, especially if the balancing weight was left which reduced elevation but would not require a complete rebuild of the gunhouse.

As it turned out though, things were not quite that easy, as the heavy weight of the guns themselves required so many modifications and additions to the load-bearing structure that the weight ended up being added as it increased the weight by only another twelve tons.

Even so the ship could never fire more than half-salvos for fear of ripping her own hull apart, and even for that she was only cleared after extensive tests and under the responsibility of the yard during her trials. She still ended up taking stress damage which contributed to her early retirement in 1950.

When the British were approached about this they were receptive to the idea, as it meant an additional Dreadnought for very little, but there was still the issue of supplying the guns. It would take until after the last KGV had been delivered it's initial set of guns, but in winter 1942/43 a freighter carrying the first set of guns arrived in Halifax, with a set of spares arriving in Canada in spring 1944.

Commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Arizona (DN-01) in September 1943, she then went on extensive sea trials, first once across the Atlantic and then in the quiet Mediterranean where she twice was called on to provide fire support for the French Army's grinding efforts in the South of France.

With massive British assistance and utilizing professional expertise of American expatriates, of which several had worked on her during her 1929 modernization, the Canadians had managed to construct a crane large enough to handle gun replacement, it was even able to lift the entire turret off in it's new, far heavier configuration.

By December she was declared fully operational and slated to join the gathering Allied Pacific Fleet, but on January 19th 1944, Arizona suffered an engineering casualty that took months to repair, even if it was a fairly simple issue from an engineering point of view. By the time she re-joined the Fleet in early April that year, the planning for Operation Jaywick and onwards were mostly complete, so she was instantly sent to join Force Z.[3]

After the end of World War II, there were multiple attempts to either put her into service or have her scrapped, before the Canadian government decided to turn her into a museum ship.

The USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated on May 30th, 1962 to the fall of the United States, remains a popular tourist attraction in Halifax, alongside HMCS Vimy Ridge. She is a mecca for the American Exile community and maintained through donations. The Arizona received a comprehensive overhaul to keep it in mint condition in late 2012.

1939-1941 Rebuild SpecificationsEdit

  • Commissioned: September 18th, 1943
  • Decommissioned: July 4th, 1962
  • Class: Pennsylvania-class
  • Type: Fast Battleship
  • Service Period: 1942-1956
  • Characteristics:
    • Length: 608 feet (185.32 meters)
    • Beam: 106 feet 3 inches (32.39 meters)
    • Draft: 29 feet 3 inches (8.92 meters)
    • Displacement: 32,110 (Standard); 35,161 tons (Full Load)
  • Crew: 1,160 (180 officers and (980 enlisted)
  • Propulsion: 4 x Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 4-shaft Parsons geared turbines, 120,000 shp
  • Range: 9,200 nautical miles (17,038 kilometers) at 12 knots (22.22 km/h)
  • Speed: 26.5 knots (49.08 km/h)
  • Armament:
    • 12 x BL 14"/45-caliber Mk.VII naval guns (4x3)
    • 16 x QF 4"/45-caliber Mk.XVI dual purpose naval guns (8x2)
    • 48 x Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft guns (12x4)
  • Armour:
    • Belt: 13.5-inches (342.9 mm)
    • Bulkheads: 13-inches (330.2 mm)
    • Barbettes: 13-inches (330.2 mm)
    • Turrets: 18-inches (457.2 mm)
    • Decks: 5-inches (127 mm)
    • Conning Tower: 16-inches (406.4 mm)

ReferencesEdit

  1. Chapter 77
  2. Chapter 196
  3. Chapter 380

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