Phoenix plaza to hold groundbreaking for incoming WWII memorial

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Pictured are two WWII guns. A groundbreaking for a World War II memorial will be held on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza near the Arizona Capitol Museum. (Windsor Smith/DD)

A groundbreaking for a World War II memorial will be held on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza near downtown Phoenix.

The plaza will soon be home to two gun barrels from two World War II era battleships, the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri, Assistant Director for the Arizona Capitol Museum Luke Bate said. The groundbreaking will be incorporated into the Arizona Capitol Museum’s annual noontime speaker series.

The plaza has monuments for nearly every major military conflict but was missing a complete World War II monument, said Matt Roberts, director of communications for the secretary of state’s office.

“Once we found out that there are two barrels available and that our memorial plaza didn’t have a complete tribute to World War II, we decided to take on this journey of constructing a World War II memorial,” Roberts said.

The cost of the new memorial is approximately a half a million dollars, he said. The money is entirely from donations and private contributions and will not come from taxpayer dollars.

The memorial is expected to be completed one year from the Dec. 7 groundbreaking ceremony, Roberts added.

The gun barrels that are now being used in the memorial were at risk of being melted down, he said.

When the Arizona Capitol Museum asked to use the USS Arizona gun barrel, the Navy’s office of decommissioned ships originally said no and offered one of the four USS Missouri barrels, said Robert Flores, special project coordinator at the museum. Only after asking for both barrels did the Navy agree to allow the capitol museum to have the USS Arizona barrel on permanent loan, Flores said.

The approximately 67-foot barrel from the USS Arizona will be moved from its current location in Virginia to be part of the plaza’s memorial, Flores said.

A steel structure in the shape of the USS Arizona hull with the names of Arizonans who died in World War II will also be included in the memorial, Roberts said.

Wesley Bolin Plaza has an anchor and a mast from the USS Arizona. Both objects will be incorporated into the design on the east and west sides of the memorial, Roberts said.

The memorial groundbreaking will be incorporated into the Arizona Capitol Museum’s annual noontime speaker series. The memorial should be completed in one year. (Windsor Smith/DD)

The Arizona Capitol Museum’s Pearl Harbor Day event will begin at approximately 11 a.m. with a traditional remembrance ceremony followed by the groundbreaking, Bate said.

“The attack took place on Dec. 7 at 8:55, which was 10:55 Arizona time,” Bate said, “so the event starts at the same time frame.”

After the groundbreaking the noontime speaker, Rear Admiral Gregory C. Horn, will discuss military life with several student groups that will attend, Bate said.

Horn is the Deputy Chief Chaplain for Reserve Matters and Director of Religious Programs for the Marine Forces Reserve. He has served in both the Navy Contingency and the Marines, Flores said.

To learn more about the USS Arizona, visitors can also tour the USS Arizona exhibit at the capitol museum, Bate said. Admission to the museum and events are free, Bate said.

“Our current USS Arizona exhibit is about how the ship is a symbol and identifiable part of the state,” Bate said. “We follow how the ship was created as a way to honor the United State’s newest state.”

Four survivors from the attack on Oahu will also be attending the Pearl Harbor Day ceremony, Flores said.

A flag that was flown over the USS Arizona will also be on display during the event, Bate said. The flag is from the Salt River Maricopa Indian Community and will have a ceremonial guard throughout the day.

Contact the reporter at mallory.price@asu.edu