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Relic from ship sunk at Pearl Harbor coming to Florence Veterans Park

December 7, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence Veterans Park is already home to a chunk of limestone that was part of the area of the Pentagon that was damaged in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Now it is in line to get an ever bigger piece of history — part of the USS Arizona.

Launched on June 19, 1915, and commissioned the following year, the USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class super-dreadnought battleship that escorted President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference following WWI. She served in the U.S. Navy until Dec. 7 when, moored at Battleship Row off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, she was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The ship was struck by several bombs in the attack, and one penetrated her deck and detonated her forward powder magazine, destroying the ship and killing 1,177 sailors and Marines.

Pearl Harbor is shallow and much of the ship’s superstructure and tripod masts remained above water and had to be cut off as part of efforts to salvage sunken ships following the attack. The portion of the ship that the Florence Veterans Park is to receive will come from that, said Jim Neuman, history and heritage outreach manager for the U.S. Navy Region Hawaii.

“That superstructure was moved to a place here on Oahu and that’s actually what they’re getting a piece of,” Neuman said. That piece, he added, would likely come from the part of the ship where its boathouse and potato locker were located.

“They’ll be getting one of the bulkheads, a section of the bulkhead that made up the potato locker,” Neuman said.

The program to distribute parts of the battleship has been in existence since 1994 and has provided 105 pieces for display throughout the nation, Neuman said.

The ship holds a unique place in American history.

“Almost since the beginning it has been a touch point representing all of those who gave their lives in the attack,” Neuman said, and indirectly in the war fighting to achieve a “lasting peace.”

More than 900 souls remain aboard the ship, Neuman said. A more precise number isn’t available because of the nature of the explosion.

“Getting a piece of history for the Veterans Park is always exciting. A relic from the USS Arizona, sunk on December 7, 1941, fascinating. It’s awesome,” said Col. (R) Barry Wingard, chairman of Florence Veterans Park.

Wingard said that when committee members heard that a piece of the ship was available they immediately moved on it.

“We are not 100 percent sure what we will do. A couple of suggestions are that the relic be a part of a larger, yet-to-be designed World War II monument. Another idea is that the piece of history be part of a stand-alone remembrance to Pearl Harbor Day,” Wingard said.

At the park, in addition to the Pentagon monument, it would join the ship’s bell from the USS South Carolina, a dreadnought battleship scrapped as a result of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, and the anchor from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Comanche, which served as a convoy escort during WWII in the North Atlantic.

“A piece given to the Texas Panhandle War Memorial was five feet by six feet and weighed 400 pounds.” Wingard said.

There is also a piece on display at the World War II museum New Orleans.

The relic will be donated as-is, Wingard said.

“Florence Public Works did a remarkable job reconditioning (the ship’s bell and the anchor). The department even researched to find the same paint mixtures that were used in the World Wars by the U.S. Navy,” Wingard said.

It will fall to the Florence Veterans Park committee to get the item shipped.

“As with all monuments and sculptures in the Veterans Park, public donations will be sought to help relocate the relic from Pearl Harbor to Florence. Hopefully, one of the major nationwide major freight movers will jump on board with support. That would be some great PR for them,” Wingard said.

Once here, Neuman said, the U.S. Navy does have a few requirements that are attached to the item.

“We just ask for a photograph of how it’s being displayed and before you get it we’ll ask them what is your intent and once you put it on display we’d like to see it,” Neuman said.

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