The USS Arizona Bell

[ Music, bell ringing, jets overhead ] >> On December 4th, 2016, the University of Arizona community gathered on the mall to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor — >> — the fallen American heroes — >> — and to dedicate the new uss Arizona Mall Memorial.

>> — and pay tribute to those who gave their lives that day.

>> Rear Admiral Stephen Evans sets the stage for that fateful day.

>> The morning of December 7th was like any other leisurely and balmy Sunday in Pearl Harbor until the deafening sounds of explosions were all that could be heard.

The powerful attack involved 353 Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six carriers.

Within five minutes of the attack, our gunners were already trying to shoot down Japanese planes.

It was this attack that initiated us involvement in World War ii.

>> Aboard the ship during the attack were eight men from Arizona, one of them from Tucson.

Each are memorialized by the tolling of the uss Arizona bell that hangs in the bell tower at the u of a student union.

[ Music ] >> James Joseph Murphy, Seaman First Class, us Navy, Bisbee.

[ Bell ringing ] James Randolph VanHorn, able seaman, us Navy, Tucson.

[ Bell ringing ] >> In front of the bell tower are two pairs of brick walls that hold Naval brass medallions inscribed with the name, rank, and home state of 1,177 sailors and marines who died on the uss Arizona that day.

>> There were 26 pairs of brothers who both died in the ship.

I mean it’s, it’s really tough losing anyone in your family, but to lose two is just incredibly sobering.

There was also a father and son who died on the ship.

>> Real estate developer David Carter is the project designer for the uss Arizona Mall Memorial.

>> We found six of the men who were born in 1925, so they were still 16 when they died.

They enlisted when they were 14 or 15 in a much more informal era.

>> The design includes an outline to full size the deck of the Arizona, which fits perfectly on the mall from Old Main to the Desert Garden.

>> The University of Arizona has a unique bond in relationship with Pearl Harbor as the famed battleship uss Arizona and its salvaged remains now act as a memorial for the many sailors our nation lost that day.

>> One of the most significant salvaged remains, especially for the people of Arizona, is the uss Arizona bell.

>> Citizens here contributed the copper and alloys for the two bells that the ship carried.

>> The bell, which hung on the foremast of the ship, weighs a little over 1,800 pounds.

It’s identical to the bell that hung on the main mast toward the rear of the ship.

That bell is at Pearl Harbor.

Shortly after 8 a.


On the day of the attack, the last bomb to hit the Arizona penetrated the deck and plunged into the forward powder magazines.

>> The bell was about 80 feet from where the forward magazines exploded.

So if it had been much closer, we wouldn’t have it today.

After the explosion, the heat was such that the bell just dropped out of the strut that was welded to the foremast, but it was still contained within that platform.

But it was the events of December 7th that made the bell on the foremast the bell of incredible significance.

>> Another survivor of the attack is purple heart recipient Lauren Bruner, shot twice and burned over 70% of his body, he was the second to the last to leave the uss Arizona.

>> Speakers all come on, quarters, all hands, quarters.

That meant you go to your battle station.

All hands on deck.

Man your battle stations.

This is not a drill.

>> Bruner was a 21-year-old sailor during the attack.

Beyond welcoming the occasional dignitary, he says the bells on the Arizona served a more utilitarian purpose.

>> The time, the time of day.

You know, we always knew what time it was by the number of tolls on that bell; 1:00 you rang it one time, 2:00 two dongs.

Up until 8:00 it shifted back one.

>> On the aft side of the bell, only about 20 feet from where Lauren Bruner was, was the bell that today is at the University of Arizona.

>> The bell now rings only on special occasions, including u of A’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremonies.

On December 7th, 2015, Lauren Bruner and Clare Hetrick, another uss Arizona survivor, rang the bell together.

[ Bell ringing ] In 1944, three years after the attack, Bill Bowers, an Army captain stationed at Puget Sound Naval Yard in Bremerton, Washington, came across a wooden crate.

>> He was opening up crates with a crew of men, looking for brass to make bullets for the war.

He opened up a crate.

What’s he find but the uss Arizona bell.

He was, what? You know, what’s this? Look at this! Where do you think he went to school? u of a.

>> Bob Bertolini was the Senior Project Superintendent for the building of the current student union at the University of Arizona.

>> So he called the president of the university, who then called the State Department and the Defense Department, and that bell is on permanent loan now to u of a.

>> The bell was about to be melted down, and he was the right man in the right place.

>> In 1944, Army Captain Bill bowers heard that the bell from the uss Arizona in Pearl Harbor was set to be melted for scrap.

>> Car maker Hyundai thought enough of Bill Bower’s bell story to include it in one of their campaigns.

>> He got it installed back at his alma mater and rang it himself the first time, starting a 50-year Wildcat tradition.

And when that student union gave way to a new building in 2002, who got to ring the old bell in the new tower? Bill Bowers, age 99.

>> The real Bill Bowers rang the bell on a number of occasions, including this one in 1999.

Bowers passed away in 2003 at age 100.

>> Before i got here, the, the old bell tower was a wooden tower that had a grate across it.

No one could ever see the bell.

It was enclosed.

For some 40 years, no one ever saw it.

>> The bell was placed in the clock tower of the original student union in 1951.

And although it was heard, it could not be seen.

Bertolini recalls the day they placed the bell in its new home.

[ Bell ringing ] — for all to see and hear.

>> As we were putting it back in, there was a man in the mall who was saluting, and it makes me cry.

He — — he had been on the ship.

[ Music ] When you look at it, and you can see it now from standing in the mall, when you see the uss Arizona written across it, it’s got to touch you.

It’s got to mean something.

And it does.

>> It’s a very important tradition and heritage of the university that the bell from the Arizona, from the ship named for this state, is here in that tower.

>> Think of the thousands of stories that will never be told, the letters home never finished, the deck watches never turned over, the homecomings never enjoyed.

[ Music ].

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