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The USS Arizona Memorial

World War II Memorial at Pearl Harbor


Designed by architect Alfred Preis, the USS Arizona Memorial appears to float in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, over the remains of the sunken battleship.
Bright white USS Arizona National Memorial over the sunken hull of the Battleship Arizona, 1962

Aerial view of USS Arizona National Memorial, 1962, spanning the sunken hull of the battleship

Photo by MPI / Getty Images

When Japan bombed the Territory of Hawaii on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona sank in 9 minutes and burned for over two days. The battleship went down with 1.4 million gallons of fuel and 1,177 sailors—nearly half of the total casualties of that day. The sacred spot is the final resting place for those crew members—and to this day, about two quarts of fuel continue to leak from the vessel.

A memorial to the deceased took many years to become a reality. Design specifications from the Navy mandated that the memorial should be a bridge, spanning the sunken ship, but without touching it. The memorial structure straddles the hull of the sunken Arizona.

About the Memorial:

Dedicated: Memorial Day, May 30, 1962
Architect: Alfred Preis of Johnson, Perkins, and Preis
Length: 184 feet (56 meters) long, spans the mid-portion of the sunken battleship, USS Arizona
End Dimensions: 36 feet wide and 21 feet high at the ends
Center Dimension: 27 feet wide and 14 feet high
Stability: appears to float, but it does not; two 250-ton steel girders and 36 concrete pilings driven into bedrock support the Memorial
Design: Three sections: (1) entry room, (2) open central assembly room and observation area, the (3) shrine room, with names of the deceased carved in a marble wall
Accessibility: Accessible by boat
Significance: Constructed to honor all American service members who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941

"Upon this sacred spot, we honor the specific heroes who surrendered their lives....While they were in full bloom, so that we could have our full share of tomorrow."—Olin F. Teague, Chairman, Veterans Affairs Committee

In the Words of Alfred Preis, Architect:

"Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory....The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses...his innermost feelings."

About the Architect, Alfred Preis:

Born: 1911, Vienna, Austria
Educated: Vienna University of Technology
Refugee: Fled German occupied Austria in 1939; immigrated to the peaceful Territory of Hawaii
Prewar: Dahl and Conrad Architects of Honolulu, 1939-1941
WWII years, 1941-1943: Internment for 3 months in Honolulu after December 7, 1941 attack; small projects for a private contractor; advocate for "the social responsibilities of architecture and the ways in which architecture could improve the world after the war" (Sakamoto and Britton)
Postwar: Advocate for freedom, democracy, the arts, and cultural education; 1959 commission to design the Memorial
Died: March 29, 1993, Hawaii

Learn More About the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor:

What other Austria-born architect
designed a World War II Memorial? Find out more. >>>

Sources: Frequently Asked Questions and History & Culture, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, National Park Service; "Proclamation Presented in Recognition of Alfred Preis and the USS Arizona Memorial," May 30, 2012 PDF; USS Arizona Memorial Discovery Packet, The Legacy of Pearl Harbor (PDF), USS Arizona Memorial, National Park Service [accessed December 6, 2013]; Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff by Dean Sakamoto and Karla Britton, Yale University Press, 2008, p. 55

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