/ Modified nov 12, 2013 10:18 a.m.

AZ Week: Phoenix WWII Memorial Honors Vets

Main focus are the men, women from Arizona who died in World War II, Secretary of State Ken Bennet says.


A new World War II memorial in Phoenix is nearly completed.

Bennet WWII Memorial in PHX large Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett stands in the nearly completed WWII memorial in Phoenix.

As the dedication ceremony on Dec. 7 - the 72nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor - approaches, those involved in bringing the memorial to life have spent the past 18 months ensuring the structure honors Arizona's and the entire country's WWII fallen.

The main focus of the memorial are the men and women from Arizona who died in the war, said Secretary of State Ken Bennett, one of the main hands in the project.

Stainless steel plates display the names of the 2,000 Arizonans, from all different branches in the military, who perished in the war. The plates hang throughout the sides of nine pillars, which represent the amount of time - nine minutes - it took the USS Arizona to sink after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"That has really given a very personal aspect...to the whole monument," Bennett said.

There will also be a 405-inch sidewalk made of white granite, with each inch representing 1,000 American lives lost in the war, he said.

But there are two pieces of the structure, which were part of the memorial since the beginning, and ignited its origin: the last remaining gun barrel from USS Arizona, and one of the seven remaining gun barrels from USS Missouri.

It all began with a former worker of the state's House of Representatives, John Thomas.

"(He) ran across an article indicating that the U.S. Navy still had one remaining gun barrel from the battles of (USS Arizona), and there was some mention that if they didn't do anything with it, (they would probably get rid of it)," Bennett said. "So he showed up at my office, and asked if I could contact the Navy, so they could (give) it to us and we could put it here."

Name plates WWII Memorial in PHX large Steel plates with names of 2,000 Arizonans, who perished in WWII.

After several phone calls to the Navy's Department of Inactive Ships, Bennett finally managed to get the Arizona gun barrel, as well as one from Missouri to travel across the country and make their way to Phoenix.

The entire project is financed privately, Bennett said.

"No tax dollars (are) being spent," he said. "And lots of companies and individuals have contributed money to help get us where we are at. We are looking pretty good."

Bennett said he, and all of those involved in the memorial, hope to have one of the 11 surviving Arizona sailors from Pear Harbor at the dedication ceremony next month.

"There were about 1,400 sailors and Marines in the (USS) Arizona," he said. "In the explosion, 1,177 were killed, and (from the 230 who survived that day), only 11 remain alive today, with one living in the state. We are trying to get him here (if his health permits) and honor him."

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