Project to Bring Historic Military Artifacts to State Capitol
PHOENIX – Preserving history is an important function of the Arizona Capitol Museum. One of the most popular exhibits in the Museum is a display of USS Arizona artifacts and Ken Bennett, who oversees the division of the state library as Secretary of State, would like to see the collection of World War II artifacts expanded by two. A 14" gun from the USS Arizona, and a 16" gun from the USS Missouri. The guns would be displayed as a part of WWII exhibit representing the beginning and end of the war.
Without doubt, the military presence in Arizona during the war helps explain the state's post-war explosion of population and economic activity. Citing pleasant weather and plentiful opportunities in manufacturing, agriculture and mining, thousands of returning GI's flocked to Arizona and made our state what it is today. That's why a special project spearheaded by Secretary of State Ken Bennett is so important to our veterans, their families, active military personnel and generations of future Arizonans.
Acting on information that the historic guns from the USS Arizona and USS Missouri could be sold for scrap metal, Secretary Bennett has rekindled the possibility of acquiring the military artifacts for display in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix. Mr. Bennett hopes that the addition of the guns from the Arizona and Missouri will encourage people to reflect on the magnitude World War II and admire the strength and courage it takes to defend a nation.
"In our mind, these guns will be visible bookends to the beginning and end of the war," said Secretary Bennett. "The attack on Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona propelled the United States to declare war on Japan, whose allies in turn, declared war on the United States. Four years later, the USS Missouri was the site of Japanese capitulation in Tokyo Bay bringing an end to World War II. These historic guns played a role in allied victories around the globe and shouldn't be melted down and recycled into soda cans. We can do better than that."
Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, one block east from the state capitol, is named after former Arizona Governor Wesley Bolin and is home to over 30 monuments honoring the military, law enforcement, notable figures, civic leaders and more.
"When we started looking into placing them in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza we were surprised to learn that the state hasn't officially dedicated a memorial for World War II," continued Bennett. "The Plaza is already home to the signal mast and anchor from the USS Arizona. By incorporating these guns into a complete memorial, we pay special tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to preserve freedom around the world."
Due to their weight, length and location in Virginia, the guns will require special permits, lifting equipment and transportation logistics. Several local companies have expressed interest helping Secretary Bennett with the project, but much remains to be worked out if the guns are to be in Phoenix by December 7 the 70th anniversary of the sinking.
"The biggest hurdle we face is getting the guns from the east coast to Arizona," Bennett said. "We estimate that the costs of handling nearly 200 tons could be over $500,000, and we will be funding the project with private contributions, not taxpayer dollars. If every veteran in Arizona gave $5, we've paid for the project. Combined with grateful citizens or families who would like to make a contribution in a loved one's memory, or simply out of respect for our veterans, we can quickly raise the necessary funding to complete the project by next year's centennial. It's our hope that on the 70th anniversary the "Day of Infamy" this December, we will have two reminders of what 'peace through strength' really means."
Secretary Bennett has launched a website, www.gunstosalutethefallen.com along with popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter where people can track the project and find out how to make a contribution.