November 10, 2011 - Representatives from PHX Rotary 100, the Arizona Department of Administration, Geotechnical Testing & Inspections, the DLR Group and the AZSOS meet at the signal mast from the USS Arizona in Wesley Boling Park for a site visit.
Update from Secretary Bennett
November 7, 2011
Since we've began, we've made significant progress. We have kicked off a successful fundraising campaign receiving contributions from corporate sponsors and individual donors. The project has generated considerable public interest and momentum through our promotional efforts. In fact, Arizona State University and Arizona Diamondbacks broadcasted a video we produced during recent home games.
The Phoenix Rotary 100 Club has generously agreed to act as our sponsoring charity and has designated two exclusive committees of dedicated members of the club, to develop and design the memorial. As a group, we've met with the Arizona Department of Administration and begun preparations for architectural renderings, soil testing, crane work and a heavy haul company who is visiting Dahlgren on November 4th to provide logistic information and another price quote.
Considering all options and alternatives, we've also contacted BNSF and Norfolk Southern who have expressed interest in providing rail service along their respective lines from Virginia to Arizona. We've submitted a dimensional load form to Norfolk Southern and continue to work with BNSF to determine our most cost-effective course of action. It's our hope that we will have a final transportation plan within the next 60 days.Ammunition Loading SystemSecretary Bennett discusses Project on 12 News LunchCast
Arizona has big plans in the works to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 - so big they have to be brought in by train.
The U.S. Navy has granted Secretary of State Ken Bennett permission to indefinitely house two World War II warship guns - weighing 70 and 140 tons - in front of the state Capitol. Bennett will soon begin trying to raise up to $500,000 in private funds to transport the two guns from Virginia and Maryland, clean them up and display them.
The state has official memorials at the Capitol for every war except World War II, Bennett said.
Arizona does have two large items from the war already on display at the Capitol: the anchor and signal mast from the USS Arizona, the ship that symbolizes America's entry into World War II. The USS Arizona sank during Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, killing more than a thousand people. But they are not part of an official memorial.
Now, Bennett wants to import the last unclaimed gun from the ship.
Bennett originally wanted just the one gun, but military officials were hesitant to give him the last USS Arizona gun. Instead, they offered him a 68-foot gun from the USS Missouri, the ship that was the site of the Japanese surrender that ended World War II.
"We thought about it ... and I said, 'Forget this,' " Bennett said. " 'This is Arizona.' "
So Bennett came back with a new offer to take both guns and position them around the items the state already has from the USS Arizona, as bookends representing the beginning and end of the war.
That plan sold the deal.
The Legislature still must approve the placement of the guns in the Capitol Mall, said Matt Roberts, spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office.
Bennett is still working out some details.
He'll need to hire a crane company to load the guns for transport from their current homes: the USS Arizona gun from Virginia and the USS Missouri gun from Maryland. Then he'll likely need to ship them by rail because licenses to carry heavy loads across 2,000 miles of different states would be costly.
He has asked the Arizona National Guard and state Department of Corrections to help with the cleanup process; the guns have been sitting around rusting for decades.
Finally, Bennett wants to build display bases for the guns, but he's not sure those will be done by Dec. 7.
"We're trying to do something in four to five months that normally takes four to five years," Bennett said.
But even before any of that work begins, Bennett needs to raise money to fund it. He said he's considering corporate sponsorships, but he wants individuals and families to make donations to honor loved ones.
To generate interest in the memorial once it's built, he wants to place markers around the Valley indicating how far bullets from the guns could travel - the Arizona gun shoots its 14-inch shells about 12 miles and the Missouri gun shoots its 16-inch ones about 20 miles, Bennett said.
Bennett admits caring for war memorials isn't in his official job description, "unless these guns want to vote or something." But he's been a "history nut" since childhood. He obsessed over a middle-school assignment he wrote about World War II. He said he loved it, even though he got an A-.
Bennett said he can't take all the credit for the memorial idea. John Thomas, another "history nut" who was previously chief attorney for the House, saw an article about war guns that didn't have homes at least 10 years ago. Unable to bear the idea that some of these historical guns might be sold for scrap metal, Thomas suggested bringing them to the Arizona State Capitol Museum. But nothing came of it until he brought it up again this year.
Thomas called Bennett's office because the secretary of state oversees the museum, a branch of the State Library, Archives and Public Records.
"It just seemed wrong to have that (gun) barrel sitting in a naval shipyard," Thomas said. "It seemed right to have it in Arizona."
Thomas said people won't be able to understand what time period the guns hail from until they see them up close.
"Battleships are a bygone era," Thomas said. "It's different than when you just see something on a piece of paper. You can touch it. You can see it. You can imagine."