Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Police chief visits memorial

December 5, 2001

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the USS Arizona sat quietly docked on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor, rocking silently on the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

At 8:10 a.m., nearly 15 minutes into the Japanese attack on the naval station, a fuse-delayed bomb struck between the first and second gun turrets, causing the ship to sink to the bottom of the harbor.

The bomb struck the forward magazine, where the ship's ammunition was stored, causing the single most devastating loss of life in United States Naval history.

Remains of the ship can still be seen today with a rusty gun turret protruding from the waters of the Pacific and a hatchway still visible from above.

Basehor Police Chief Vince Weston, a retired Army sergeant major, recently visited the Arizona Memorial during a vacation to the Hawaiian Islands, where he visited his son, who is also in the military.

It was his fourth such trip to the memorial, which Weston said he makes every time he goes to Hawaii.

"A reason I go to the memorial and other memorials is that it is important to remember our service men and women who lost their lives defending this country," Weston said. "What is important about remembering Pearl Harbor is that people sometimes forget how an attack can change a nation's resolve."

According to published accounts, the blow to the Arizona caused the single loudest explosion during the Sunday morning attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Witnesses said it was the worst explosion they had heard," Weston said.

Although an exact figure has never been released, it is believed that more than 1,178 naval officers died aboard the ship, many of them still entombed there today.

Due to the escalating world situation, security around the fallen ship has been beefed up, Weston said.

Nearly 1,200 people visit the memorial every day.

During his trip, Weston witnessed Navy divers patrolling the waters near the ship, in an effort to keep the area safe from terrorist activities.

"While we were there, a boat came up with a couple of demolition divers and they swam underneath doing a security check," Weston said.

And while Friday marks the 60th anniversary of the attack that led to the United States involvement in World War II, Weston said the event could be seen as a source of pride for the military as well as American citizens.

"It displayed how the American military can rally from an attack or event and still defend the country, and do what is necessary to right a wrong," he said.

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