June 9, 2015

The Christening of the U.S.S. Arizona had Prescott Ties

It was the afternoon of June 19th, 1915 in New York.  Battleship 39, one of the greatest super-dreadnaughts the United States had ever built, was to be named after its three-year-old state, Arizona.

"Amid the shrieks of 10,000 whistles and the cheers of 40,000 American citizens, the great battleship Arizona slid" into the East River, the Journal-Miner reported.

Prescott's tie to the interesting story of the christening of the USS Arizona involved the choosing of her sponsor, Prescott belle Esther Ross, to christen her.

Esther Ross
Described as "one of the prettiest girls in the state," by an Associated Press reporter, Miss Ross, 17, of Prescott was chosen by Gov. Hunt from among 100 Arizonan applicants to preform the honor. (*

A special train car was hired to leave Prescott carrying Miss Ross, her parents, and Gov. Hunt, among others on the trip to New York.  A thousand people showed up at the Prescott depot to cheer them all off. (*4)

The history of the USS Yavapai, originally an LST, it became a "floating barracks" and support ship resupplying the smaller ships of the task forces in Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

At the time, Gov. Hunt's popularity was not at its best.  "The Governor appeared, coming out to greet Prescott, but a lack of enthusiasm was noticeable. Three cheers (were called) for the executive, and they were given, but those that followed for the pride of Prescott, Esther Ross, were heard for miles compared to the ones heard before," the paper revealed.

Not to be outdone, Senator Goldwater hired a band to serenade the Governor with "We Don't Care If You Never Come Back" as the train started to turn its wheels. 

For Miss Ross, however, the day was bright.  "This is the proudest moment of my life," she stated, "and I am most intensely gratified at the magnificent demonstration that my friends and the city of Prescott has given me."

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The liquid which was to be used to christen the great ship was the subject of much debate.  Arizona enacted prohibition the previous year and many "drys" thought it would be sacrilegious for any alcohol to touch the ship.  In fact, the special train that left Prescott held a bottle of the first water to cross over the Roosevelt Dam to be used for the christening. However, the final decision was given to Gov. Hunt and traditional champagne was eventually used.

"I dub thee Arizona," Miss Ross cried.  "Not a hitch or sign of accident marred the success of the launching," The newspaper declared. "Miss Ross performed her duty as any other Arizona girl would be expected to do, with ease, grace, and dignity...she was the happiest girl in the United States."

So proud was the state of her namesake, that a song was written and widely performed:

"The Arizona"

Noble battleship, we hail you
Bold Knight errant of the sea
Champion and strong defender
Of our birthright--Liberty!

Mighty dreadnaught Arizona
Free born millions brave and true
Proudly will your service follow
And their prayers will be with you

Namesake of our Arizona--
Youngest of the sister states
To the waves, with cheers, we send you
And the destiny that waits (*8)

At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Arizona had 37 sets of brothers assigned to it. Twenty-three sets of brothers were lost in the attack.

The Arizona refueled with 1.5 million gallons of gasoline the day before the Pearl Harbor attack. As the wreckage continues to leak oil, the gasoline on top of the water is known as "The Tears of Arizona."

Tourist Tips:

Artifacts and history of the USS Arizona can be found at different places in the state.  The ship's silver service and other artifacts are on permanent display at:
The Arizona State Capitol Museum in Phoenix.

Other artifacts are located at the University of Arizona in
The Student Union @the UofA
One of the two original USS Arizona bells is located in the Memorial Bell Tower at the Student Union and is rung for special events including home football victories.
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(*1) Prescott Journel Miner, June 20th, 1915,  pg. 1 col. 3.
(*2) Ibid, June 19th, 1915, pg. 1 col. 4.
(*3) Ibid, April 17th, 1915, pg. 1 col. 4.
(*4) Ibid, June 15th, 1915, pg. 1 col. 4.
(*5) Ibid, pg. 1 col. 1.
(*6) Ibid, April 18th, 1915, pg. 1 col. 1.
(*7) Ibid, June 18th, 1915, pg. 1 col. 6.
(*8) Ibid, June 9th, 1915 pg. 5 col, 4.

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