Don't let our sacred memories rust to oblivion with the Arizona


POSTED: Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sixty-seven years ago today, the United States of America suffered the worst military defeat in her history when Japan launched a surprise attack against Pearl Harbor.

Among those lost during this attack were more than a thousand men from the crew of the battleship Arizona.

Most of her survivors have now joined them.

In November 1991, as the 50th anniversary of the attack neared, newspapers and TV broadcasts in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., noted the passing of a resident named Guy Spalding Flanagan Jr. He was a local Pearl Harbor survivor who, as a young ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, survived the Arizona's sinking.

I was devastated at the news.

Guy Flanagan was my friend.

He also was an unsung hero. For he helped save lives the day Arizona was lost when, trapped outside a shut watertight door leading to the lower powder handling room of No. 3 turret with several crewman, he began signaling SOS on the door, calmly praying out loud all the while. As he tapped, the watch strapped to his left wrist broke, cutting his skin, but Flanagan successfully signaled to those inside to open the door.

For this, Guy earned the nickname “;Father Flanagan.”;

On May 13, 1992, his ashes were returned to the Arizona.

Sixty-seven years after the Arizona's loss, and 16 years after my friend was interred aboard, the Arizona is facing an uncertain future.

The National Park Service is undecided about whether to preserve her as corrosion continues to attack her hull.

But we must preserve the Arizona. Even if it breaks the bank doing so.

With the number of survivors of the attack rapidly decreasing, the memory of Dec. 7, 1941, is beginning to fade away with them. And if we let the Arizona corrode and collapse into a pile of rubble, what will we have left to remind us of what happened that tragic Sunday, or of survivors like Guy Flanagan?

The Arizona is a reminder of our greatest defeat that conveys better than any book or film can the terrible losses suffered. Arizona must survive because she is also a tomb for most of her victims, as well as survivors such as Flanagan who have been buried aboard.

Letting the Arizona corrode away would be tantamount to grave desecration.

I strongly urge the National Park Service to decide to preserve the Arizona.

She is too sacred a place to be lost to the sands of time.


Richard A. Krebes is a freelance writer with an interest in historical and maritime subjects. He lives in Long Lake, Minn.