USS Arizona Memorial at the University of Arizona

Black and white image of the USS Arizona

The University of Arizona, along with being a top-notch research school, is home to the USS Arizona Memorial. If you aren’t familiar with the history of the USS Arizona, it was a ship stationed at Pearl Harbor that sank during the attack on December 7th, 1941. With the sinking of the ship came the loss of more than 1,170 Navy sailors. Sadly, the average age of these sailors was between 17-22. Today 900 of the bodies remain with the ship.

There is a memorial at Pearl Harbor where the attack took place but there is also one housed at the University of Arizona made up of multiple parts.

Memorial on the Mall

USS Arizona full scale ghost ship placed over the University of Arizona mallThe large grassy area that stretches the length of the UA campus from East to West is called the UA Mall. Nestled into this outdoor space is the full-scale outline of the USS Arizona deck in red brick, on the ground. The deck of the super-dreadnaught is 97 feet wide and 597 feet long. 1,171 bronze medallions are on display each inscribed with the name, rank, and home state of the lost crewman. A single Tucson resident was onboard. James Randolf Van Horn who quit high school during his sophomore year to join the Navy.

This memorial is community funded and you can still donate today toward its upkeep. The memorial aligns with the University’s oldest structure, Old Main. It also served as a Navy training facility after Pearl Harbor

The USS Arizona Bell

The USS Arizona bell in the student union towerInside the Student Union tower, you will find one of the two bells salvaged from the USS Arizona. UA alumni Wilbur Burrows discovered the bell about to be melted down in a Puget Sound Naval yard. He was instrumental in its procurement for the University of Arizona.

Originally intended for installation in Old Main but the sheer size of it, weighing in at over half a ton, prohibited that idea. Instead, it was installed in the Student Union clock tower. It was rung on special occasions for half a century until that structure was razed to make way for new construction. The USS Arizona Bell was reinstalled in the new clock tower in 2022. Wilbur Burrows at the age of 99 was given the honor of ringing it in its new home for the first time. Today the bell is considered a Navy artifact and is no longer rung.

Other Nods to the USS Arizona

USS Arizona sculpture by Susan GambleAt the North entrance to the Student Union Memorial Center, you’ll find a sculpture by local Tucson artist Susan Gamble. If you think her name sounds familiar it might be because she owns Santa Teresa Tile Works. Gambles sculpture includes 1,511 metal tags to represent the “dog tags” of each of the men serving the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. On days with a strong breeze, these tags can sound like wind chimes throughout the Student Union breezeway. The sculpture is also resembles the mast of a ship. Near this sculpture, you will also find the USS Arizona Memorial Fountain. This beautiful fountain incorporates anchor chains and metal plating, its intention is to resemble a ship’s hull.

Additionally, in the University of Arizona’s Special Collections library, you will find one of the largest archives of the USS Arizona artifacts in the world. On the second floor of the student union, you will find a memorial display on loan from the Special Collections.

Other Things To Do at the University

There’s a lot more to see on campus than just the USS Arizona Memorial. If you have an interest in the arts, we highly recommend checking out the Center for Creative Photography or the UA Museum of Art.

For the science and nature inclined there’s the Flandrau Planetarium and the nearby Alphie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum. Whatever you decide to do we promise you’re sure to enjoy yourself!