A temporary repair of the shoreside dock at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center allowed walk-on visitation to the memorial today at noon for the first time in over two weeks as part of “operational testing” that included the general public, the National Park Service said.
A steel collar that attaches the dock to the metal gangway broke on Sept. 3, and the gangway was determined to be in danger of sliding into the harbor, officials previously said. Visitation via Navy boats to the sunken battleship grave was suspended the same day.
The park service said today that it and Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii had completed “phase one repairs” to the shoreside dock.
A photo posted by the park service to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Facebook page showed the first visitors walking on the gangway at about noon.
“Everything so far, so good,” park service spokeswoman Emily Pruett said about 3 p.m. “We are still monitoring it.”
If the repairs hold, programs to the memorial will run as regularly scheduled beginning Tuesday, officials said. “Additional repair work will be done as necessary,” the park service added.
“It’s just wonderful to be able to facilitate” resumed access to the memorial “and it’s just great to be a part of the team effort to bring that back to the public,” Pruett said.
Some past dock problems have kept visitors away from the Arizona Memorial for long periods of time — and that was on the minds of officials with the upcoming 80th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.
Randy Stratton, whose father was Don Stratton, one of the better-known crew members on the famed battleship, posted to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Facebook page that he “will be there in dec to celebrate my dad.”
Stratton’s death in February of 2020 at age 97 left, and still leaves, just two living survivors.
It was 8:06 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, when death raced through the Arizona. A 1,760-pound Japanese high-altitude armor-piercing bomb had penetrated the Arizona’s decks 40 feet from the bow, igniting a million pounds of gunpowder for the ship’s massive 14-inch guns.
Stratton, then a seaman 1st class, described it in his book, “All the Gallant Men,” as a “great sucking sound, like a whoosh” that rocked the ship with concussive force.
A total of 1,177 crew were killed on the Arizona. More than 900 are still entombed on the ship.
The explosion blew apart the forward decks, collapsing turret No. 1 some 28 feet and sending a fireball 500 feet into the air. Stratton, 19, and several other men were in a metal box 70 feet off the water — the port side anti-aircraft “director” — where they were in danger of being cooked to death.
“The flames swallowed the foremast where we were,” the Nebraska native said in the book. “As they shot through the two openings of the enclosure, we shielded ourselves by taking shelter under some of the equipment, our hands covering our mouths and eyes. But the flames found us, catching us all on fire, burning off our clothes, our hair, our skin.”
Six men, Stratton included, were saved by climbing hand-over-hand on a rope thrown at the last second by a sailor on the adjacent repair ship USS Vestal in one of the most dramatic rescues of the day.