Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Where Was the USS Arizona in World War I?

The USS Arizona, New York Harbor, 26 December 1918

The battleship USS Arizona is remembered today because of its tragic demise at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and its status as a national memorial. However, it was on the navy rolls for the entirety of America's involvement in the Great War. Advertised as the most modern "super-dreadnought" afloat, with its sister ship, the USS Pennsylvania,  it was certainly a candidate for  the world's most powerful man-of-war. It had 12 14-in guns, armor ranging from 13.5 to 18 inches, and was propelled by four sets of steam turbines. So how did the U.S. Navy use this mighty ship in the Great War?

Both ships of the class were used for training and ceremonial purposes up to and after the Armistice. Arizona's specific mission was to train the gun crews of the cargo ships that were being armed. She suffered the indignity of having some of her 5-inch guns dismounted for use on the freighters. (Pennsylvania, meantime, served as flag ship of the Atlantic Fleet and performed other training duties.) Now why hold them out of the battle zone? The official line is that burned fuel oil, which was in short supply in the European theater. In 1917 the U.S. sent a number of coal-fired battleships that served with the Grand Fleet out of the Firth of Forth. Later in the war the navy used some additional battle-wagons that were oil-fueled, but not its most modern ships. Possibly it was judged unwise to expose the navy's biggest investment to a lucky shot from a U-boat.

Once hostilities ended, though, Arizona was among the ships chosen to escort President Wilson to France for the Peace Conference and to participate in the Fleet Review (shown above) at New York Harbor on the day after Christmas 1918.


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