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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA exhibit gives glimpse of life on the USS Arizona, commemorates Pearl Harbor attack

Jesus Barrera
Co-Curator of the USS Arizona exhibit Trent Purdy shows the different historical items that were recovered from the ship after the bombing of the ship in pearl harbor.

UA’s Special Collections will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor with the opening of “The Life and Legacy of the USS Arizona” exhibit this fall.

The exhibit pays tribute to the 1,177 crewmen who went down with Arizona’s namesake battleship, the USS Arizona, as well as the thousands of men who lived and worked on the ship since its creation.

Perhaps unknown to many, the battleship and the UA have been deeply connected for decades.

In 1944, UA student Wilber L. Bill Bowers salvaged one of the ship’s original bells. That bell now hangs in the Student Union Memorial Center which was created and designed in honor of the battleship.

In its exhibit, the UA will display hundreds of primary-source photos, documents and personal effects, which have been primarily donated by USS Arizona survivors and their families.

Unique items in the exhibit include personal scrapbooks and poems, jerseys once worn by the ship’s sports teams and a shell casing engraved by one of the sailors.

Due to its long history with the battleship, the UA has become a special place for USS Arizona survivors and their families. Members of the USS Arizona Reunion Association, which formed in 1976, have meetings in Tucson four out of every five years.

As part of last year’s reunion in Tucson, the oldest survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack on the USS Arizona, Lauren Bruner, 95, rang the USS Arizona bell in SUMC along with fellow survivor Clarendon Hetrick, 92, according to UA News.

Steve Hussman, director of UA’s Special Collections, said 60-70 people attended last year’s reunion and some items from the upcoming exhibit were put on display for them.

UA’s assistant librarian and archivist, and the co-curator of the exhibit, Trent Purdy, showed these items to the survivors and their families. Purdy is exciting about the upcoming exhibit and believes it captures “the human connection to the ship.”

“It’s not just this battleship that was floating around in the water for 30 years,” Purdy said. “But you get the idea of the individual on the ship and what they were doing and what their lives were like and the culture that was on the ship.”

One of the more cultural cases in the exhibit is dedicated solely to a Navy ritual, reminiscent of a fraternity pledge week. Every time the ship crossed the equator, sailors who had crossed before, known as Shellbacks, would initiate men who were crossing for the first time, Pollywogs, by putting them “through any number of activities from torturing to spanking to shocking,” according to Purdy.

This year, even the UA’s men’s basketball team will get involved in the celebration of the USS Arizona. The team will carry a USS Arizona flag with just 48 stars to Pearl Harbor when they travel to play in the Armed Forces Classic on Veteran’s Day, according to Special Assistant to the Dean of University Libraries Jane Prescott-Smith.

Until then, the flag will be on display at “The Life and Legacy of the USS Arizona” exhibit, which opens to the public Aug. 29. Catch the exhibit before Dec. 23 at UA Special Collections, next to UA’s Main Library, which is open weekdays from 9 a.m – 6 p.m.

Follow Michelle Jaquette on Twitter.

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