WWII Memorial

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Construction is under way near the state capitol for a memorial to fallen World War Two soldiers. It will feature the names of the fallen soldiers written on a plaque that will be placed between the guns from the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri. Secretary of State Ken Bennett has spear-headed the drive for the memorial, and will tell us more.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to this "Arizona Horizon" Memorial Day special, I'm Ted Simons. Work is underway near the state capitol for a memorial to fallen World War II soldiers. The memorial will feature the names of the soldiers displayed on a plaque, situated between guns from the U.S.S. Arizona and the U.S.S. Missouri. Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has been a major force in the push for the memorial. He joins us now. Where exactly is this being built?

Ken Bennett: Kind of at the east end of what's known as Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza. Several acres of grass and trees just east of the copper dome capitol. And right between Jefferson and Washington Street, about 15th Avenue.

Ted Simons: And what kind of completion date are we looking at?

Ken Bennett: We're shooting for, going to be ready for December 7th of this year, after the traditional Pearl Harbor Day ceremony at a.m., corresponding with the Hawaii time of the attack. After that is finished we will within a few minutes thereafter begin the dedication ceremony of this new World War II memorial.

Ted Simons: Any plans on what the ceremony will be?

Ken Bennett: We hope to have fly-overs of maybe some planes from that era, and/or maybe even the current era of planes. Lots of veterans of course attending, including some Pearl Harbor survivors. And then the dedication of the two guns and the large plaque. It's actually nine large pillars in between the two guns that won't just hold a plaque, it'll hold 2,000 plaques, each Arizonan that died in World War II from all branches of the military will have a two-inch by 12-inch nameplate in stainless steel etched out with their name on it. It'll be almost like a mini Vietnam memorial.

Ted Simons: How is that design going to look? Give us a better definition of the design.

Ken Bennett: Between the two gun barrels, one from the Arizona and one from the Missouri, will be nine metal pillars, steel structures, steel beams that kind of come out of the ground and bow out at the top. It'll kind of look like the hull of a ship coming out of the ground. On the sides of those nine pillars -- and the nine represents the nine minutes it took the Arizona, the battleship to go down. On the sides of those nine steel pillars will be these individual name plaques, around 2,000 Arizonans who lost their lives in active duty during World War II. They will each have a nameplate hanging on. They will hang so that when the wind blows they will move and you'll get the feeling of maybe a wave or motion. It'll be very powerful.

Ted Simons: Sound with those?

Ken Bennett: Well, I don't know. I doubt that any sound will be created. But you'll get a visual of movement.

Ted Simons: The U.S.S. Arizona and the U.S.S. Missouri, I want to talk about how you procured the guns here, next. The fact that those two battleships are involved, talk about why that's important.

Ken Bennett: When we tried to get the last remaining gun barrel from the Arizona battleship the Navy rejected me; it's the last one, we're not sure we want to give it to you. Would you like one from the Missouri, we have seven of those left. The idea occurred to me to ask for both of them and represent that we would restore them both, and they could be the book-ends of the war, one representing the beginning of World War II in the Pacific and the other the end. It was cute, you're thinking big now, I like big thinking. I think I can get behind that idea. Sure enough, they did, and we have both barrels and they have been restored. We're working on getting the foundations built so they can be put on the foundations. Then the names of the individuals between.

Ted Simons: It really is amazing. The U.S.S. Arizona, where things started, and the U.S.S. Missouri, where the treaty was signed and things ended. How big are they?

Ken Bennett: The Arizona barrel is feet long, shoots a -inch Shell over miles. The Arizona barrel itself weighs about 70 tons.

Ted Simons: My goodness.

The Missouri barrel is 14 feet longer, 68 total feet in length, shoots a 16-inch Shell and weighs 140 tons. Almost a quarter of a million tons between the two barrels.

Ted Simons: And where were they?

Ken Bennett: They were both in naval storage yards in northern Virginia. One was at place called Dahlgren Naval Storage Facility, another at St. Julien's Creek. The Arizona barrel had been removed from the ship just prior to the attack at Pearl. Else we would not have it, all of the barrels either went down or had been cut up or melted down years ago. This one had been removed, was back east being relined. There's an inner liner you have to change after shooting so many Shells through it. It was later used on the U.S.S. Nevada, actually used at D-Day. It was later removed from the Nevada and it's been in storage for 50-plus years.

Ted Simons: As far as refurbishing, how much was needed.

Ken Bennett: A lot of it. They sat in the rain and sun for five or more decades, lots of rust. Everyone from Eagle Scouts in the community to the Arizona Air National Guard have participated in scraping and then eventually Sandblasting and repainting and it's been amazing.

Ted Simons: Who designed this particular memorial?

Ken Bennett: Well, DLR Architectural Group in Scottsdale heard about the project, and was an early volunteer business. We're not using any tax dollars. Whenever businesses expressed an interest, and DLR was one of the first, they said we'll help you design. At the time we were simply working on how to display the two gun barrels. They came up with the idea of between the gun barrels building these nine pillars and putting the names of the Arizonans who died when the war.

Ted Simons: Did they have a chance to look this over and say, I like this, I don't like that?

Ken Bennett: It eventually went to the capitol mall commission and the public had some opportunity to weigh in. Most of the design has occurred between our office and DLR and other military groups working on it for the past couple of years.

Ted Simons: Any opposition to any aspect of this project?

Ken Bennett: You know, originally there was some concern that the gun barrels on display would maybe represent more of the violence of the war than we wanted to early. And it was then that we took the idea as most memorials do, that display gun barrels at this size. The open end of the barrel will have a closing with a copper star on the end of the barrel. And that kind of turns a barrel into what was a symbol of war into now a symbol of peace. It'll never be fired again in a war situation. We think that overcame most of that little concern about whether the barrels represented too much of the violence of the war. But it's almost impossible to memorialize World War II without acknowledging the violence. And they know the fact that 405,000 Americans were killed.

Ted Simons: And again, you're confident by December 7th of this year, this is going to be toward go?

Ken Bennett: We are. ASU has been working hard on the construction drawings as the contractor firm in Tempe has been doing all of that. B&SF Railroad brought us the gun barrels back to Arizona for free. Many other companies, we're not using a dime of tax dollar. Everything is private contributions in cash or private contributions by companies providing in-kind services.

Ted Simons: Sounds like quite a project. Thanks so much for joining us.

Ken Bennett: My pleasure, thank you.

Ken Bennett:Secretary of State, Arizona;

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