On December 7, 1941 at dawn, Japan awakens the “sleeping giant” by bombing U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor base in the Hawaiian archipelago. In two hours, twenty vessels were sunk or damaged and 164 aircraft destroyed.
Denouncing “a date that will forever be marked in history, …” President Franklin Roosevelt declared war on Japan, changing the course of World War II when many of his compatriots still hoped to escape the conflict.
In remembrance of the 2400 Americans who died, nearly half, exactly 1177, died in a few seconds aboard the Arizona, when a bomb blew up the ship’s ammunition depot, which burned for nearly three days.
Today, the wreck is still visible, flush with the surface. One of its turrets emerges clearly rusty, surmounted by an American flag. Every day hundreds of visitors from the ship contemplating a memorial built just above the wreck.
“It’s a big piece of history. It’s very impressive,” said Gord Woodward, a Canadian tourist, above the building officially considered a military cemetery.
This does not fail to impress the tourists, it is the drops of gasoline rise to the surface every 20 to 30 seconds.
“Some call it the ‘Black Tears’ as if men were crying still inside the ship,” said one of the guides on board of the memorial.
Oil on all floors
Before the attack, the tanks were full of Arizona to the brim with 5,700 tons of fuel, the building should be ready to sail in case of conflict. Part of the tanks was destroyed by the explosion, but those behind were only cracked, said Daniel Martinez, historian attached to the memorial of Arizona.
Since then, the ship exudes at 3.5 liters per day, according to the historian, for whom “environmentally speaking, it does not pose a big problem.” “We do not really know how much fuel is left inside,” he admits, however.
Mr. Martinez, who has plunged several times into the shell, shows that at each level floats a layer of fuel from 30 cm to one meter thick. It ensures that Arizona is nevertheless become a coral reef, which hosts thousands of species of fish.
“Two sea turtles have the same address for service in the interior,”.
The historian acknowledges that a spill could invade the Bay of “Pearl Harbor” if the wreck had to crack, releasing a sudden his remaining fuel. “We are fully aware of this risk, but the ship seems strong enough to prevent a mass exodus of oil,” he hopes.
Studies have shown that the metal structure of the building, built during World War I, could take another 600 to 800 years. At worst, “the dams could completely surround the wreck in the space of 30 minutes,” promised Mr. Martinez.
Wednesday, hundreds of survivors of Pearl Harbor, of which seven were aboard the Arizona, will parade for the remembrance ceremony at the naval base that remains active. While flags are at half mast throughout the United States, a minute’s silence will be observed at 7:55, at a time when the first bombs fell.
In the afternoon, the remains of Vernon Olsen, a survivor of Arizona who died last year, will be submerged inside the ship. Since 1941, thirty former sailors have joined their comrades in this underwater tomb.