A piece of history — part of the USS Arizona — arrives in Brevard


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Talk about special delivery.

A few weeks ago, FedEx delivered a huge package to the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island. Inside was a piece of major significance in United States military history.

The artifact is not particularly pretty. It looks like a rusted piece of metal, and that is indeed what it is. But, this is precious metal from the superstructure of the USS Arizona, the battleship bombed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship exploded and sank, taking with it the lives of 1,177 officers and crew, approximately half of the men lost in the attack that fateful morning.

The 40-inch-by-50-inch piece weighs 250 pounds and required a 300-pound crate, plus $1,600 in shipping fees, to transport it from its former resting place in Hawaii to its new home in Brevard County.

Arizona’s surviving superstructure, the part of the ship above the main deck, was scrapped in 1942 and moved to an island Navy yard, where it languished for almost 80 years.

Two years ago, Veterans Memorial Center president Dean Schaaf received a message from the Navy that part of the superstructure was available for the museum.

“I requested a piece and they finally agreed,” said Schaaf, who also is the curator of the museum associated with the Veterans Memorial Center.

The piece of the Arizona is now on temporary exhibit at the museum’s library, awaiting the renovation of the museum’s elevator. It will be transported upstairs to its permanent home near a model of the ship and a 6-foot map of Pearl Harbor on the morning of the attack.

Commissioned in 1916, the Arizona was among the ships that escorted President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I. Along with the rest of the Pacific Fleet, it was transferred to Pearl Harbor from its home port in California as a deterrent against the Japanese.

Many of the other ships sunk or damaged that day were later repaired, but the Arizona was beyond hope. Its wreck lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, below but not touching the USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated in 1962 to those who died in the attack.

Weather beaten and tired, the new artifact at the Veterans Memorial Center and Museum bears witness to one of the most tragic events in America’s history.