/ Modified mar 14, 2024 3:54 p.m.

USS Arizona collection grows at UA

The public can get a first-hand look at life on-board.

Arthur Franklin USS Arizona Arthur Franklin while he served aboard the USS Arizona.
Christopher Conover, AZPM

If you walk around the University of Arizona near the Memorial Student Union, you will notice that there are reminders everywhere of the namesake battleship.

The ship’s bell hangs in a tower on the mall, anchor chains are part of a fountain near the bookstore, replica dog tags blow gently in the wind in the middle of a traffic circle in front of the student union, and the outline of the battleship surrounds the mall along with the names of all the Arizona’s sailors who were killed when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona Memorial Medallions hero Medallions at the USS Arizona Memorial feature the names of the 1,117 people who died on the Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. December 4, 2016
Christopher Conover, AZPM

But what most people don’t see is the thousands of pieces of memorabilia from the ship that make up the USS Arizona Special Collection at the University of Arizona Library.

“We do have a large, sizeable chunk of the ship’s superstructure that was recovered from the salvage yard. We have numerous, I mean thousands of photographs that were taken onboard the ship and also Navy-issued material. We have correspondence, daily orders that just give an hourly breakdown of what the duties were on the ship. Materials that document the various athletic teams that were on ship, the baseball team, the football team, they had a world-class championship rowing team,” said Trent Purdy, the curator of the collection.

Unlike other collections, the material at the UA Library is open to the public.

“The University of Arizona is a land grant institution, so our materials are available to all members of the public, not just faculty or students. All you need to visit our materials and view our materials is a photo ID,” Purdy explained.

USS Arizona Donation Lowell Franklin stands behind a display of part of his family's donation the the University of Arizona's Special Collection of items from the U.S.S. Arizona. His father, Arthur, served on the Arizona until the summer of 1941.
Christopher Conover, AZPM

The collection recently received a major donation from the Franklin Family who live in Wisconsin.
Lowell Franklin said while cleaning out a family home he came across a box with his father’s name on it and inside was a treasure trove of memorabilia from the USS Arizona.

“(We) looked at it and I knew that it should be not with us but where people will be able to see it. There was a choice between sending it to Hawaii or having it come here and that’s what we wanted to do,” Franklin told AZPM.

USS Arizona menu Menu and daily orders from the USS Arizona.
Christopher Conover, AZPM

Arthur Franklin, Lowell’s father served in the print shop on the USS Arizona until he was honorably discharged from the Navy in the summer of 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he re-enlisted but was based in California and did not go back to sea.

Lowell says growing up, his dad didn’t talk much about his time in the Navy so the contents of the box including his liberty card which let him back on the ship after shore leave, pictures of day-to-day life aboard, menus, and mementos filled in some gaps.

USS Arizona Neptune Society Certificates given to Arthur Franklin for crossing the Equator in July 1940 while serving on the USS Arizona.
Christopher Conover, AZPM

Lowell’s wife Wendy says one of her favorite things in the box of memories and memorabilia are the letters between Arthur and his brother who was a soldier in Europe during World War 2.

“The two are corresponding about let’s do this, do your part and we’ll do our part, we’ll make this thing end. And very fascinating, I can’t tell the stories, some of the things they said but they were committed to making this end,” she said.

When most people think of the USS Arizona they think of the attack on Pearl Harbor, not its missions before that. That is why this donation is special to archivist Trent Purdy.

“I don’t know if most people know it existed for 25 years prior to the sinking so it was all over the world and it was even stationed in the Pacific theater as early as the early 1930s, so it had a long history with the territory of Hawaii. And so what is really important with our collection is it really documents what it was like to be a sailor on a super-dreadnought battleship,” Purdy said.

In addition to being available for public viewing, the donation will be digitally copied and added to the Special Collection’s online database of material from the USS Arizona.

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