After nearly 80 years, the United States Navy will reintroduce the USS Arizona name to the fleet. The new USS Arizona Legacy Foundation will be there to support the new ship’s sailors and honor the memory of the old USS Arizona, which was the first ship to sink during the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Established in 2021, the USS Arizona Legacy Foundation has a triple mission: celebrate, educate, and support. The Foundation will celebrate the ship by collaborating with the Navy on both the naming and commissioning of the submarine that will bear the name.
Even though a new ship will bear the namesake, the foundation is keen to educate people about the battleship USS Arizona and to keep the memory of its crew alive. Ultimately, the foundation wants to support the sub’s sailors and “create a lasting bond between them and the citizens of Arizona.”
Tanya Wheeless, former CEO of the Arizona Bankers Association and former senior vice president of the Phoenix Suns, recently joined the foundation as President and CEO. Wheeless says she was motivated to take on the position because she supports US soldiers defending our country in the face of a growing number of threats and keeps the ancient battleship’s important history alive.
According to Wheeless, the foundation “was established to honor the legacy of the battleship USS Arizona, but also to forge a new legacy and celebrate the crew and submarine that will also bear the Arizona name.”
The old USS Arizona, a Pennsylvania-class BB-39 battleship, was commissioned in 1916 but saw no action in World War I. The ship participated in various training and support missions throughout the 1920s and 30s before being transferred to Pearl Harbor in the spring of 1940 when the base became the new home of the Pacific Fleet.
Within minutes of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, the battleship was hit by multiple bombs and sunk to the bottom of the harbor. Nearly 1,200 sailors were tragically killed on the ship, the most of any ship that day. The ship still lies there today, with a memorial to the sailors erected on the site.
The Virginia-class submarines, one of which will be named Arizona (SSN-803), are the Navy’s next generation of attack submarines, having been significantly improved over previous classes. Virginias will replace the older Los Angeles-class submarines when they are retired. The submarine is currently expected to enter service in late 2025.
According to the Navy, Virginia attack submarines carry even more Tomahawk cruise missiles along with various other weapons. Attack submarines like the Virginia primarily support special forces and conduct “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support battle group operations; and intervene in the mine warfare.”
Every ship in the Navy fleet has a sponsor, and the new Arizona will be no different, with Nikki Straton receiving the honors.
Ms. Stratton is the granddaughter of Donald Stratton, a USS Arizona survivor. In 2017, Stratton posthumously presented the Bronze Star to Joseph L. George, whose heroic actions saved the lives of her grandfather and five others during one of America’s darkest days.
In 2020, the Secretary of the Navy personally asked Stratton to become a sponsor and help fulfill her grandfather’s dying wish that the memory of the USS Arizona and her men be never forgotten.
You can visit the USS Arizona Legacy Foundation website here.