Fifteen-year-old sailor Martin Matthews of Shelbyville, W. Va., shouldn't have been on the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941. Assigned to nearby Ford Island Naval Station, Matthews was on board the Arizona to visit an old buddy, Seaman 1st Class William Stafford, en route to some sightseeing on shore. First, however, Stafford gave his friend a tour of the 25-year-old battleship. The Arizona was one of the last of the great "ultimate weapons of the sea," displacing about 32,500 tons and measuring 608 feet. The battleship carried a main armament of twelve 14-inch guns. Thirteen-inch steel slabs shielded her hull, and twenty inches of armor encased her four turrets. "I wish I could get duty aboard a battleship!" Matthews told Stafford.
Their tour was cut short when Stafford had to return to duty. Like the other crews in Pearl Harbor that fateful morning, the sailors of the Arizona were on the deck for morning colors and the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." According to most reports, the crew members did not move until the last note was sung, as usual -- despite the billowing columns of smoke across the water and the thundering Japanese gunfire. Pearl Harbor was under attack.
It took Japanese planes less than 15 minutes to break the back of the enormous USS Arizona. While some witnesses recall at least one other torpedo hit, it was one bomb, from decorated Japanese bombardier Petty Officer Noboru Kanai's plane, that penetrated the main deck. "I think the second bomb that hit was close to the aft deck that I was on . . . it scared the living hell out of me," Matthews said in an interview for "Remembering Pearl Harbor: Eyewitness Accounts by U.S. Military Men and Women."
Matthews was blown overboard by the explosion, still in the dress whites he'd donned for sightseeing. "There were steel fragments in the air . . . and pieces of bodies." He swam to a mooring buoy and clung to it through the rest of the attack. Matthews was fortunate, as was his friend, Stafford, who also survived the attack. Of the 2,400 military personnel killed on "the day that will live in infamy," almost half went down with the Arizona.
When the smoke had cleared and the skies had quieted over the wreck of the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941, all that remained of its one-time commander was his Naval Academy ring, fused to a pole. Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., was the highest-ranking servicemember killed on "the day that will live in infamy," and the first officer killed in action in the Pacific theater. Kidd earned his gold class ring on his Annapolis graduation day in 1906. Promoted to ensign in 1908, he embarked on a distinguished career in his chosen service. Before the First World War, Kidd served as an aide and was an instructor at the Naval Academy (1916-17). During the war, he was stationed on the USS New Mexico (BB-40). Further staff and battleship assignments followed, and Kidd became the Captain of the Port for the Panama Canal Zone in 1927. Soon after he was promoted to the rank of captain and in 1935 was named Commander Destroyer Squadron ONE, Scouting Force.
He attended the Naval War College and served on its staff before being given command of the Arizona. By 1941 Kidd had been promoted to Rear Admiral and was assigned as Commander Battleship Division ONE and Chief of Staff to Commander, Battleships, Battle Force. Kidd, known to his family and friends as "Cap" may have been engaging in his habitual daily exercise at 7:55 a.m. that fateful Sunday-most of the sailors stationed on Oahu, "America's Gibraltar," were either still asleep or at breakfast. However, once the ship's air raid alarm went off, he "immediately went to the bridge and as Commander Battleship Division ONE, courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat..." No one will ever know exactly what Admiral Kidd was doing or thinking when his ship sustained the first of what would be eight bomb hits. The explosion that ripped through the forward part of the Arizona," ...resulted in the loss of his life." Those words and the ones above are from Admiral Kidd's posthumously awarded Medal of Honor citation.
by Bethanne Kelly Patrick, Military.com Columnist
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