Legend of The Arizona #MysteryMonday

Hey, everyone. Today’s Mystery Monday post isn’t so much a mystery but a legend. Curious? Read on.


“December 7, 1941. A date which will live in infamy.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt said those words in a speech to a joint session of congress a day following the attack by Japanese forces on Pearl Harbor.

The surprise attack occurred just before 8:00 a.m. Casualties were high—2,335 killed and 1143 were wounded. Numerous aircraft and ships were damaged. Of the eight battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor, four sank, including the USS Arizona.

The USS Arizona on December 7, 1941 (Public Domain)

Here are some interesting facts about the ship.

  • Twenty-three sets of brothers and one father-son duo died during the attack. At that time, it wasn’t uncommon for siblings to serve on the same ship. After Pearl Harbor, U.S. officials tried to discourage the practice, but no formal regulations were established. By the end of World War II, hundreds of brothers fought and died together, including the five Sullivan brothers who were killed in action when their light cruiser, the USS Juneau, was sunk during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
  • All members of the Arizona’s band died. They were on deck preparing to play music for the daily flag-raising ceremony at the time of the attack. This is the only time an entire military band has died in action.
  • Several former crew members chose the USS Arizona for their final resting place, a testament to the bonds between the crew. The Navy allows survivors to be interred in the ship’s wreckage, following a funeral with full military honors.
  • The Arizona Memorial attracts over one million visitors each year.
  • Fuel continues to leak from the wreckage. The ship had taken on nearly 1.5 million gallons on December 6 to prepare for a scheduled trip to the mainland. Much of the fuel fed the explosion and subsequent fires. However, approximately 500,000 gallons are slowly seeping. About nine quarts of oil spill into the harbor each day. This will continue for several more generations.
The Arizona Memorial with Navy Ships in the background (Public Domain)

When the oil coats the surface of the water it’s often referred to as “tears of the Arizona,” or “black tears.” This is the source of a legend, with many believing the ship will stop leaking oil when the last survivor dies.

An aerial view of the Arizona wreckage and memorial. Although it’s hard to see from this distance, the “black tears” are visible in the wake.

Of the 335 survivors, only two remain—Lou Conter of Grass Valley, California, and Ken Potts of Provo, Utah. Both men are ninety-eight years old, so it’s unlikely the legend will become true.

27 comments

  1. It’s heartbreaking standing over that ship. I didn’t realize we had a local survivor here. I will check our paper to see if they honor him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for posting this beautiful reflective piece, Joan. In our area, all the flags are half-staff. My husband and I visited the Arizona several years ago and was greatly moved by the solemnity, the stories, and all those who have chosen to rest with their friends buried at sea, 💔

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What fascinating facts, Joan. I never knew all of the statistics or the fact that survivors could choose to be buried there. It will be very interesting to see if the legend comes true about the “black tears.” Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I did not know that about survivors being allowed to be interred at the site. That’s both nice and sad.

    I’d forgotten about the oil until you said “black tears” then I remember the legend. I always feel like there should be a way to remedy that. Makes me wonder if when the last two survivors pass, an environmentalist might not find a way. Maybe no one wants to disturb the site while there are still survivors around who could be upset by activity there. I don’t know. But it seems like someone should have figured something out by now. That’s a lot of damage to the ecosystem, you’d think.

    Great post, Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had no idea about the fuel continuing to leak. These are interesting, yet sad facts, Joan. My uncle was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack. Thankfully, he survived, but he lost many friends. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

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