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Pearl Harbor memorial will live on in union


Scott Andrew Taras
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Patricia Martin, a freshman studying English as a Second Language, reads in the Memorial Student Union by the USS Arizona memorial last week. The memorial is in honor of the USS Arizona which sank in the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 10, 1999

The Memorial USS Arizona Gallery, located on the second floor of the University of Arizona's Memorial Student Union, is usually sprinkled with quiet students who are either dozing or studying.

However, the tragic history resounding throughout the room in various forms of war memorabilia does not go unnoticed.

The display, which originated in 1953, contains memorabilia from that sad day in history when the USS Arizona was laid to rest by Japanese war planes in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The World War II relics remain secured behind glass cases accompanied by numerous black and white photos.

"The history of it is important to remember," said pre-medical freshman April Shagena. "There is this part of national history that needs to be retold for those who know nothing about it."

With a new Student Union three years away, questions have been raised about what will happen to the gallery and whether it will be continued.

But gallery coordinators intend to carry on the importance of the exhibit in the new building.

"There are too many people who are fascinated and touched by the exhibit that I do not believe it will go into obscurity," said Julie Sasse, galleries curator. "The memory and gallery will not fade away because there will always be family members of the survivors and those who are interested in the history."

The events at Pearl Harbor need to be remembered because they "ushered in the modern world," said William Beezley, history professor. "As a result of Pearl Harbor and World War II, we entered the atomic age and the Cold War."

The display becomes more valuable to the UA when seemingly coincidental circumstances are taken into consideration. Though not named after the state, the USS Arizona shares the same name as the state in which the UA is located. Furthermore, the bombing of Pearl Harbor became a memorial event and is archived in the Memorial Student Union.

"This archive is important because of the connection between the name of the ship and our school," said Sasse. "It is a great opportunity to collect memorabilia from the ship, because it is a piece of history we have been given access to."

The display retells the forgotten or unknown stories of such an immediate and mournful past. It gives light and weight to the many who served onboard the ship with carefully archived pieces taken directly from the ship.

There are war clothing, metals and pieces of shrapnel from Japanese planes, among other things, that may have gone to any given museum but arrived at the UA instead.

"The display provides a lot of human interest material about the people who served on the Arizona," said Gene Shesard, senior support systems analyst. "That gives a person a more immediate understanding of the history.

With proposed developments, fund-raisers and donations, changes will be made to enhance the educational quality of the exhibit after the arrival of the new union.

"This is something that most unions don't have," Sasse said. "There is something historically valuable in our midst, and we are trying to restore and preserve it."

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