WWII memorial unveiled in Phoenix

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by Ryan O'Donnell

Bio | Email | Follow: @3TVODonnell

azfamily.com

Posted on December 7, 2013 at 5:47 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 10 at 1:15 PM

PHOENIX -- Two gun barrels salvaged from prominent United States battleships are starring in Arizona's new World War II memorial.

The memorial, "Guns to Salute the Fallen," is located at the Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix, in front of the Arizona State Capitol building.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett led a formal dedication of the memorial Saturday, the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii.

Bennett spearheaded the project after learning that the federal government planned to dispose of the gun barrels from the U.S.S. Arizona and U.S.S. Missouri.

It took three years and a lot of community support, but Arizonans who fought in World War II will now be remembered with an official memorial. Nearly 2,000 Arizonans were killed in the war.

Their names are engraved on plates designed to flicker in sunlight and wind, giving them the appearance of ocean waves.

“This is great," said Donald Stratton, one of only nine U.S.S. Arizona survivors still alive today. "I never imagined anything like this would happen."

When the Japanese bombed the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Stratton suffered burns on 65 percent of his body.

To survive, he made an arduous climb up a rope to a nearby rescue ship.

“I was a sight-setter and anti-aircraft director one deck above the bridge," he recalled. "We had to cross the line to the vessel 45 feet in the air and 75 feet across, and that's where I lost all my fingerprints."

Albert Thomas was only 19 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked, prompting the United States' entry into World War II.

“It's amazing people are showing interest in this because, in history, things like this usually pass slowly into the background and dissolve," he said. "But this unit that has been built here is keeping the interest going; the memory going."

The memorial is open to the public daily.

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