Arizona to dedicate World War II memorial

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- A two-year effort to erect a World War II memorial near the Arizona State Capitol will come to fruition with a dedication ceremony Dec. 7.

The ceremony will include the arrival of 2,000 motorcyclists from the American Legion and other veterans' groups, a B-17 flyover and the 108th Army Band, the Arizona Capitol Times reported ( ).

It has taken a year to build the memorial, which features historic gun barrels from two U.S. battleships - the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri. Names of Arizona military personnel who died during the war will be displayed on a steel structure between the gun barrels.

The Arizona was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the beginning of America's involvement in the war. Nine vertical pillars at the memorial represent the nine minutes it took for the ship to sink to the bottom of the harbor.

The memorial was championed by Secretary of State Ken Bennett after hearing from John Thomas, a former attorney in the Arizona House of Representatives, about the rusting relics in East Coast surplus yards. Bennett took action after learning the military treasures could be sold for scrap metal.

When Bennett began pursuing the acquisition of the USS Arizona gun barrel, the U.S. Navy first offered one from the USS Missouri, which was the site of the Japanese surrender ceremony that ended the war. Bennett continued to negotiate and eventually landed both.

"The concept that was developed displays the gun barrels to represent the beginning and end of the war with a steel structure in between presenting the names of those who perished," said Matt Roberts, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office. "It's believed these two visible bookends from the war will encourage people to reflect and admire the strength and courage it takes to defend a nation."

It was last December that Bennett and other officials gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony.

Roberts said no tax dollars were used to construct the memorial.

"We've raised more than $600,000 in cash and in-kind contributions," he said.

Among the contributions was nearly $200,000 from the Veterans' Donation Fund, according to Dave Hampton, public information officer and legislative liaison for the Arizona Department of Veterans Services.

Hundreds of World War II veterans and several Pearl Harbor survivors are expected to attend the Dec. 7 ceremony.

Hampton called it a "fitting tribute to World War II survivors."