How do you begin the process of appraising a priceless piece of American history? El Paso County, Colorado did so by enlisting the services of Heritage Arsenal in support of the transfer of a piece of the USS Arizona from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to a suitable display location in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Heritage Arsenal's Vice President, Bill Linn, served as the design lead for an extensive, multi-generational exhibit that honors an Arizona survivor - Donald G. Stratton - the battleship itself, and America's participation in the Pacific Theater during the Second World War.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft from six aircraft carriers struck the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Shortly after 8:00 AM, Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers from the carriers Kaga and Hiryu attacked Arizona. At 08:06 AM, they scored a hit between Arizona’s No. 1 and No. 2 turrets which penetrated the armored deck and detonated her nearby forward ammunition magazine. The bombs and violent explosion killed 1,177 of the 1,512 Sailors and Marines assigned to Arizona, approximately half of the lives lost during the entire attack.
Immediately propelling the United States into war, the attack on Pearl Harbor cemented the USS Arizona into the national consciousness as an enduring and iconic symbol of retribution and resolve. Consequently, historic artifacts connected to this famous vessel rank among the most impactful and important from any era in American history.
"We wouldn't have gotten there without him," says El Paso County Commissioner Stan VanderWerf. Linn's expertise and his "world-class network" of museum curators, historians and the like were critical, VanderWerf says.
Donald G. Stratton enlisted in the US Navy from his hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska in September 1940. After completing initial training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, he arrived in Bremerton, Washington where he was assigned to a gun crew on the USS Arizona. He was aboard ship during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 during which time he was badly wounded. Recovering, he re-enlisted to fight in three more campaigns in the Pacific before war's end. At 97, he and his family reside in Colorado Springs.
At the commissioning of this exhibit, US Senator Cory Gardner reminded the press and 300 guests of our collective responsibility to honor our Veterans. The USS Arizona is a memorial and shrine and, as such, pieces of the ship remain the permanent property of the US Navy and Federal Government and are to be treated with the reverence and respect they deserve as the resting place for over 1,500 Sailors and Marines. This exhibit embodies those sentiments and provides an educational experience to the 1.8 million travelers that pass through the airport every year.
Don Stratton, one of five remaining survivors of the Arizona's crew, influenced the Navy to consider loaning this relic in support of a public display. This four-foot by four-foot by 18-inch section of Arizona's superstructure required analaysis for traces of gray paint, fire damage, and period graffitti when carefully and thoughtfully considering its value for insurance purposes. Established provenance, the relic's point of origin on the ship, and a study of other similar artifacts on display elsewhere were factors which influenced the appraisal process.
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum contacted Heritage Arsenal as a result of their interest in obtaining impactful artifacts to enhance their exhibits in preparation for their grand opening. Heritage Arsenal was able to acquire, certify, appraise, and ship artifacts across different eras of our military experience both on time and within budget in support of this impressive museum. Along with members of the veteran community, dignitaries, and elected officials, Heritage Arsenal was honored to attend the Grand Opening of the Museum in October 2018!
A committee of veterans led by Senator John Glenn provided feedback and recommendations to the architects and designers of the facility with the goal of creating a world-class, state-of-the-art representation of the contributions and sacrifices made by military veterans and their families, and educating and inspiring the public about veterans and military affairs.
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) is a new memorial and museum being built in Columbus, Ohio to honor veterans’ contributions to our free and safe society. NVMM will serve as a tribute to our veterans as well as a reminder to all of the importance and value of military service. More than simply a war memorial or a military museum, NVMM will share the stories and experiences of the men and women who have served their country, including those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in doing so.
The US Ranger Centre in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland contracted Heritage Arsenal to conduct Targeted Acquisition of artifacts they required for their Grand Re-Opening. This event marked the 75th anniversary of the activation of Darby's Rangers during World War II and the conclusion of extensive rennovation to their facility.
"Working with Heritage Arsenal has been a delight for us here in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. We were working on an extremely tight budget and time frame, but the team delivered what we needed under budget and ahead of time! They have been so helpful and their dedication to customer satisfaction and sourcing the best quality artifacts is always clear." - Dr Laura Patrick
Copyright © 2017-2019 Heritage Arsenal - All Rights Reserved (Homepage photo #41607-FMC courtesy of NARA)
Members, American Alliance of Museums