Nearing the end of a long and rewarding Navy career as a diver – working in conjunction with some of the best in the military, including assisting Navy SEALs, Navy First Class Petty Officer Brian O’Connor decided to spend the rest of his military service learning all he could about one of the biggest interests of his life – the real story of the USS Arizona that lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Petty Officer O’Connor spent his last tour of duty investigating the untold stories of the venerable old battleship.
FCPO (Ret.) O’Connor, now a Redmond, Oregon member of VFW 1408, has just published a book on his experiences as a Navy active duty diver while working with the National Park Service (NPS) as a volunteer, and later in the capacity as a liaison between the Navy and the NPS. The book is primarily about the dives on the wreck of the battleship Arizona, which along with her crew, were attacked by the Japanese naval air force on December 7, 1941. Over the horizon Japanese aircraft carriers launched several waves of fighters, dive bombers and torpedo bombers that obliterated Pearl Harbor, which was, at the time, stuffed full of ships, sent there by then President Roosevelt who had moved them there from west coast ports in preparation for a possible military confrontation with Japan. For eight years to the run-up to Pearl Harbor, to the disapproval of the western allies, Japan had been on a military rampage in China and Indochina, scouring those areas for raw materials for war. Noting that nothing seemed to convince the Japanese to back down from their many invasions, President Roosevelt finally made good on his earlier threat and ordered U.S. oil exports to Japan be stopped. In the eyes of the Japanese, it was the oil pipe that broke the camel’s back.
On that fateful December day, the U.S. military was caught off guard as wave upon wave of Japanese war planes made a deadly mess of Pearl Harbor and other military bases around the island of Oahu. Among the Navy’s greatest losses were its eight battleships, including the Arizona. Five of the eight were sunk – with three of those raised to fight again. The Arizona remained on the bottom of the harbor. The Arizona was partially salvaged, in that most of her guns and much of her remaining ammunition was removed and refurbished for distribution to the fleet.
After the war the Navy didn’t do much with the Arizona until a memorial structure was built and the site became a National Memorial in 1962. In 1980 the National Park Service assumed the day-to-day operations of the Memorial and the shoreside Visitor Center. In 1985, through a fluke meeting with the Park’s Superintendent, a determined Petty Officer O’Connor got the opportunity to become involved in the mapping and detail work of the wreck. With his expertise in the configuration of the ship and newly acquired underwater forensics, literally reading the damage inflicted on the Arizona, and in the exact sequence in which that damage occurred, he realized that some historians before him had not precisely recorded the final accounting of what happened before, during and after she was attacked by the Japanese.
Since no manned diving is permitted “below decks,” the evidence of the ship’s demise had to be interpreted through hand measurements and visual clues to determine the path of the chain-reaction cataclysmic explosion that put the 600-foot-long ship on the bottom, in less than 9 minutes.
Using sleuthful investigatory discipline and expert analysis, Mr. O’Conner has finally produced what should be the final word on the last moments of one of America’s greatest symbols of its military might. His book just released, is simply entitled, “In Repose,” describing the final resting state of the U.S.S. Arizona with the remains of her crew still entombed at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. “In Repose” is the final accounting of what happened to the crew of the Arizona as it sank to the bottom of the harbor, but has symbolically risen in historical glory to the men who fought valiantly to save her.
To purchase a copy of Former Petty Officer Brian O’Connor’s definitive accounting of the last moments of the U.S.S. Arizona on December 7th, 1941 simply mail a check or money order for $15.95 to:
Bootin Annie Publishing
P.O. Box 118
Powell Butte, OR 97753
Contact him at: BootinAnniePubs@gmail.com