An exhaustive compendium memorializing every serviceman assigned to the USS Arizona, destroyed by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
To paraphrase a famous quote, one death is a tragedy, but 1,177 are a statistic. Cooper (The Men of the USS Utah, 2009) deconstructs the impersonal casualty count of the USS Arizona by penning an obituary or biographical sketch for each of the 1,514 officers and crewmen who were killed in or survived the attack. Cooper’s 30 years as a genealogical researcher helped her locate and assemble facts and recollections from survivors, family members, military records, newspapers and high school yearbooks. The resulting rosters (casualties, then survivors, alphabetized separately) capture the individual tragedies while amplifying the enormity of loss. Each entry follows a template: name, rank, serial number, dates of enlistment and assignment to the ship, whereabouts during the attack, subsequent career, awards and honors, final resting place—for many, the wreckage—and survivors. This format offers a well-deserved tribute to each veteran, but the rank-and-file uniformity obscures many colorful details. Nonetheless, patient readers will discover poignant stories. A retired sailor sulked around the house until his wife ordered him to re-enlist: “There is a war coming and you are going to get yourself killed. But I’m not going to have you moping around the house every time a ship enters or leaves the harbor.” A sailor from a different ship got drunk and arrested on shore leave, then died in the USS Arizona’s brig since his ship lacked one. Relatives reported omens beforehand; others claimed hauntings afterward. Servicemen swam to shore and escaped death a second time when bombs failed to explode. Acts of heroism counterbalanced the searing randomness. Cooper adds historical context with plenty of black-and-white photos, a reprinted history of the USS Arizona, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “day that will live in infamy” speech, humanizing accounts of shipboard leisure, and minutiae about pay grades and dependent allowances. Numerous typos remain in this revised edition of the original 2008 book, though they’re minor flaws in an otherwise well-researched, properly cited and valuable contribution to World War II scholarship.
Perhaps too dense for casual readers, but serious history buffs will be astonished.