USS Arizona

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Lorraine Haislip: Ah, what -- what an outstanding display. It just makes you feel magnificent.

Narrator: they were finely crafted in silver and copper with an odd collection of images, of cactus together with mermaids, elegant gifts from people who lived in the desert to a seafaring marvel that would bear their state's name...USS Arizona.

L. Haislip: And it was used when dignitaries came on board, when they had the changing-of-command ceremonies.

Narrator: And on some special occasions, they brought out...

L. Haislip: The Arizona miner.

Narrator: A 41-inch bronze, another gift from the people of Arizona and its mining companies. But as storm clouds approached in late 1940, the Navy refitted the Arizona for war. Finer things, like the silver and the statue, were removed, and after that, the miner became a mystery.

L. Haislip: It was lost. Nobody could find it.

Narrator: Such stories about the Arizona fascinated Lorraine Haislip.

L. Haislip: I've always had a love with history.

Narrator: For 11 years now, she's been collecting memories from men who served on the Arizona. She's already filled one large album.

Haislip: Right now, I have enough material that I think we could do another -- another three books at least. I've studied this so much. I feel like I've been floating over the ship and living a part of it.

Narrator: She feels like she's come to know these sailors, even those she's never met.

L. Haislip: This McLafferty -- I read the deck logs, and I see his name so much, I says, "What did you do now?" I even talk to them while I'm reading the deck log, and I says, "What have you done now to get in trouble?"

Narrator: Some families have shown Lorraine letters written by sailors on the Arizona.

L. Haislip: "Sunday morning. Good morning, my darlings. I just finished reading over all of your letters, honey..."

Voice Over: (overlapping) and I believe I can realize better now how hard it is on you than I could before. Your letters have changed a whole lot."

Narrator: It was a lonely sailor named Gene Cory writing to his wife and baby back in the states.

Voice Over: "The way things looks at present in Japan, I don't know when I will see you."

Narrator: There are other letters from men on the Arizona stored away in the collections of the State Capital Museum. Personal photos also have been donated, glimpses of life on the ship dating back to its early years.

Voice Over: "August 5, 1923. I'm having the time of my life. I suppose mother has told you I'm aboard the best ship in the Pacific fleet, the USS Arizona."

L. Haislip: Their pride was beyond belief, and I believe it was even more on the Arizona than any, because this is what I've heard.

Voice Over: "We're laying about one mile off Seattle in the harbor..."

[Music] "watch for the mail..."

Narrator: The year that letter was written, in 1923, the Arizona docked in Tacoma, Washington, and a 5-year-old boy came aboard on a tour.

Charles Haislip: "Well, it's just so -- it's so large.

Narrator: Lorraine's future husband.

C. Haislip: "It seemed like you can see forever, see from one end to the other, you know?"

Narrator: Charles could see all the way into his future. In 1935, he would enlist in the Navy, and before long, he got to serve on the Arizona.

C. Haislip: And when we went aboard there, I'm telling you, it was just a thrill, thrill of my life.

Narrator: For new sailors, there were rites of passage.

C. Haislip: They have a real ritual on There, I'm telling you. These guys, they were all covered with black grease, and they'd come up and smear you with grease and everything, and they beat the hell out of us. And then have boxing matches, wrestling matches and -- you had to wrestle these Marines and everything else, you know? No way. I didn't want no part of that. Softball teams, they had baseball teams, they had football teams and stuff like this.

Narrator: They needed a little fun to break up the monotony of their work.

Voice Over: "May 6, 1941. There really isn't very much to write about because we do the same thing day in and day out."

C. Haislip: Learned how to swab and sweep and scrub and all that sorts of stuff.

Narrator: Now, scrubbing the deck wasn't so simple. It was a tightly choreographed art.

C. Haislip: And go back and forth. And the boatswain would holler, "Switch!" And we'd move to another one.

L. Haislip: I can see all these -- I've heard the stories of how they swabbed the deck, how they twisted the mop so that when it came down -- and he showed me -- that it just fans itself out.

Narrator: Lorraine learned all this not just from living with Charles. Long before she married him, she fell in love with another former sailor from the Arizona. Lorraine was married to Ed Marks for 39 years until he passed away.

Voice Over: "Darling, I believe I'm going crazy. While I was sitting here yesterday, I wrote this little poem, and of course, it is dedicated to you."

Narrator: Now as historian for the "USS Arizona" Reunion Association, Lorraine is still discovering little bits of history of the ship, like Gene Cory's poem to his wife.

Voice Over: "'Irma' the rolling sea whispers when I try to go to sleep. So I stay awake to listen to see if they bring messages from the deep."

L. Haislip: I mean, it was -- and it still is -- very emotional.

Voice Over: "Honey, I must close for tonight, as it has grown late. So I will dream of you and baby. Your ever loving husband, Gene."

Narrator: Gene Cory was writing from the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, December 1, 1941...his last letter.

L. Haislip: This is why I do what I do, and the more I do it, the more I want to do.

Narrator: Much of what Lorraine does is like detective work, sifting through piles of documents, tracking lost pieces of the ship's history, and sometimes the tedious months of following a paper trail finally lead her to the right person.

L. Haislip: And he says, "And by the way, I think we've got something else here that might come from the ship," and I says, "Oh?" And he says, "Yeah, it's a statue of a miner," and I about fell through the floor. People have been looking for that for years.

Narrator: When the statue was taken off the ship before the War, it was crated and stored, but a confusing label made it hard to find. Now the Arizona Miner is back in his home state at the Capital Museum.

L. Haislip: To see it after everybody had been looking for this for so long, I think that's great.

Narrator: The gifts once given to a battleship, reminders of the place it was named for have come back to Arizona, and now they help us to remember...but to remember more than just what happened at Pearl Harbor.

L. Hailsip: It's a sad situation, and we can't forget them, but just for the Arizona to be remembered for that, I don't think they would want that. It should be remembered for what she did. She served her country for 25 years. She sailed the high seas and -- showing her power, her pride. The feeling that you see when you see these pictures of the ship as she's flying through those waters, you know, it just -- I still feel proud.