USS Arizona Legacy Foundation looks to serve sailors on new submarine, honor memory of the historic battleship

After nearly 80 years, the United States Navy will be introducing the USS Arizona name back into the fleet. The new USS Arizona Legacy Foundation will be there to support the sailors of the new vessel and honor the memory of the old USS Arizona, which was the first ship to sink during the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Formed in 2021, the USS Arizona Legacy Foundation has a three-fold mission: Celebrate, educate, and support. The foundation will be celebrating the ship by working with the Navy on both the christening and the commissioning of the submarine that will bear the name. 

Even though a new vessel will be carrying the namesake, the foundation is keen on educating people about the USS Arizona battleship and keeping the memory of its crew alive. Finally, the foundation aims to support the sailors of the submarine and “create an enduring bond between them and the citizens of Arizona.”

Tanya Wheeless, the former CEO of the Arizona Bankers Association and a former senior vice president of the Phoenix Suns, recently joined the foundation as president and CEO. Wheeless says she was motivated to take the position because of its mission of supporting the United States’ servicemen and women who defend our country in the face of a growing number of threats, and keeping the important history of the old battleship alive.

According to Wheeless, the foundation was “created to honor the legacy of the USS Arizona battleship but also forge a new legacy and celebrate the crew and submarine that will also carry the name Arizona.”

The old USS Arizona, a BB-39 Pennsylvania class battleship, was commissioned in 1916 but did not see combat during World War I. The ship participated in various training and support missions in the 1920s and 30s before being moved to Pearl Harbor in the spring of 1940 when the base became the new home for the Pacific Fleet. 

Within just a few minutes of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, the battleship was hit by multiple bombs and sunk to the bottom of the harbor. Nearly 1,200 sailors were tragically killed on the ship, the most of any vessel on that day. The ship still lies there to this day, with a memorial to the sailors built at the site.

Virginia class submarines, one of which will carry the Arizona name (SSN-803), are the next generation of attack submarines for the Navy, carrying significant upgrades from previous classes. Virginias will replace the older Los Angeles class submarines as they retire. Currently, the submarine is expected to commission in late 2025.

According to the Navy, Virginia attack submarines carry even more Tomahawk cruise missiles along with various other armaments. Attack submarines such as the Virginia primarily assist special operations forces as well as “carry out Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support battle group operations; and engage in mine warfare.”

Each ship in the Navy fleet has a sponsor, and the new Arizona will be no different, with Nikki Straton taking the honors

Ms. Stratton is the grandaughter of Donald Stratton, a USS Arizona survivor. In 2017, Stratton presented the Bronze Star posthumously to Joseph L. George, whose heroic actions on one of the United States’ darkest days saved the lives of her grandfather and five others. 

In 2020, the secretary of the Navy personally asked Stratton to become the sponsor and help achieve her grandfather’s final wish that the memory of the USS Arizona and its men will never be forgotten. 
You can visit the USS Arizona Legacy Foundation’s website here.

Nick Guptil

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