About the Memorial
The Student Union Memorial Center is considered the epicenter of the University of Arizona. At any one time, you can see students, teachers and parents of all different shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and ethnicities, eating, studying, and interacting with each other. It is the heart of the university, and it is booming with life, where ever minute you can see an array of activities and emotions running wild. What many students, visitors, and parents don’t know, is that this 10-acre, multistory building we call the Student Union, is actually a facility filled with a rich history. A history that pays tribute, in both memorabilia and design, to an infamous American Battle fought on December 7, 1941. The battle I am referring to is Pearl Harbor and the design and memorabilia of the student union share elements of the U.S.S. Arizona, that was sunk on that day when the Empire of Japan deliberately and suddenly attacked our naval and air forces on Pearl Harbor.
History Of The Attack On Pearl Harbor
This was the battle of Pearl Harbor that happened on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Oahu when the Japanese bombed the area without warning. The Japanese’s intention was to destroy the battleships, they believed that doing this was the only way for them to be successful in the Pacific. The Pearl Harbor Naval Base was in a prime location, it was believed by the U.S. that an attack from enemies would not be possible. Pearl Harbor had eight battleships, four of them sunk and the others were damaged, the U.S.S. Arizona was the only one that was not able to be raised after the attack. The other battleships were able to be repaired and used for service to fight in WWII. The actual remains of the U.S.S. Arizona are still under water and can be seen at the Pearl Harbor memorial in Hawaii. Now, there is a memorial available to locals and visitors right in the heart of Tucson at The University of Arizona.
The way the design of the student union came about was both out of creativity and necessity. As the University of Arizona student population started to grow, the building basically became outdated and fell below structural codes at the turn of the 21st century. So, a design-build competition was held to updated structures that were built back in 1951. The winner of the competition was Kyle Taft, an architect with the firm MHTN, which put forth a $60-million proposal that would transform the Student Union Memorial Center into the structure you see today.
They wanted an open concept, to promote a friendlier convenient customer experience and allowed for a lot of glass, sunlight, and entry and exit points. Some of the key features meant to memorialize the U.S.S. Arizona, although not exact replicas include bells, chimes, dog tags, a mast, and other sculptures and design features. For example, a silhouette of the U.S.S. Arizona is present in the curved east wall of the canyon, mimicking the Hawaiian Memorial. There is also a circular staircase area modeled after the battleship's main gun turret. You will also find a water fountain with rusted steel plates and anchor chains depicting the sunken vessel. There are bridges of the east-west corridors of the union, like those you would find on the ship. The south and north sides of the union represent the bow and stern of the ship respectively, with the stern showcasing a memorial mast and sail to keep in line with the nautical theme. Dog tags and medallions for each young man who lost his life that day, hang from the monument. Etched on each are their name, duty, home state, rank, and rating. Many of those who did lose their lives on that day were between the ages of 18-25, which falls right in line with many of the young men walking our campus today. Also, two bells were rescued and preserved and now have a permanent home on the campus. On the third Wednesday of every month, these bells ring seven times in honor of the battle and for those who lost their lives on that tragic day in 1941. On Dec. 4, 2016, the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the University of Arizona unveiled the memorial to honor the men who served on the U.S.S. Arizona.
Most of the classroom buildings on The University of Arizona's campus are centered down a large, grass belt. The green belt is referred to as the 'mall' by all Arizona students. The mall’s new memorial was finished and ready to be seen by the pubic in 2016. The mall now has an outline of the U.S.S. Arizona that is almost the exact size of the battleship. The outline of the ships deck is in red brick which goes with the University’s traditional color tone. The entire essence of the memorial was done beautifully and respectfully. The attention they gave to the small details pulled everything together perfectly. It’s in a perfect location to be seen and appreciated daily by everyone visiting the schools campus. The dedication that was put into this memorial site speaks through the finished project and will be respected by all visitors who are able to stop by and take a took.
The memorial is accessible to everyone as it is ground level, the area with the medallions is paved and in between the outline of the battleship is grass. You can park at any of the garages around campus to get to the memorial but, the Union garage is closest. Parking usually has a charge per hour but on certain hours it is free. While school is in session it may be difficult to get a parking spot in the Union garage during weekdays in the morning or afternoon because it is filled with students, teachers, and staff so going in the evening or the weekends would be better. On Saturday and Sunday, there is free parking at all campus garages. The other garages that are farther may have more availability if you don't mind a longer trip to get to the mall. There is not additional transportation to take you from the garage to the mall but it is a short way to get there.
The mall is not just a memorial; it serves many purposes with the students and faculty of the university and the surrounding community. It is known as the heart of campus, and in addition to its historical features, it is lined with flowers, trees, statues, buildings and green grass that add to the rich history and beauty of the University of Arizona. Every day when I walk to class, I am humbled and reminded of those who served. On occasion, I find myself thanking them for their sacrifices and our freedom. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. 353 Japanese soldiers attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. They destroyed multiple ships, air crafts, and killed countless Americans. This event drove the United States into World War II. This historical event is honored on the University of Arizona Campus and brings significant history to the city of Tucson. As noted above, you can easily see that the Student Union Memorial Center is more than just a building where you can sit down and get a bite to eat, do some shopping, homework, or chat with friends. It is the most used building on campus, and is filled with a diversity and history that will be remembered for decades to come.
UA Football Tribute
The University of Arizona football team strived to pay tribute to fallen soldiers during the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The team wore special uniforms during their game against the University of Hawaii. The goal of the uniforms and tribute was to explain the UA's special relationship to the ship. The jersey's were crafted carefully and specifically. Nike, UA's athletic apparel manufacturer, was supportive and easy to work with for this project. Together, the UA and Nike worked together to create a jersey that was red, gray, and white. The colors each represent a different part of the ship - red for the keel, gray for the hull, and white for the upper mast. The ship's hull number was included on the backside of the jersey, BB-39. One of the six remaining survivors from the U.S.S. Arizona, Lauren Bruner, was recognized at the game and was elated to see the final result of the jersey.