The Battleship Arizona

By Stanley E. Halfhill

OUT BEHIND the breakwater lies the Arizona, battleship of the first line of American defense. Back from Mare Island overhaul, she is anchored safely behind a wall of rock and steel nets that today enclose the Los Angeles harbor in this period of unlimited national emergency.

    Gone is the dull gray paint, that the evening sun used to turn to a much lighter hue and bring out the immense size of a battleship against the dark blue of the water. Instead, today we see a dark hulk with only the fighting tops still painted in the light gray of yesterday. War paint that makes the once immaculate ship a dingy smoke smudge topped by lighter blobs that enclose the fire controls. An illusion is created that could make thirty thousand tons of steel as elusive as a ghost at twenty thousand yards, on a bright day.

    So tells a Bo's'n's Mate friend of ours. He told us too, that the reason that the great houses of steel that top the tripod masts are painted a lighter gray than the hull is to confuse the enemy range finders. It seems that it makes it much more difficult to line up the tops with the hull, in the prisms. Well, that sounds rather technical but looking at the Arizona out there, one can well imagine the effectiveness of such a discoloration. We conclude that maybe, even if we don't get it, Uncle Whiskers must know what he is about.

    Uncle Whiskers is the busiest fellow in the forty-eight states these days. He is busy building a lot of new playthings for a little plan of his, and a lot of his boys are running around asking questions about this and that. Down here in the Harbor especially, where so many of Uncle's plans are working out. We wouldn't want to be one of those saboteurs that you hear so much about, and have Uncle's boys get on our trail.

    Those boys seem to have their eyes peeled, nowadays.

    Take the ship yards. Uncle wouldn't want anything to stop the progress of those new ships at the Harbor's plants. And his boys are seeing to it that nothing does stop that progress. So the new ships are rapidly taking shape just as fast as the ways can be completed and the gantries installed to raise the steel and swing it into place. A gantry is a crane that is set on high steel stilts so that it may lift ship plates to their places on the hull for the riveting. They are invading the Harbor skyline in ever increasing numbers, now that the ways are ready for ship construction. All but the L. A. yard were they have installed massive steel towers, topped with large I-beam girders and rolling cranes that span the ways and will carry the steel directly over the hulls, to their places in the new ships. But Bethlehem has eight new gantries and the California yard is installing them by the dozen almost. Recently one of these new cranes lifted the first fabricated part of a ship into place with a lift of thirty-three tons.

    When Consolidated builds their other yard in the west basin the Harbor will really bristle with the gaunt arms of cranes and skeletal frameworks of the scaffolding around the hulls of new ships. All the little yachts and yacht owners will have to find other berths and no more will they stand on their little walks and wharves and cry imprecations at Fire Boat 2 as it goes by and rolls them around with its wake. Uncle Whickers wants ships, so the big fellow pushes the little fellows right out of the way and starts his dredging and pile driving and construction and frenzied operations that spell ship building in a hurry.

This article appeared in the July 1, 1941 issue of THE GRAPE VINE.

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