Royal Navy sailors pay their respects to fallen American heroes during poignant Remembrance tribute
SAILORS from two Portsmouth warships have paid their respects on Remembrance Day like their shipmates around the globe – but at one of the US Navy’s most hallowed sites.
More than 40 men and women from the patrol ships HMS Tamar and HMS Spey honoured both Britain’s war dead and the victims of the Pearl Harbor attack on the glistening white USS Arizona Memorial.
Barely 10 minutes into the attack on December 7 1941, the Arizona was torn apart when a bomb pierced her armour-plating and detonated the battleship’s forward magazine – an explosion in similar fashion to those which devastated Royal Navy battle-cruisers at Jutland and HMS Hood earlier in 1941.
The blast effectively tore the battleship in two and killed 1,177 officers and men. Just 335 sailors survived the cataclysm. All but 75 of the victims are entombed in the wreck.
The loss of the Arizona accounted for nearly half of the American casualties in the Pearl Harbor attack – while images and footage of the horrific explosion provided some of the iconic scenes of World War 2 in newsreels and documentaries to this day.
Three days later, the Royal Navy suffered its first major blow of the war with Japan when bombers sank battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle-cruiser Repulse – sent to the Far East to deter aggression by Tokyo – off the Malaysian coast with the loss of more than 800 lives.
While the superstructure and some elements of the ship were subsequently salvaged – like much of the Pacific Fleet damaged on December 7 1941 – the decision was taken not to raise the Arizona, but turn her into a memorial.
Opened in 1962, the monument draws more than two million people every year to pay their respects.
As well as paying tribute at the Arizona Memorial, the sailors were also invited aboard USS Missouri – the Mighty Mo – the battleship which hosted the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945 and went on to serve until the 1991 Gulf War.
Tamar and Spey are in the Pacific home of the US Navy on a logistics and maintenance stop before the two River-class vessels push westwards to begin their long-term Asia-Pacific patrol.
The duo are the Royal Navy’s first permanent presence in the region since the handover of Hong Kong a quarter of a century ago.