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Gun barrel from Navy base in Dahlgren begins its westward trek toward its eventual home: a new World War II memorial in Arizona
A 14-inch gun barrel from the USS Arizona is lifted onto a flatbed truck at the Navy base at Dahlgren on Tuesday.
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By CATHY DYSON
A gun barrel from the USS Arizona began its westward trek on Tuesday, as it headed from the Navy base at Dahlgren to the state it was named after.
Officials from the state of Arizona, the Navy and local researchers with the Dahlgren History Project gathered at the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren on Tuesday morning to watch the impressive operation.
Researchers saw a cherished piece of history lifted from the ground and American flags billow in the breeze--as if on cue--when the rusted metal gun was loaded safely onto a truck.
"It's really kind of remarkable that this one has survived," said Robin Staton, who retired after 42 years at Dahlgren but still researches the base's history. "In the 1950s, the Navy scrapped 38 of these barrels--they were cut up and melted down."
The Arizona gun faces a much better fate. It will become part of a new World War II memorial in Phoenix, scheduled to be dedicated on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, 2012.
"Thank you for sharing some of your history with our state," Ken Bennett, Arizona's Secretary of State, told those gathered.
Bennett is the No. 2 state official in Arizona, and he traveled to King George County to watch a crane lift the gun barrel from wooden planks that cradled it for more than 65 years.
"It was important to me, personally, to just be out here and see it," Bennett said.
Workers with Lockwood Brothers Inc. of Hampton, which orchestrated the move, let Bennett ride in the cab of the trailer hauling the gun.
He waved to passers-by as the truck carried the 74-ton load, up and down the hills of U.S. 301, and across State Route 3 to the King George County Landfill.
From there, the gun will be loaded onto a railroad car provided by Waste Management and hauled by train from Sealston to Phoenix.
The 14-inch gun barrel from the Arizona will be on one end of the new World War II memorial, and a 16-inch barrel from the USS Missouri on the other.
The two serve as bookends of the war, Bennett said. They represent the beginning, when the Arizona was sunk at Pearl Harbor, to the ending, when the Japanese surrendered aboard the Missouri battleship.