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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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Ernie Saunders, an 88-year-old from Newport News, was the commanding officer of the Missouri's turret gun No. 2. He also was aboard the Missouri during the surrender--and at the Dahlgren Navy base on Tuesday for the gun move.
"It brings back some memories," he said, as younger men, wearing USS Arizona hats, gathered around and asked him questions.
Historians like those who have researched Dahlgren's past have worked in recent years to save gun barrels from the scrap heap. The big expense is transportation, and the move from Virginia to Arizona should cost about $100,000, Staton said.
The state of Arizona, at the request of Sen. John McCain, tried to get a gun barrel from its namesake battleship in the early 1990s, according to a history prepared by Staton, Wayne Harman and others.
Nothing ever came of the request.
The state asked again in 2011, about the same time that Dahlgren officials heard of the Navy's plan to scrap eight of its 16-inch gun barrels because the United States no longer had battleships in service.
Members with the Dahlgren History Project started notifying interested parties to see if groups wanted to use the gun barrels as displays.
Pete Kolakowski, who heads the operations department at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, was glad to sign over the 14-inch barrel and two projectiles to Arizona.
"I think it's great when we can commemorate the history of the Navy and the history of the United States," he said. "Dahlgren being a part of that is fantastic."
The gun barrel moved on Tuesday was on the USS Arizona from 1925 until 1938, when it was relined and sent to Dahlgren for testing. It later was installed on the USS Nevada in 1942 and supported the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
The gun fired 244 rounds between June 25, 1943, and Aug. 26, 1944, according to Navy records.
The Arizona barrel still includes the yoke and breech mechanism, part of the gun's firing assembly. Other gun barrels at Dahlgren are missing those components.
"The fact that this one is intact is kind of nice," said Capt. Michael Smith, the NSWC commander.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425