US, Australian divers explore USS Arizona wreckage

Top, Royal Australian Navy Able Seaman Clearance Diver Benjamin Johnson prepares to dive on the USS Arizona Memorial site in Pearl Harbor as part of the 2018 RIMPAC exercise, July 5. At right, Chief Navy Diver Albert Alejo, assigned to Mobile Diving Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, and a Royal Australian Navy diver examine the hull of the USS Arizona at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during the 2018 RIMPAC exercise, July 6.

Courtesy Story

U.S. 3rd Fleet Public Affairs

Royal Australian Navy clearance divers were afforded the rare opportunity to see the USS Arizona Memorial from a perspective few people in the world get to experience. As part of integration activities being conducted during the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, Australian divers scuba-dived the wreck of the USS Arizona with the U.S. National Parks Service and Royal Canadian Navy.

The USS Arizona Memorial is a World War II gravesite for the 1,177 servicemen killed when the ship was bombed by Imperial Japan on Dec. 7, 1941. The site is recognized as one of the most important war graves in modern American history and U.S. National Parks applies a significant amount of effort to ensure the site remains preserved and protected. The clearance divers were escorted around the sunken wreck by the National Park Service divers who are familiar with the site.

Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Post, commanding officer of the Australian clearance diving contingent in Hawaii, said diving the USS Arizona was a surreal experience.

“We’ve done the memorial tour from the shore side, and to get down there with that knowledge of what it’s actually all about was just a real honor,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and something that we’ll never forget.”

To preserve the integrity of the wreck and out of respect for the servicemen who are entombed inside the hull, divers are forbidden

from entering the ship. Teams were given specific instructions before entering the water.

Post, who dived the wreck, said divers were allowed to shine their dive torches through open portholes in the hull to inspect for degradation.

“It was an eerie feeling, knowing that the last people who moved inside the ship were probably close to our age more than 75 years ago,” he said.

“Looking through the porthole, I could see ladder bays and bulkheads, and I guess just behind that, the gravesite of any number of brave U.S. servicemen.”

The Australian clearance diving contingent at RIMPAC is a mix of clearance divers from both the east and west coasts of Australia, posted to Royal Australian Navy’s Mine Clearance Diving Squadron and Australian Clearance Diving Team Four.

The RIMPAC diving contingent comprises Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Underwater Salvage and Expeditionary Reconnaissance elements in Hawaii, with Expeditionary Reconnaissance and Task Group elements embedded with landing forces in southern California.

“We’re integrating with the Canadians and U.S. Coast Guard salvage units, and other units are embedding with EOD nations,” Post said. “Cooperation is the key for RIMPAC — we’re here to see other nations’ tactics and procedures, and look at how we can integrate them into our own procedures.”

Photo by Australian Army AB Benjamin Johnson and U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Arthurgwain L. Marquez

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