Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers have been afforded the opportunity to see the USS Arizona from a perspective few people in the world would get to experience.
As part of integration activities being conducted on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, during RIMPAC, Australian divers visited the wreck of USS Arizona with the US National Parks Service and Royal Canadian Navy.
USS Arizona is a World War II grave site for the 1,000-plus servicemen killed when the ship was bombed by the Japanese Navy in December 1941. The site is recognised as one of the most important war graves in modern American history and US 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 National Parks Service divers who are familiar with the site.
Lieutenant Commander 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 above, so to get down there with that knowledge of what it’s actually all about was a real honour,” 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.
Lieutenant Commander Post, who dived the wreck, said the team was allowed to shine torches through open portholes in the hull in order 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.
“Looking through the porthole, I could see ladder bays and bulkheads, and I guess just behind that the grave-site of any number of US servicemen.”
The Australian Clearance Diving contingent at RIMPAC is a mix of Clearance Divers from both east and west coasts of Australia, posted to 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 US Coast Guard salvage units, and other units are embedding with EOD nations,” Lieutenant Commander Post said.
“Co-operation 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.”