USS Arizona's Last Band December 26 2012, 3 Comments

Contributed by: Jack Kopstein December 7, 1941 On December 7, 1941 the entire membership of the band of the USS Arizona was lost when the battleship was attacked by the Japanese.  The band, trained as a unit, was one of the best in the 14th Naval District and often gave much pleasure to music-lovers. The musicians graduated from the Navy School of Music on May 23, 1941. On May 26, 1941, the band left the receiving ship Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. and boarded the USS Arizona on June 17, 1941. The band was under the direction of Musician First Class Fredrick W Kinney, of Bremerton, Washington. He was a veteran of the United States Navy having joined in 1927. All Capital ships had bands and at 08:00 every morning they played the National Anthem. This is what the bands aboard the ships at Pearl Harbor were about to do on December 7, 1941, but at 07:50 everything changed ~ forever ~ and all 21 members of the USS Arizona's band were lost at, or on their way to, their battle stations below decks. In Hawaii, the Arizona Band soon became very popular and was known as “the best US Navy band in the whole Pacific Fleet.” Despite what you might have heard or read, Arizona’s band did not participate in the second semi-final Battle of Music 1941 on December 6th at Bloch Arena. The four bands which competed were the bands of the Argonne, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and the band from the Submarine Base, filling in for the Detroit band. According to the rules of the contest, the first and second place winners of each of two semi-final contests would meet in the final contest to be held on December 20tn. The first semi-final contest was held on November 22nd and the two winners were the band of the Marine Corps Barracks and the Arizona band. Consequently, having already placed in the first semi-final contest, neither of those bands would have been eligible to participate in the second semi-final contest. Although they did not play on the night of December 6, the musicians of the Arizona band and the Marine Corps Barracks band attended that contest. Naturally, they were curious to hear the two bands against which they would be competing in the final December 20 contest. In addition, the Arizona musicians were eager to visit with their friends from the US Navy School of Music, especially the members of the Tennessee band because the they had attended the school together and had graduated at the same time. The winners of the December 6 semi-final contest were the bands of the USS Pennsylvania and USS Tennessee. Thus, the four bands scheduled to meet on December 20th in the final contest of the Battle of Music 1941 were the bands of the USS Arizona, the Marine Corps Barracks, the USS Pennsylvania and USS Tennessee. Obviously, that final Battle of Music 1941 was never held. Fleet Recreation asked all the Navy bands still in Hawaii to choose by vote the band which should be awarded first place. The USS Arizona band was chosen unanimously. As several musicians said, the Arizona band was the best band anyway. Since that time, this trophy has been called the USS Arizona Band Trophy and now sits in a place of honor at the Arizona Memorial Museum. Seven battleship bands, including Arizona’s, were lined up on the fantail ready to play for colors. Immediately after the Japanese bombs began falling, all the musicians, including Arizona’s, ran down below to their battle stations in their ships’ ammunition holds, as they had been trained to do. Just as Arizona’s musicians reached their battle stations, the Japanese bomb struck their ship. And in that instant Arizona died, along with most of her crew, including her entire US Navy Band. During the five short months the band served aboard Arizona, her musicians practiced long and hard to improve both their musical skills and their Navy training.