Richard Perry Rush was my third cousin. His grandfather, Emmitt Rush, had moved his family from Kentucky to Texas when Richard’s father, James Richard (“Jim”) was a child. Jim had a varied career, as a well-digger, a carpenter and a grocer — whatever was necessary to support his five children, of which Richard was the last.
Richard was about 18 years old when he joined the Navy — he was only 19, a Seaman 1st Class, when he died aboard the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in the surprise attack by the Imperial Navy of the Japanese Empire. A memorial was erected in memory of the “ten boys from Dallas” who perished in December 7, 1941, including Richard Perry Rush, whose picture is in the second row, on the right, on the monument. In all, 79 Texans died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The USS Arizona, a 31,400-ton battleship built at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn, was commissioned in October 1916. She operated out of Norfolk, Virginia, cruising to France and Turkey, to the Caribbean and Peru.
In March 1931, the Arizona transported President Herbert Hoover and his party to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Afterwards she returned to the Pacific, continuing her operations with the Battle Fleet during the next decade. From 1940, on the orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, she and the other Pacific Fleet battleships were based at Pearl Harbor.
The USS Arizona was moored in Pearl Harbor’s “Battleship Row” on the morning of December 7, 1941, when Japanese carrier aircraft attacked. She was hit by several bombs; at approximately 8:10 a.m., the USS Arizona exploded, having been hit by a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb which penetrated her forecastle and detonated her forward ammunition magazines. The resulting massive explosion totally wrecked the ship’s forward hull, collapsing her forward superstructure and causing her to sink in less than nine minutes, with 1,177 of her crewmen, including Richard Perry Rush.
The wrecked battleship’s hull remained where she sank, a tomb for many of those lost with her. In 1950 she began to be used as a site for memorial ceremonies, and, in the early 1960s, a handsome memorial structure was constructed over her midships hull. This USS Arizona Memorial, operated by the National Park Service, is a permanent shrine to those Americans who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor and in the great Pacific War that began there.
There were 1.4 million gallons of fuel on the USS Arizona when she sank. Over 60 years later, approximately two quarts a day still surface from the ship. Pearl Harbor survivors refer to the oil droplets as “Black Tears.”