USS Arizona submarine sponsor asks Gilbert to be municipal partner

USS Arizona
The town of Gilbert has received an invitation to be the sponsor of the planned USS Arizona submarine. (Courtesy U.S. Navy)

The town of Gilbert has received an invitation to be the sponsor of the planned USS Arizona submarine. (Courtesy U.S. Navy)

On the occasion of Gilbert’s centennial, the USS Arizona submarine’s sponsor formally asked the town to be the sub’s municipal sponsor.

Nikki Stratton, the granddaughter of the battleship USS Arizona survivor Donald Stratton, made the request in a letter to Mayor Jenn Daniels and the Gilbert Town Council. It will be up to council to accept Nikki Stratton’s offer.

“My goal is to find a municipality that I think best embodies the spirit of the USS Arizona (BB-39),” she wrote. “It needs to have the small-town feel not unlike the towns where most of the sailors grew up—where neighbors look after neighbors, people say hello while walking down the street and, above all else, you feel welcome regardless of where you came. I believe that Gilbert, Arizona—the biggest “town” in America—embodies the spirt of the USS Arizona.”

Donald Stratton died Feb. 15, leaving alive only two survivors of the battleship, which was sunk at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in the Japanese attack that marked the start of America’s involvement in World War II.

The U.S. Navy announced in December that it was launching two Virginia-class, fast-attack submarines named after ships lost in the attack, the USS Arizona and the USS Oklahoma.

Navy officials asked Stratton to sponsor the USS Arizona submarine after her grandfather’s funeral. The Gilbert Veterans and Military Advisory Committee expressed interest in being the municipal sponsor in a letter of intent to Daniels, and Stratton quickly endorsed the idea.

Stratton said she believes her grandfather would be proud of her decision to ask Gilbert to be the municipal sponsor.

“I am beyond thrilled to offer this to Gilbert,” she said by phone from Denver, where she lives. “Gilbert has just shown itself to be an incredibly generous town. They have a proven connection with veterans. ... I really appreciate the town coming together and making a sales pitch to me as well as learning more about the people that live there and how much pride they take in their town. I think that that really reflects the values of the original USS Arizona.”

Town Council Member Bill Spence, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and council’s liaison to the veterans committee, contacted Stratton about the committee’s interest.

The town’s role would be ceremonial hometown to the crew and “the center of gravity and representative voice for all the people of the great state of Arizona,” according to Stratton.

Any activities associated with sponsorship would be underwritten by the nonprofit Navy League of the United States Phoenix Council, which would handle fundraising and run all monies through a Navy League account, said Jake McManus, president of the league’s Phoenix Council.

McManus called Pearl Harbor a world-changing event and said the Navy’s desire to memorialize the sailors of the battleship is something the state and nation can celebrate.

“I think the [town] of Gilbert can be really proud of being named the host city,” McManus said. “This is a big deal. This is something we can all get behind.”

Stratton’s offer will have to be added to a future council agenda for consideration. Council does not meet in July every year and is scheduled to next meet Aug. 11.
By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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