It's taken a lot of steps – and some long-distance shipping – to get a steel artifact from the USS Arizona battleship to Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park. Restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic didn't help matters.
Another step was taken June 18 when a Corrado Construction Co. crew moved the artifact from a storage barn to Fort Miles Museum for temporary holding. The company donated its services.
Eventually, the historic artifact will be on display on the same concrete pad as the USS Missouri gun barrel creating a Bookends of World War II exhibit.
The museum will have on display artifacts from the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II to the end of the war. The Arizona artifact is from the ship that went down during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, claiming the lives of more than 1,100 sailors and Marines. The Japanese signed surrender documents under the gun barrels of the USS Missouri Sept. 2, 1945.
Fort Miles Historical Association President Gary Wray said the only other places with artifacts from the start and end of the war are at Pearl Harbor, the resting place of the Arizona and the restored Missouri, and in a display in Arizona.
Wray said the artifact will be stored in the museum's art gallery until the fall when the association kicks off a fundraising campaign to create a Fort Miles Museum Memorial Plaza at the entrance of the museum. He said a building will be designed and built to house the Arizona artifact.
In addition, plans include a memorial walk honoring the 755 Delawareans who died in World War II and a Fort Miles Historical Association Wall of Honor.
Association board member and U.S. Navy veteran Cliff Geisler, head of the association's Arizona Task Force, said when Navy officials realized they couldn't salvage the entire ship, in 1943 crews started cutting off parts of the superstructure not underwater and storing them in forested areas around Pearl Harbor.
Starting in 1995, under a U.S. Navy program, pieces of the ship have been donated for displays all over the world.
The relic was flown at no cost by FedEx to Philadelphia and arrived March 23 at the park via a donated FedEx delivery truck.
Out of respect for the lives lost on the Arizona, Geisler said, the artifact will be displayed as is without any restoration work. To Geisler, the artifact is so sacred, he made sure all rust particles knocked off during shipping and movement to the museum were collected from the floor of the shipping crate.