University honors USS Arizona on 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

TUCSON, Arizona -- Bill Westcott was named after William Westcott, Jr., an uncle he never met who died aboard the USS Arizona.

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Bill Westcott

CBS News

“I have watched the ship blow up hundreds of times on television, and every single time I’ve watched that explosion, I’ve felt a little pang in my heart,” Westcott said.

Three years ago, he started work on an idea for a thin red outline across the bustling commons at the University of Arizona. 

It is something new to remember something old: The exact measurement of the doomed battleship’s main deck.

David Carter, who restores historic buildings, studied the ships blueprints and discovered a perfect fit, like it was meant to be.

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Highlight of the outline of the USS Arizona the the University of Arizona

CBS News animation

“In the initial outline of the ship, 597 feet long, and we had 5/8 of an inch to spare,” Carter said.

In the middle, a structure like a ship’s bridge with a medallion for each man who died. More than 700 were 22 or under -- college age. 

Students of today, like Elizabeth Quinlan, can meet the young men of that terrible day.

“It’s very humanizing, so you start realizing that there’s actual names and faces that go with these different incidents,” Quinlan said.

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Bill Westcott placing his uncle’s medallion on the memorial

CBS News

The last medallion was for William Westcott, signed by Bill.

“I think about the scale of the ship and the scale of the loss,” Westcott said.

The memory of every lost sailor now passed to a new generation, and a debt of honor to a fallen uncle now paid in full.