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World War II veterans get first look at USS Arizona model

Posted at 4:53 AM, Feb 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-02 10:11:07-05

COLORADO SPRINGS – Some may say it is impossible. But on Saturday, February 2nd the National Museum of World War II Aviation will receive a painstakingly accurate 1/72nd scale model of the USS Arizona.

Even at that scale, the model is eight feet long and features in fine detail the massive gun turrets, the onboard “Kingfisher” seaplanes and much smaller details like anti-mine paravanes that were towed along the side of the ship to catch and cut cables holding explosive floating mines.

What makes this even more special is a handful of survivors of the December 7, 1941 attack on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor will be there to get a first-hand look at the model as it becomes part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Don Stratton is a Colorado Springs resident who will be among the few survivors in attendance.

The model was crafted over six years ago by Jozef Szydlowski who lives in Crewe, England. He wanted to donate the scale model so it can be on display next to the exhibit dedicated to Stratton and the USS Arizona.

Over 65% of Stratton’s body was burned and he underwent recovery and rehab for over a year, returning to Nebraska after begin medically discharged. He re-enlisted and served as a ship’s gunner in the South Pacific until the end of WWII.

“A million pounds of ammunition exploded, and the fireball engulfed us,” Stratton said. “I went to get a gun and I discovered I didn’t have any fingerprints. So you can imagine how badly my hands were burnt.”

The museum is co-located with WestPac Restorations, one of the nation’s premier restorers of WWII-era aircraft. Currently, the museum is constructing a 40,000 square foot hanger, the Kaija Raven Shook Aeronautical Pavilion.