ASU team helps make WWll memorial a reality

November 26, 2013

Arizona State University faculty, staff and students played prominent roles in the planning and design of "Guns to Salute the Fallen," a memorial to World War II veterans that will be dedicated Dec. 7. Hundreds of World War II veterans and several Pearl Harbor survivors are expected to attend the ceremony.

Located at Wesley Bolin Plaza at the State Capitol, just east of the State House, the “Salute to the Fallen” consists of two gun barrels from two historically significant flagships of the U.S. Navy: the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri. Michael Underhill watches lowering of guns from USS Arizona and USS Missouri. Download Full Image

The first ship, the USS Arizona, was sunk in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan that launched the United States’ entry into World War II. The gun barrel at Bolin Plaza was off the ship for maintenance when the attack occurred, according to Michael Underhill, interim dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and faculty in The Design School, who also served as architect for the project. The second ship, the USS Missouri, is where Japanese forces surrendered in 1945, marking the end of the war.

Between the two gun barrels sits a set of blue steel frames modeled on the shape of the ribs of the ship’s bow. Hanging from the frames are more than 1,900 steel name plates, each inscribed with the name of someone from the state of Arizona who lost his or her life in World War II.

The project was spearheaded by Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who first learned of the existence of a remaining gun barrel from the USS Arizona through John Thomas, a former attorney in the Arizona House of Representatives, back in 2011.

Bennett was immediately intrigued. As a child, he said, he was upset by the idea that American soldiers had been caught off guard at Pearl Harbor, and remains fascinated to this day with anything that has to do with the watershed event. He not only managed to track down the gun barrel Thomas told him about through the Navy’s Department of Inactive Ships, he also learned of the existence of the gun from the USS Missouri.

In addition, Bennett saw to it that no tax dollars were used by the state in the making of the memorial. Instead, “everything was donated by private contractors or providing services or goods,” even the hauling of the barrels across the country by railroad.

Bennett enlisted the help of SDB, a Tempe construction management firm; Schuff Steel, a major steel fabricator; and Tutor Perini Construction, who donated all of the concrete work. He had an architecture firm start design on the memorial, but when the firm bowed out because of liability issues, Bennett approached ASU President Michael Crow, who in turn asked Underhill to put together a team to help finish the project, pro bono.

“We did all of the technical design,” Underhill said of The Design School team. “All of the refinements of the design. The structural engineering, landscape architecture, architectural detailing; all of the things that needed to be done so that the project could get finished.”

Underhill noted that the situation was unusual for the university. “We usually do it the other way around. We do the preliminary design thinking (and then somebody else does the technical end). President Crow said that was the reverse of a normal case, but because it’s a donation, and to support the effort of the Secretary of State, we’re going to do it.”

Other ASU faculty and staff involved were Greg Brickey, associate professor of practice in The Design School, who served as the structural engineer; Joseph Ewan, associate professor of landscape architecture, who served as the landscape architect; and Patrick Plehn, prototype/modeling shop manager, who coordinated the production of the stainless steel name plates.

The ASU team also oversaw the construction of the memorial. The groundbreaking took place in October 2012, and the first concrete pour took place this past summer.

“I had to be there for the pours,” Underhill said. “They had 15 concrete trucks for the foundations. We had to pour the concrete at two in the morning because it’s too hot to pour concrete otherwise.”

He pointed out that most cities in the U.S. wouldn’t have had a crane large enough to ease the gun barrels onto their mounts, and that watching the guns go in – “without incident, no cracks” – was “not unscary.”

Underhill has a personal connection to the memorial: His father was in the Navy and served in the Pacific during the Second World War. “Ken Bennett had family in the Navy,” Underhill said, “and we found that over and over again, other people involved with the project had some kind of connection (to the memorial)."

That includes Russell Wisniewski, an undergraduate in The Design School, who served in the Navy before deciding to attend ASU’s Design School, and worked as the computer-aided design specialist on the project.

“I think it’s interesting to know why specific things happened in the design,” Wisniewski said, pointing to the steel name plates as an example. “That was a decision that we spent months laboring over,” he said, “because it was about finding the right material. The vision was that ... they’d flutter in the breeze and reflect the sun and glisten like the sea. That was our goal.”

Bennett noted that employees at the State Capitol have been helping to hang the name plates. “One guy who took the letter 's' ended up hanging his uncle’s name plate,” Bennett said. “And that got around, and more people started showing up hanging those plates.”

Wisniewski said that he was “super excited” to see the results of everyone’s efforts on a recent visit to the site of the memorial.

“When you’re standing right in front of (the wall of name plates), it kind of reflects you,” he said. “And then when it moves, it’s like the ocean. So there are lots of levels of understanding this piece that’s about all these people who served.”

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Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


Investigative reporter accepts award, urges coverage of disabilities

November 27, 2013

Ryan Gabrielson, a reporter for The Center for Investigative Reporting’s California Watch, expressed concern over the scarcity of disability coverage as he accepted the inaugural Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability Monday.

The award, administered by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University, recognizes the best disability reporting in all mediums – radio, television, print and online. Gabrielson received a trophy and a $5,000 prize on behalf of his news organization for “Broken Shield,” a series of reports detailing routine failure on the part of police to protect the developmentally disabled at California care institutions. Download Full Image

After accepting the award, Gabrielson spoke about investigative reporting and coverage of the disabled community as part of a Monday evening lecture series at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He said stories about the disabled are often under-covered in the media because reporters don’t recognize them or don’t know how to go about reporting them.

Stories about the disabled “are like shuttered big box store buildings to reporters,” Gabrielson said. “They’re monoliths – ugly, windowless, featureless. Their doors appear barricaded.”

“Broken Shield” was chosen from among 72 entries submitted by journalists around the world.

Schneider, who was in attendance for the awards ceremony and Gabrielson’s lecture that followed, said the response to the first contest was incredible, and she called Gabrielson’s work “just great journalism.”

Gabrielson said the story came to him as a tip in April 2011 about financial fraud within a small, obscure Californian police force, called the Office of Protective Services. What at first appeared to be a “quick-turn investigation” spiraled into an exhaustive probe over two years and uncovered a system that ignored patient abuse and even deaths.

“The developmental police story covered every condition of my beat – cops who don’t arrest criminals, courts that hardly ever see a patient abuse prosecution and catastrophes,” Gabrielson said.

Since the investigation was published, state lawmakers have begun to address the problems with a series of bills to begin “reforming the situation,” he added.

Gabrielson said working on the series opened his eyes to disability coverage. “Until you’re aware of the disabled and what they go through, you don’t see them,” he said.  

“Broken Shield” also was a 2013 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service and won a 2012 George Polk Award and a 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. 

Second-place in the Schneider Journalism Award contest and a $1,500 prize went to Gareth Cook for his New York Times Magazine piece, “The Autism Advantage.” Two honorable mentions, each with $500 awards, went to Daphnee Denis and Hoda Emam for a video documentary, “Playing by Ear,” and Broughton Coburn for a Dartmouth Alumni Magazine article, titled “Second Chapter: A Portrait of Barry Corbet.”

The awards are funded by Schneider, an author and a retired clinical psychologist who has been blind since birth. She also supports the Schneider Family Book Awards, which honors books that embody artistic expression of the disability experience for adolescent audiences.

“She is a kind, tough as nails woman, who gets disability on the most personal gut-level,” said contest judge Tim McGuire, the Frank Russell Chair of Journalism at the Cronkite School and a member of the NCDJ board.

Entries for the 2013-2014 contest will be accepted beginning in May 2014.

Reporter , ASU News