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Canadian Mill Has the Right Stuff to Produce USS Arizona Medals

A U.S. not-for-profit seeking to create a rare and special commemorative piece found the solution north of the border.

HAMILTON, ON — While many events were held on Tuesday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, perhaps among the most unique was in Canada, about an hour’s drive from Buffalo.

Lauren Bruner was among the survivors of the bombing of the U.S.S. Arizona claimed the lives of nearly 1200 servicemen on December 7, 1941.

Bruner, who died in 2019 at the age of 98, established a non-profit foundation to honor all those who were aboard the ship on the morning of the attack.

The U.S Navy gave his foundation actual steel from Arizona, and the idea was to melt it into ingots, which would then be rolled thinly and cut into medals.

They found a mill in Alabama to melt the metal, but the rest was more of a challenge than they might have figured.

A Significant Role to Play

“They were looking for a place that could roll the steel and take it from an inch and a half thick ingot down to less than a quarter of an inch thick so that it could be then laser-cut, stylized, and made into a medal,” explained Philippe Dauphin, Director General at CanmetMATERIALS, a national laboratory operated by Natural Resources Canada, which is a branch of the Canadian Government

Created in 1942 to conduct metallurgical tests and develop products for the Canadian war effort, CMAT remains a vital facility in developing materials for energy, such as tubes for nuclear reactors, pipeline material, and lighter metals for cars to increase their efficiency. 

“They couldn’t find a single rolling mill that had the flexibility to do that. Most rolling mills are industrial size and they won’t stop production to roll 600 pounds of steel,” Dauphin explained.

However, the CMAT lab in Hamilton, Ont. is one of a small number of places that has a “pilot-scale rolling mill” capable of industry-level work and producing high-quality sheets without having to shut down an entire mill to test out a single strip.

It could be said that their ability to roll, provided a vital role in the Lauren F Bruner Foundation’s quest to create a rare and special commemorative piece.

Special Mission

“They contacted us that was back in October and I looked at my calendar and said, ‘oh my God December 7 was two months away and we have an opportunity to do this on the day at Arizona got sunk’,” recalled Dauphin.

The decision was made to wait until Pearl Harbor Day to open the facility's reheat furnace, take the ingot out, and roll it at 2:05 pm, which was precisely the local time when Arizona was hit by a 1,300-pound bomb 80 years ago.

“This afternoon is going to be very emotional," predicted Dauphin two hours before the work was set to begin. “We’ll be thinking about all of the men who lost their lives.

While the attack on Pearl Harbor is what launched the United State into World War II, few know that there were 6 members of the Canadian armed forces on the Arizona that fateful day, only one of whom survived.

How to Get a Medal

In an ongoing effort to raise money to produce portraits of all those who died in Arizona, The Lauren Bruner Foundation will be giving the medals as gifts to those who make donations for that cause, starting in February, according to Dauphin.

“This medal will be the first time that ordinary citizens can lay their hands on steel from Arizona,” said Dauphin, noting that up until then only museums and foundations were allowed to obtain pieces or artifacts from the ship.

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