Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pearl Harbor

73 years ago the Japanese Imperial Navy launched an attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu.
Battleships, cruisers, destroyers and aircrafts were beached, destroyed or sunk.
Over 2,400 died with more than 1,000 of the bodies lost to a watery grave.
The next day, the US declared war on Japan and vice versa.
Three days later Germany and Italy declared war on America.
Less then 150 hours after the attack, the US was fully engaged in the Second World War after spending years trying to avoid it.

Those dry facts can be found in any history book or on any WWII website, but they mean little to modern generations for whom that war might as well have been as long ago as the Civil War.

I think that is why Pearl Harbor is one of the most visited sites in Hawaii. We all know in the back of our collective consciousness that we should remember it, but it is tucked so far back that it is not until we stand in the actual location that we are moved to care.

Driving west from Honolulu, I knew i had to be getting close when missiles starting peeking over the fence.

I was shocked to see that the Pacific Command is still housed here.
Logically it isn't surprising, but somehow i'd always assumed that it was moved after being all bombed to heck.
Guess not.
The Pearl Harbor location is home not only to the Arizona, but also the USS Missouri, where the Japanese formally surrendered, the USS Bowfin submarine, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

The USS Arizona Memorial can only be reached by boat shuttle as it straddles the remaining wreckage of the battleship right where she sank. 
2,000 free tickets are given out each day to visitors; with the visitor center opening at 7am, the tix are often gone by mid-morning.
Come early!
NOTE: pictures are from October 2010

The short boat ride gives you time to appreciate the stark beauty of the white bridge, bowed in the middle to represent the depression in the spirit of America after the attack and its resilience to rise again as you approach from the left, getting closer and closer.

Here are some pictures to illustrate locations for you:

For me it was one thing to know that the monument was over a sunken ship, but a very different experience to stand looking at rusting pieces jutting out of the water, sea life claiming the underwater metal as its own and oil slicks continuous on the water.


To lend perspective to the size of the ships attacked and the enormity of sinking or beaching eight of them, you walk by one of the Arizona's three anchors next to the launch pier.

Today i pause to remember and acknowledge your sacrifice

It was one of the most beautiful and affecting places i have ever visited.


Rea said...

YAY! A Hawaii Post! Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

One thing I found both moving and a little eerie: Among the many bodies interred in the wreckage of the Arizona are those of sailors who survived the attack on 12/7/41. Some of them died many years later, but chose to be laid to rest alongside their comrades.

If anyone is thinking of visiting, if/when you ever make it to Hawaii, as Niki said, this is the state's most visited attraction; the tickets to the Arizona memorial are free, but can only be gotten the day of, so get their early. If your tour of the memorial isn't until later in the day, the Missouri and Bowfin are worth seeing (though those are not free).


Anonymous said...

Very nice post, Niki. Gorgeous photos.