Sunday, June 17, 2007


By Wednesday everyone had arrived.  We all headed into downtown Honolulu to visit Pearl Harbor.  I was excited to finally be going to Pearl Harbor.  It was one of those places I'd always wanted to visit since I was a kid.

It should come as no surprise that this is a popular tourist attraction.  Even though it is free to the public, you need tickets to enter and you need to line up early to get those tickets.   Pearl Harbor is more than just seeing the USS Arizona.  You start with a movie that's ~30 minutes long.  The movie goes into the history of Pearl Harbor.  Beginning with US troops first being stationed there, then through the conflicts in Japan and Europe and finally w/ Japans attack on Pearl Harbor.  The footage they used in the film included US photos as well as Japanese photos of the event.  It was very sobering to watch.

The USS Arizona was built in 1916.  It was refurbished in the '30's to prepare it for modern warfare.  As tensions rose between the Japanese and the US due to the Japanese invasion of China and other countries in Asia, it was decided to move all our big battleships over to the island of Oahu in Hawaii, stationing them at Pearl Harbor.  They felt this was the best strategic location to help protect the Midway Islands.  You can read more about the history here.

After the movie you file through the auditorium doors to the launch where you take a boat out to the USS Arizona.  Along the way you see memorials of where the other battleships along Battleship Row that were hit.  Harbored not too far away from the Arizona Memorial is the USS Missouri which is the ship where the Japanese surrendered to the US.  The Missouri is also open for tours, but unfortunately, we weren't able to go there the day we were at the Arizona.

When you see pictures of the Memorial and the sunken ship they all look the same, no matter who took the picture.  But once you've been there, the pictures take on a whole new meaning.  It really hits you that this is more than a stone statue memorializing some fallen soldiers.  This is more than just a sunken ship that was hit, hard, by the Japanese during their attack.  This memorial and ship is the tomb of ~1,100 men who were faithfully serving our country.  Again the tone aboard the memorial is very sobering.

The way the Memorial is constructed is it lies perpendicular across the mid section of the USS Arizona.  As you get off the boat you walk through a doorway into an open area with various flags.  You then proceed into the main part of the Memorial, where you can view the parts of the ship that are still visible.  You can see quite a bit of the ship, including the gun turrets.  The flag that flies over the Memorial is flying on the broken mast of the Arizona itself.  You can still see blobs of oil bubbling up from parts of the ship, even after all these years.  The third part of the Memorial is a shrine.  It contains all the names of the men who were killed on the Arizona.  It takes up the entire back wall of the shrine.

The boat takes you back to the visitor center where you can walk around the grounds.  They have various plagues explaining different things about what you are seeing as well as a museum to tour. 

The Arizona is slowly sinking.  In two years they are going to close it down to fix it and make it safe for people to visit.  I don't know how long that will take nor do I know if it will be the same feeling once they've fixed it up.

We were really thankful to have had an opportunity to see this part of our history first hand.  I'm also glad, even though my kids are still young and we haven't studied WWII yet, they were able to experience Pearl Harbor and will always remember their visit.

1 comment:

homeschoolhighlites said...

Your trip looked wonderful! Must have been a great time and sounds like many happy memories. My husband and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon (now 17 yrs. ago) and would LOVE to go back with our kids someday. Not likely anytime soon though.

We will be studying Zoo 2 this fall and looking forward to it.