I saved this for last, and made it a solo post, out of respect because Veteran’s Day is coming up and I think that the site is worthy of its own focus to begin with.
We hit Pearl Harbor on Friday and man was it worth it. I’ve got a degree in political science but I’ll be the first to admit that I never studied a lot of relatively current American politics or history and am a bit of an ignoramus when it comes to WWII and Vietnam and the like. I knew the gist of the events but was excited to see and learn more about this historic location. You start in the visitor’s center (which was largely funded by Elvis Presley I learned) which is lovely because you get to enjoy the view of the harbor:
Then we saw a film detailing the events of the Japanese bombing on Pearl Harbor. This was totally worth the visit for two reasons:
1. It had actual American footage of Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack, including actual film footage of the USS Arizona being attacked. You see, the Japanese got lucky and hit the ammo storage on the boat so the battleship just exploded. And the footage they happened to catch is frankly just breathtaking. I’d never seen actual footage of the Pearl Harbor bombing before so I was quite enthralled.
2. They somehow managed to get film donated by the Japanese government for the memorial so there’s actual footage from the Japanese side of the event. You see Japanese airmen preparing and launching their aircraft on that fateful morning. That was also kind of breathtaking because you’re watching the enemy launch up close and you know how it’s gonna end.
After the film everyone filed out very, very quietly. We were ushered onto a ferry boat and taken over to the USS Arizona memorial.
Once the boat exploded it sank. More than 1000 people went down with her. The decision was made to leave the boat and her passengers at rest at the bottom of the harbor and a lovely memorial has been built over the remains of the ship, parts of which are clearly visible above and below the water.
The battleship is still leaking oil. It’s been a bit of an argument because it’s an environmental hazard, but nobody wants to disturb the remains of the ship or the crew buried below so they’re just letting her leak. It’s referred to as the “black tears of Pearl Harbor” and legend has it that when the last survivor of Pearl Harbor dies, the oil will stop leaking.
By the way, Wikipedia has an awesome view of the site as taken from the air here.
Anyway, the memorial itself is really quite striking as the ceiling is left open and the contrast of the white memorial against the blue sea and sky is really quite lovely.
After ferrying back to land we jumped on our bus and were driven over to the USS Missouri. The Missouri was the boat used as the site of the official surrender of the Japanese, thus ending World War II. And, as my husband pointed out, the “Mighty Mo” was also the set for the Steven Segal film Under Siege. Frankly, I think this was more impressive to him than the other thing but there’s no accounting for taste. 😉
The Missouri is now settled in Pearl Harbor (she was reactivated for duty and upgraded with Tomahawk missiles for the (first) Gulf War in the 1990s). She’s pointed toward the USS Arizona to act like she’s guarding the souls of those left in the harbor.
The cool thing is that you get to climb aboard the Missouri and crawl down inside her and get a feel for what it was like to live on a battleship. Pretty cool stuff.
You betcha I took the opportunity to do my best Sarah Palin impression with one of the mounted guns!
Off the decks you could climb down into the belly of the ship and see the living and dining rooms.
Oh and I thought that these water bottle vending machines were super cute:
After we left the harbor the bus took us on a bit of a tour of downtown Honolulu and up a crater to get a lovely overview of the city. Went home, grabbed more food (and mai tais I’m sure) and started to pack.
We flew home on Saturday, which proved to be great timing as it was rainy and SUPER humid and gross. The weather gods were very very kind. Here’s a shot out of my window as we were flying over the islands and back to the mainland:
And that’s it in a nutshell!
I have a ton more photos up on flickr, from all the Hawaii spots including more from Pearl Harbor. But I think these were the highlights of the story. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!