Pearl Harbor was the highlight of my short stay in Hawaii. There was a very long line for the US Navy boat to the USS Arizona Memorial, but while you wait, you can visit the impressive museum and the gift shop.
Once arriving at the USS Arizona memorial, I was awestruck by the giant, white concrete bridge spanning the sunken hull of the Arizona. At one end is a list of those who gave their lives during the surprise attacks. From either side of the memorial "bridge" you can see the submerged wreckage of the ships at the bottom of the harbor.
The USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania class battleship commissioned in 1916. It remained in the US East Coast during World War I, then spent some time in Europe in 1918 and 1920. In 1929 the ship was overhauled and modernized, then it was transferred to the west coast fleet in the 1930s. In 1940, the Arizona and other ships in the US Pacific Fleet were transferred to Pearl Harbor to act as a deterrent to the Japanese.
On December 7th, 1941, the Arizona was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The vast majority of the Arizona's casualties occurred when the ship's ammunition magazines exploded, killing about 1,177 crew members. Initially, much of the ship remained above water, but the superstructure was scrapped, and some of the the guns were installed at coastal batteries along the Hawaiian coast, while three guns were later installed on the USS Nevada and used in the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
The USS Arizona Memorial was dedicated in 1962 to mark the final resting place of 1,102 sailors who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The memorial cost about $500,000 to construct, and it forms a bridge over the wreckage of the Arizona. The 184-foot long structure can be reached only by boat, and it hosts well over one million visitors annually.
In many ways, the Battleship Arizona was to World War II in the Pacific what the Maine was to the Spanish-American War, and the Alamo was to the Texas battle for independence from Mexico.
Tour boats ferry people out to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor every thirty minutes. While you are waiting for your turn on the ferry please visit the gift shop.
Even if you do not want to be, please at least go and leaf through "Reflections on Pearl Harbor" by Admiral Chester Nimitz. You will find the following observations in that awesome little book.
On Sunday, December 7th, 1941--Admiral Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet just over two weeks later.
He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941.
There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat--you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war.
On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.
Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere you looked.
As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, "Well, Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?"
Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, "The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?"
Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, "What do you mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?"
Mistake number one: The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number two: When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three: Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is on top of the ground in storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make, or God was taking care of America.
Those words are still an inspiration to me and just about everyone with whom I have shared them.
In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in Fredricksburg -- he was a born optimist. But anyway you look at it--Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism. President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.
There is a reason that our national motto is,
"IN GOD WE TRUST."
When you visit the USS Arizona Memorial, and I truly hope that you will, please remember Admiral Nimitz and the One who may have orchestrated our victory in WW II on that first Sunday morning of the Pacific War.
There's nothing more UNpatriotic than going to O'ahu and NOT honoring our forefathers. And the most famous place to do that is at the USS Arizona Memorial. Once you disembark the ferry and walk into the memorial, you'll be mesmerized by the peacefulness of the surroundings and hushed-tones of the crowds as you think of the violent means by which this ship sank.
Go here for more info:
USS Arizona Memorial website
FYI: Most of the Arizona's superstructure above the waterline was removed for construction of the memorial. The only viewable circular shapes above the water are her gun turret mounts - not the smoke stacks as many people think.
Visit the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri.
Drive around the island to see more than just Waikiki.
Watch whales from Nov. through April offshore. Watch for the spouting waters.
Visit the Pali Lookout for a windy scenic experience.
Visit Hanauma Bay for its beauty, marine life, and just because.
Visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and visit the lookout for a great view of the city.
Learn a little or a lot about the Hawaiian culture, the history of the islands, and the tragic overthrow of the monarchy. If you understand this, you will understand some of the anger and unrest of the Hawaiian people.
SCUBA, hike, visit museums and art galleries, sample the variety of ethnic foods available, golf, and take lots of pictures.
Meet some local folks. Get to know us!
The Arizona Memorial is a memorial building that rests atop the sunken ruin of the USS Arizona. The Arizona sank on Dec. 7, 1941, entombing over a thousand sailors as it went down. This is a memorial that signifies the beginning of World War II. The USS Missouri was recently moved to Pearl Harbor and is anchored near the Arizona Memorial. The USS Missouri is where the Japanese signed the surrender papers, and signifies the end of World War II. There is a whole tour, video, ferry ride to the memorial, etc. that makes the whole thing worthwhile.