Helm Pearl Harbor: Tears for the Arizona

USS Arizona - tears Tears from the USS Arizona

I have mixed emotions today as we are on our way to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. I feel deep sorrow for the men and women who died and for the families who lost and mourn their loved ones.

This is a pre-cruise trip for us as we have flown into Honolulu 4 days before our 7 day cruise aboard the 'Pride of America'. We have booked a hotel in Waikiki just off the beach and have organised a coach to the memorial through the hotel.

Reading other blogs and heeding their advice we're going early in the morning. We're packing light as you are not allowed to take bags, including back-packs and camera bags into the visitor center.

It's a beautiful morning and the coach arrives right on time. We climb aboard, take our seats and sit and listen to the coach driver, as he explains the dos and don'ts of visiting the memorial.

Pearl Harbor - USS Arizona Memorial View from the navy boat as we approach the memorial.

Though entry to the visitor center is free, access to the USS Arizona Memorial is via a US Navy boat and there are a limited number of (free) tickets available daily, so on arrival we queue up to get our tickets. We have about an hour before it's our turn to take the boat over to the memorial so we explore the visitor center and surrounding shoreline.

There's a number of exhibits around the visitor center including the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. This was a favourite of my husband and I think he climbed over every inch! Amongst the multiple other exhibits there's one of the massive anchors from the USS Arizona, an anti-aircraft gun and a Japanese manned suicide torpedo called a Kaiten.

USS Bowfin - Pearl Harbor The USS Bowfin is on display at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center

The visitor center has a small projection room and we watch a short documentary depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the film has finished we wander around the museum and I see a model of the memorial astride the Arizona and read how it was built over but not touching the sunken ship. Taking in the sights, I find myself listening to what other people are saying. Most people are talking in whispers as they browse the exhibits slowly digesting the calamity that befell the service men and women that were totally unprepared for the attack on that fateful day.

"December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Model of USS Arizona Memorial A model showing how the memorial was constructed over the USS Arizon.

The hour has passed quickly and we (and about 50 other people) board the Navy boat and are shuttled out to the memorial. The crowd is a mixture of young and old, male and female and from the different accents I hear made up of many nationalities. The boat motors slowly towards the memorial and I'm pleased to say the mood on-board is fittingly solemn.

After a short trip the boat reaches the memorial and we disembark, a short walk up the gang-way and we're inside. There are people still inside from the previous boat but there's still plenty of room, we make our way to the back of the memorial towards the shrine where there is a large marble wall inscribed with the names of the 1,177 sailors and marines killed on the USS Arizona. My children are the age of many of the service personnel that died and I feel overcome with sadness for the loss of so many young lives.

Marble wall inscribed with the names of the 1,177 sailors and marines killed on the USS Arizona Marble wall inscribed with the names of the 1,177 sailors and marines killed on the USS Arizona.

After paying our respects at the shrine we return to the central viewing platform of the memorial above the USS Arizona and we see tiny droplets of oil bubble to the surface. Oily tears from the remains of this once mighty ship glisten on the water as if to say "Here I am, please don't forget me..."

It's our time to leave so we climb back onto the boat and are shuttled back to the visitor center. Our visit to Pearl Harbor doesn't end here there's one more major icon we have come to see... the 'Mighty Mo'. We exit the visitor center and find our coach waiting and once everyone is aboard we take the short trip around the harbor to where the USS Missouri is anchored, aka the 'Mighty Mo'.

USS Missouri Memorial As we alight the coach and head toward the entrance my mood is a little more light-hearted. The walk way to the USS Missouri is lined with the 'Stars and Stripes' and the first poster I see is for the movie "Battleship", a 2012 film about an alien invasion where the 'Mighty Mo' is brought back into service and saves the day.

The Missouri is a bit of a movie star as she was also the backdrop for the Steven Seagal movie 'Under Siege'. No... I'm not a huge movie buff, I just read another poster :p Oh yeah... and I'm old enough to remember that infamous Cher music video, 'If I could turn back time'. Off to the side I see the 'Kiss Statue' that depicts the famous photograph of the V-J celebration in Times Square at the end of World War 2; it puts a smile on everyone's face as they pass by.

Pearl Harbor - Kiss Statue Photo insert credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt

We head over to the USS Missouri and it's huge! We cross the gang plank and quickly make our way down below out of the midday sun. As I roam around the ship I wonder how people didn't get lost there are so many corridors. In the mess hall I could imagine people laughing and joking while enjoying a meal and a hot cup of coffee with shipmates, I could the see sailors queuing up with their trays and hear the clatter of plates and cutlery.

Pearl Harbor - USS Missouri USS Missouri

At the end of our tour there's an old man sitting at a table signing memorabilia, he's one of the few remaining men alive that lived through the horror of the attack that day. Survivors assigned to the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, have the right to have their cremated remains interred inside the ship. After a funeral service in the memorial their urn is presented to National Park Service divers who place it inside the broken hull of the USS Arizona.

Back on the coach and heading to the hotel I reflect on the mixed emotions I had this morning. I still feel sad for the loss of so many young lives... and for the grief suffered by the families that lost their loved ones... But, I'm so glad I went. Standing on the memorial above the Arizona knowing that below us is the final resting place of 1,102 souls brought tears to my eyes, I am truly moved by the experience.

By Karen McGlade

 

COMMENTS ( 1 )


  1. October, 2014 at 10:47:09 PM
     
    This memorial has a special meaning for me. I served in the Navy (not in US) many years ago. I'd like to visit the island and stand a little near these "oily tears," but I don't know will I manage to do it in a near future.
     
     

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Karen

Hello, my name is Karen and I'm a cruise-a-holic. I'm married to my wonderful husband Darren and we have 3 gorgeous kids, (not that I'm biased by any stretch of the imagination).

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