No visit to Hawaii would be complete without visiting Pearl Harbor. If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, make sure you visit this extraordinary place. My brother took me to see the USS Arizona Memorial. It was an unforgettable experience.
On Dec 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The goal was to keep the Americans out of the Pacific as Japan continued it's expansion into Asia. Over 2,300 men, women, and children were killed in the surprise attack. The next day, the US formally declared war on Japan and entered World War II.
The tour began with a short film describing the events leading to and the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was an informative film. The most poignant scenes for me were of the night before the attack. The servicemen and women dancing the night away, the people going about their daily lives, blissfully unaware that in a few hours, their lives would come to an end.
After the film, we boarded a ship run by the US Navy and headed out to the USS Arizona Memorial. The sailors explained the rules for our safety, and this included remaining seated until the boat comes to a complete stop. I was surprised that the majority of tourists on the boat were Japanese. My brother said that the majority of tourists in Hawaii were from Japan. I wondered how they felt, seeing the destruction that resulted from the attack on Pearl Harbor all those years ago.
Long white objects covered the ships sunk in the attack. They marked where each ship went down.
(Click on the pics for bigger view, or right click, then open in new tab)
One of 21 US Navy ships sunk in the attack, the USS Nevada survived the first of 3 waves of Japanese aerial attacks.
As it attempted to move out of the channel and into the open sea, the USS Nevada was bombarded by a second wave of Japanese fighters. Realizing the Japanese aim was to sink the Nevada and block the channel, the Americans beached the ship at Hospital Point, keeping the channel clear.
An unnamed ship, one of many that were lost in the attack. There were quite a few of these along the way. Some unmarked; they were tombstones of the watery resting place of so many.
The USS Vestral was a repair ship. A smaller ship, she could not survive the massive onslaught of Japanese aircrafts.
And there she was, the USS Arizona. At approximately 8:10 a.m., an armor piercing bomb ripped through the ship. It ignited the ship's ammunition, and the resulting explosion sunk the ship and killed many of the crew.
1,177 crewmen of the USS Arizona died that day. More than half of all the American casualties suffered that day would come from the destruction of this ship.
I've been to several war memorials in my life. They all exuded an atmosphere of solemnity. The USS Arizona had that and so much more.
Upon entering this beautiful structure that marked the site of the sunken ship, I was struck by the amazing lines of the architecture. Simple, yet dynamic; clean, but strong white; sunlight pouring through the open ceiling, illuminating the memorial in a vibrant hue.
I made my way towards the back of the Memorial, to the wall that bore the names of those servicemen who died on the ship.
It was a moving tribute; a simple epitaph, but a powerful testament to those who've passed on so that the living could be free.
The flower leis, a poignant reminder that Hawaii has not forgotten her defenders.
So big was this wall with the names of the dead. A special portion of the wall was inscribed with the names of the survivors who wanted their remains to be entombed among their crewmen when they died. I was moved by such loyalty after all these years. Even after living their own lives long after the war, these men never forgot their friends, choosing to share their resting place for all of eternity.
At the floor of the memorial was an opening that looked down upon the remains of the ship. There it was, the resting place of over a thousand sailors.
On one side of the memorial, you can see a part of the ship that reached above the waters. Rusted, but still there after so many years. I was sadden to think of all those people, mostly young and innocent, lost in a single devastating explosion.
But that's the sad reality of war. People die. I could only sympathize with the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, the brothers, and the children of these lost crewmen.
I looked up towards the sky and I saw Old Glory, waving proudly in the wind. I thought to myself, this was the symbol of what the armed forces are defending. This is the flag of a nation, born and raised on the blood, sweat, and tears of it's people. And this was a promise kept to our defenders, that we will never forget their sacrifices.
We will never forget their courage and heroism. We are a great nation and a free people because of their actions and dedication. We honor them, we thank them, and we remember them.
I looked further out and saw Navy ships still patrolling these shores. Pearl Harbor and the surrounding military bases survived the attack and were instrumental in winning the war with Japan.
I could not help but admire that navy ship, a testament to the the survival of the American spirit.
I looked back down at the sunken ship, lost in thought about all that I had seen. Then some movements in the sky blue waters caught my attention. Fish! There were fish swimming among the ruins of the USS Arizona. I smiled at the thought that nature had embraced this ship and it's crew. The gods and goddesses of Hawaii have taken these people and made them their own.
On the return trip back, I was quiet, and my brother asked if I was all right. I told him, yes, I was just thinking. I told him I was glad that I came, as I now have a better understanding of what happened so long ago and its significance. Somehow, this place has so much meaning now.
To lighten the mood, my brother pointed out a Japanese lady who was standing in the boat to take pictures and whispered, "Can you believe her? It's bad enough that they bombed Pearl Harbor but now she has the balls to stand there and break the rules?! The captain said no standing while the ship is moving!"
I couldn't help but whisper back, "The nerve! Security! Arrest this woman! Take her away...to Guantanamo Bay! Preferably with a potato sack over her head!" And we giggled til we got back to shore.
When we disembarked the ship, we went over a field to take one last look at the memorial. It's hard to believe that this paradise was once turned into hell so long ago. But it survived, and thrived, and it has somehow become more alive with it's defenders now a part of it's spirit, a shimmering pearl in the Pacific.
After a quick ride home to pack up some food and gear, my brother drove us to Waikiki to enjoy the rest of the day.
We met some some friends for a game of volleyball in this gorgeous park by the beach, near the Outrigger Hotel.
I was surprised at the number of people (locals and tourists) out there enjoying the sun and surf.
After playing a game of volleyball, we decided to cool off in the waves.
I thought it was neat how Diamond Head was located on the other side of the beach.
And on the other side, there was miles and miles of beach with lots of people enjoying the soft sand and cool, clear waters.
There were also some nice waves for an smooth ride along the shore.
After a good set of wave riding, we stopped for some lunch. I was still amazed at the magnificence of this pearl of a tropical paradise. It's hard to capture in fotos the sense of awe and wonder I had while in that exquisite environment; But I tried anyway:)
Nothing says aloha like two hot lesbians in bikinis. Like diamonds and pearls, these two hotties were some of the many jewels that make Hawaii so pleasing to the eye (and other parts of the body ;) I think I have just found my Xmas Card for the year. Mele Kalikimaka!