Saturday, September 20, 2008

Paradise, Day Two

Field Trip Day! Our children are always asking if we can just go on vacation sometime. They claim that I try to turn all of our travels into field trips. If I really think about it, I guess they're right. I can't seem to help myself.

The USS Arizona War Memorial was one of the main reasons we wanted to come to Oahu. Yes, Miss P, President Roosevelt was right. December 7, 1941 was truly a day that would "live in infamy." So, it was only fitting that we spend our first actual day here visiting this historic site.

After consulting our trusty guide book, we headed out to Pearl Harbor.

There was just enough time for us to explore the Visitor's Center before our tour. There were tons of things on display from the actual wreckage of the ship. The items included memorabilia and personal possessions from the soldiers as well as letters and cards received and donated by family members. Models of the ship and explanations of the damage were also detailed in the museum.

One of the highlights of our time there was meeting two Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteer with the National Park Service. These gentlemen delighted us by taking a few minutes to chat and signing pages of their bios for us to take home. We are so blessed to have the examples of such honorable men.

The tour began with a 23-minute movie describing the events of that day and the political turmoil which surrounded it. It was a vivid portrayal, and we were reminded that these people were real. They were sons and brothers, husbands and fathers with families and friends who loved them dearly. It was truly a tragic loss that day, one that Americans should never forget.

A ferry boat took us out to the area that was known as Battleship Row, one target of Japan's bombing mission. After their two waves of attacks, there were no battleships left in service in Pearl Harbor. The USS Nevada was purposefully run aground to maintain an open waterway. All but three of the battleships were raised, repaired, and restored to service in the fleet within six months.

The bomb that struck the Arizona ignited the munitions stores, causing the most massive of the day's explosions and rendering the ship unsalvageable. In fact, the wreckage burned for two days. Oil can be seen on the surface of the water, and it is estimated that oil will continue to seep from the ship's remains for the next 50 years.

Parts of the ship are visible above water, and much of the wreckage can be seen just below the surface. The memorial rests perpendicular across the ship's deck, forming a cross which is visible when viewed from above. This formation is particularly fitting considering that most of the heroes who died that day are entombed in the ship's wreckage below the memorial. Their names are listed on this wall as a way to honor their ultimate service.
Some of the survivors who have since died chose to be buried with their shipmates in the wreckage of the Arizona. In a special ceremony, their ashes were delivered into the hull of the ship by a diver as family and friends watched from the memorial above.

It is a solemn, somber place. It is also a place of honor, hallowed ground if you will.

We all appreciated the gravity of that tragic event and the extent of the sacrifice. We were once again reminded that our servicemen have greatly earned our respect and our gratitude throughout our country's history. They are our country's greatest heroes.

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