Aloha! (heehee) Ready to do a little sightseeing at Pearl Harbor? Let's go!
We had all agreed to meet in the lobby early on Friday morning to go over to Pearl Harbor. It was something I think everyone was looking forward to seeing. There are lots of things to see at Pearl Harbor, which officially is called World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. You can pay to see the USS Bowfin, a submarine, the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Missouri, a battleship. You can get free tickets to go over to the USS Arizona Memorial. The thing about the free tickets is that they only give away 1,300 tickets a day beginning at 7AM, first come first serve and everyone in your group has to be present at the time the tickets are given. Since seeing the Arizona Memorial was very important to us, we wanted to be there as close to 7AM as we could.
None of us had a hard time getting up, though, since our bodies were still on Mountain Daylight Time. We all felt pretty good that morning. Thanks to Siri, we easily reached our destination, pulling into the parking lot around 7:04 and there was already a HUGE long line. I thought we'd get tickets, but that we would have to wait until like 3PM to go to the Arizona. The line moved quickly though and we were able to get tickets for the 10:00 launch. We all decided that we would like to see the USS Bowfin and the USS Missouri. We bought our tickets and started exploring.
As we walked over to the USS Bowfin, we stopped at an area that had monuments to all of the US submarines and their crew that were lost during WWII. I had no idea there were so many. From this area, there was a beautiful view of the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial.
The USS Bowfin is a submarine that went into service after the attack on Pearl Harbor and is nicknamed the Pearl Harbor Avenger. I had my doubts about going into the sub because I do not like cramped spaces were I can't see outside. I get a little anxious. I walked onto the deck and went down the stairs. I was just in the front of the sub where the torpedoes are, and then there was a little door that went into the belly of the sub and I just couldn't do it. I had to wait for the others up on the deck. A really cool thing happened when I was up on the deck, though. At 8AM, the national anthem was played over loudspeakers that I'm sure could be heard all over the place. When I heard the music, I turned toward the flag and put my hand over my heart. I watched as everyone stopped walking around and turned to face the flag. It was remarkable and stirring. One of my favorite moments. When my family came up from being down in the sub, they hadn't even heard the anthem being played. They all liked checking out the inside of the submarine. They said it was cool. I'll take their word for it.
Here is a photo of the three of us at the bow of the sub:
We still had a little time, so we got some food (options were limited) and relaxed in the shade. We wandered around the gift shop, too. Soon it was nearly 10:00 and time to head over to the USS Arizona Memorial area.
Before you go over to the USS Arizona Memorial, you get to see a 20 minute film. The film gives information about the events leading up to the attack and then you see actual footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor filmed on December 7, 1941. It's pretty astounding. There was Pearl Harbor, with all the ships that were in port lined up at their moorings, the sailors going about their business on a quiet Sunday morning when all hell broke loose. There were planes everywhere, ships burning, smoke billowing, people in the water trying to be rescued. Intense.
After the film, you board a Navy launch that takes you across the harbor to the Memorial. It's only about a five minute ride. The Memorial is a beautiful white structure that does not actually touch the Arizona but stands over it. There were probably 150 people on the launch we were on, and you would not believe how quiet and reverent that many people can be. When you stand on the Memorial, you can look down and see the ship below you. I couldn't help but think of the over 1,000 souls that still rest within the ship.
Those white things you see in the background were where other ships were "parked" like the USS Oklahoma and the USS Utah, both sunk in the attack. More people were on the Arizona, though.
You walk through the Memorial and look down into the water. It's very clear and you can see fish and the ship. Then you get to the end of the Memorial and you see this wall:
It is a list of the names of all the people who died on the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. It is very stark and very sobering. I thought of how those people were just doing their jobs and then they were killed and it made me think of September 11, 2001 and all those people who were at work or doing what they do and then they died. So sad. It was very, very quiet in the room with the name wall.
MT had not been very enthusiastic about going to the Arizona Memorial, but this wall changed his feelings about it.
You don't spend very much time there, probably around 20 minutes or so. I wasn't clocking it. It's enough time to lean on the rail and look down at the ship, stand in the name wall room and let it soak in and then you're back on the launch to the visitor center. I took this photo of the Bowfin from the launch.
You can click on the photo to make it bigger so you can see how long the submarine is. I was surprised by the length.
There are two very nicely done exhibits near the film theater that has many photos and things (uniforms, books, radios - stuff) that tell the story of the time leading up to the attack and the aftermath. T and I spent some time going through the exhibit. Interesting and informative and very eye-catching.
After that, we took a bus over to Ford Island to see the battleship USS Missouri, The Mighty Mo. This ship is famous for being the ship on which the Japanese signed the Instrument of Surrender which ended World War II.
Remember yesterday I was telling you that MT loved everything Nimitz? I had to take this photo:
Yep, that's a statue of Admiral Nimitz. If you click on the photo, you'll see MT's big smile :)
And I'm going to show you this photo because I think it's neat:
The battleship is awesome. It's huge and has really enormous guns on it.
Battleships eventually gave way to the aircraft carriers, but in their day, the battleships were the shit. (Pardon the expression.)
We wandered all though the ship. I got a little claustrophobic when we got down into the sailor's quarters. I should have taken a picture, but I didn't. Imagine, if you can, stacks of bunks four beds high and rows and rows of them. The space was small and the mattresses looked a lot like a mattress you'd see in a baby's crib. There were many rooms filled with bunks like that. I can't imagine how those sailors knew where their bed was. The ship is big. I remember reading from a letter that a sailor on the Missouri wrote to his family. It said something like, "It's May and I've been on the ship since February and I still haven't seen the whole thing." Of course, he was working and we were touring and we got through it in a couple of hours.
The three of us did not take the guided tour, we just wandered around and looked at everything we could, but I admit that we skipped some rooms. We finally made our way to the "Surrender Deck" and there is a monument where the Japanese signed the surrender paperwork and there is a copy of the "Instrument of Surrender."
Please notice MT giving the "V for Victory" sign. Such a good sport! T wanted no part of it, but at least he stood there for the photo.
After touring the Mighty Mo, we were tired and hungry and ready to say good-bye to Pearl Harbor. We bought some souvenirs and headed back to the hotel. We went up to the Moana Terrace for Happy Hour and some food, then we split up to go to our rooms.
I think we all took a little nap, then the three of us wanted to go back out to the shops along the beach. Remember T didn't go out with us the first night, so he wanted to check it out. The other couples stayed at the hotel, so the three of us went out on our own. I'm glad we did because there was a street festival happening on Kalakaua Avenue (the street in front of the beach). There were Hare Krishnas walking around and loads of tourists and there was music and dancing. First we came upon this Japanese-style dancing with drums and singing. Then there was some hula dancing. (I wish I could show you the videos, but I might need T to help me load them and he's not here right now. I'll try to put them up later in a separate post.)
To end the night, I saw this statue of Duke Kahanamoku, you know the restaurant guy and oh yeah, the inventor of surfing!
This day was one of my favorite days of the vacation. I really loved being at Pearl Harbor. You know, you watch movies and you read books about World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor, but being there and seeing the Arizona Memorial and just feeling the vibe of the place made it real. I know that sounds dumb, but I think you get immune to things and it just seems like fiction until you see for yourself. Maybe that's just me. Whatever...I really enjoyed everything about this day on our vacation.
I warned you the posts would be long :) Hope you stuck with me! If you did, mahalo! (That means thank you in Hawaiian.)