With this being my second Memorial Day on Blogger, I again dedicate this post to the fallen men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.
For many people, standing at the USS ARIZONA Memorial is a bucket list item and the Memorial remains the #1 visitor destination in Hawaii.
With it being Memorial Day Weekend, it made perfect sense to revisit this iconic memorial, so we went as a family Sunday.
Driving to the main entrance of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, I was glad of the little extra time we built in. (Parking was tough to find and no backpacks are allowed inside, so the diaper bag was stripped and emergency supplies distributed in my multi-pocketed shorts.)
However, I soon lost sight of these mundane things when one of the first things I saw were two Cold War-era weapons, including an old POLARIS nuclear missile.
It’s free to enter the grounds and museums of the Visitor Center, and once through the turnstile, you enter an open- air atrium with a map of the Pacific at your feet.
There’s also no charge to visit the actual Memorial, but you have to reserve the tickets for the boat ride, so make that your first stop. This may seem simple, (you can reserve tickets online here but there are a lot of things pulling at you. (The gift/book store, a snack bar and the restrooms – if you bring the kids.)
Ignore all that if you can (unless you “really have to go, Papa”) and head to the ticket counter directly ahead of you.
TIP: Send someone to the Visitors Center before 9 a.m. – and you can generally have your pick of times. One adult can reserve up to six tickets. Currently, sailings to the Memorial start at 8 a.m. and run until 1 p.m., weather – and federal agency permitting. (The National Park Service operates the Visitors’ Center, but the U.S. Navy runs you out to the Memorial – and won’t sail if the winds are too high.)
Tickets in hand, feel free to come back closer to your allotted time or wander the ground where you’ll see various exhibits and interactive museums on the grounds – including the USS Bowfin (SS-287), a retired diesel submarine, which is worthy of its own day trip.
Once your time approaches, make your way to the small theatre where a Park Ranger offers some basic info and directs you inside. After an excellent 23-minute documentary that answers, in part, the why behind the events of Dec. 7, 1941, exit the theatre and you’ll be on the pier and next to one of the white transport boats.
|Taken from Museum Video Clips (Above & Below)|
The ride to the Memorial takes about five to ten minutes, so enjoy the unique view of Ford Island and parts of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam on the way – as well as the majestic sight of the USS MISSOURI (BB-63), which sits, like a guard, over the wreck of its sister battleship, the USS ARIZONA (BB-39).
|USS MISSOURI (BB-63)|
1,177 Sailors lost their lives on the ARIZONA alone and the remains of more than 950 are entombed in the hull, so conversations are muted (or nonexistent) as the coxswain maneuvers the boat into place, and you walk up a stairwell/ ramp into the Memorial proper.
|Location of the Memorial in Context of the Ship.|
You walk through a small interior “room” and then the long open section of the Memorial. Walk over to the right, about three quarters of the way and see the rusted, circular stack that is the remains of one of the gun turrets.
|The White Buoy (background) Marks the Stern|
|Contrast of Ship and Sea|
Depending on the wind, and where you stand, the smell of oil that seeps from the ship - 72 years after the attack - sneaks up on you like a surprise.
|Leaking Oil from the USS ARIZONA|
|"Black Tears" of the USS ARIZONA|
The Park Ranger I spoke with said each day the ships bleeds several quarts of the oil, known as “the black tears of the ARIZONA.” According to some estimates, the ship will “cry” for its lost souls another 350 years. He also mentioned the legend that the ship will stop crying once the last survivor dies and returns to his former shipmates.
Since 1982, dozens of survivors who died have been interred at the site – the latest ceremony was held Dec. 7, 2012. (As of this post, about a dozen known survivors from the ARIZONA are alive.)
|Since 1982, Dozens of Survivors have been Interred with their Shipmates|
|The Latest Crewmember to Return to the USS ARIZONA|
Walk further, you’ll come to the main interior room, where each fallen Sailor's name and rank is inscribed.
(I never realized the significance of Valkenburgh Street, a nearby road I use daily - until I discovered the Commanding Officer of the ARIZONA was a CAPT. F. Van Valkenburgh...)
A trip to the USS ARIZONA Memorial is something you will never forget – just like we should never forget the men who were lost on that terrible date that will live on in infamy.
As we waited in line for the return trip, the most poignant words of the day came from our five-year-old. He told his Mama he “had a question about all those people on the wall.”
Lest We Forget...
A Memorial Day Tribute to the Fallen: