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Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: A Visit to the USS ARIZONA (BB-39)

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.
Main Entrance
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.)
First Sighting...
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).
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.”


“But, when will they go home?”


Lest We Forget...
A Memorial Day Tribute to the Fallen:


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thank you for the tour. I've never been to Hawaii or seen the memorial. God Bless those who fell that day, and all those who fight for our freedom.
(I would manage to get past the gift shop though!)

Dana said...

I really appreciate this tour. I'd love to go there someday. Thanks to everyone who served.

Happy Memorial Day!

The Words Crafter said...

Wow, if I ever get to Hawaii, I def want to visit this. A very moving tribute.

I live in NC and 2 years ago, my husband and I revisited the USS North Carolina. These kinds of places help us, hopefully, remember how fortunate we are.

I read through some of your blog and I love your comical view of parenthood.

Thanks for visiting!

Leigh Covington said...

Amazing post for the day Mark. Definitely perfect timing. My mom got to visit Pearl Harbor this spring and loved it. So many people we need to remember. So many have fought and still fight for us today.

David P. King said...

I would love to go there sometime. Did you know my grandfather was in the navy at the time? He wasn't at Pearl Harbor, but the attack did send him into the Pacific Theater and the Battle of Midway. Great post on a very important day. :)

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Almost as if I was there, glad there's such a great place to remember the many fallen troops. Thanks for the virtual tour Mark and it's great that both the fallen and survivors are remembered. Love the pics especially of the ships, memorials, missiles, and underwater pictures.

Elise Fallson said...

Wow, that millile is huge. Thank you for the tour. We will never forget.

Julie Musil said...

Mark, Morgan Shamy tagged me in her "My Five Happy Ways" post, and linked to you. I wanted to click over and see who you were, and boy, am I glad i did.

I've visited this memorial twice. It's a powerful place with powerful reminders. My goal is to bring my husband and three sons to the USS Arizona.

Thanks for the moving tribute on this important day.

Mark Means said...

Wow, great pics Mark and thanks for giving us a glimpse of your outing. Definitely looks like a stop to make when in Hawaii.

Have a great Memorial Day and, you're right, their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

S.P. Bowers said...

Thanks for the tour. There was some new info and I loved the pics.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark - what an amazing place - I've never seen this before .. so it's fascinating having that walk through and boat ride - must have been very evocative.

Blessings to all this Memorial Day and many thoughts to all service men and women and their families of times gone by and times today ... Hilary

Tammy Theriault said...

Wow, what I would give to go see that specific memorial! Thanks for the wonder pictures!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for showing us around. I hadn't realized that others were being interred in the Arizona as they passed, and I hadn't realized it was still leaking oil. Peace.

John Going Gently said...

The contrast between ship and sea is incredibly moving

Al Diaz said...

Thanks for the tour, Mark. It has been very interesting to learn about this place. I'll keep it in mind when I go to Hawaii.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Mark,

I am truly awed. I felt the silence. The whispers of the spirits of these men still among the living.

Your tour was a magnificent tribute to these fine men who had lost their lives protecting our country.

You should be proud and especially proud that you shared this with your sons and all of us.

My father was a veteran of WW!! and Korea. He even past on Veteran's Day. SO appropriate for an Army sergeant.

Thank for this touching tribute.

Suzi said...

I was at Pearl Harbor years ago, when I was a teenager. But I can't wait to bring my kids there someday. My oldest, 9, is interested in learning about the wars so he knows a little about this. But I know he'd love to see it too. Someday...

Kirsten said...

How poignant that Arizona still weeps for her lost crew-- by the end of your post and the video I admit I was a bit choked up myself! Today makes me so proud to be an American.
Thank you for this wonderful post. It is so important to remember our heroes.

Gina Gao said...

I went to Pearl Harbor two years ago, and it was amazing.


Elizabeth Seckman said...

What an excellent tribute. You bring pride to your American family :)

Meradeth Houston said...

What a really nice tribute. Thanks for sharing this and for the reminder of what the day is all about!

Lisa Gail Green said...

That was great! Thank you. It makes me want to visit HI again. We almost moved to Maui years ago. *sigh* I never realized the extent of the memorial there.

Chancelet said...

It's great that you did a memorial post, and well done. Love your tips for the museum and fairy. Will have to keep that in mind should I ever make it to the site, especially if kids have come along. :) Nice pics. Writer’s Mark

Unknown said...

We got a chance to visit here in 2011. It's an experience we'll never forget.

shelly said...

Lovely tour. I visited this place in 1987.

Anyway, thank you for your care package offer. The purpose for AFO is to gather enough books to bundle together to offer so people will make donations to The American Red Cross directly.

I'm sure there's an organization out there that would take your care package and send it to the folks in Moore, Oklahoma.

Hugs and chocolate,

Morgan said...

Oh Mark---seeing the pictures make it so real! Thanks so much for sharing. I swear if everyone were to love America as much as you, it would solve a lot of problems!

Hubby and I were in Hawaii right after our first born--it was magic! But we weren't able to travel to any of these historic sights. Next time!!!!!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Thanks for this lovely tour. I just adored the pictures :)

Lydia Kang said...

Wow, I absolutely got chills looking over these photographs. I'd love to go there someday.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful tribute. One of these days, I'm going to see this...I hope. It's a huge part of history and so important for Americans to understand what happened here.

Ella said...

Thank you Mark! The black tears really do touch on some many emotions, for those who sacrificed so much~

What a moving tribute!

Nicole said...

A fitting tribute! Thanks for sharing, Mark.

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