In June of this year, while vacationing in Hawaii, I was blessed to be able to take my family to Pearl Harbor. As someone who is interested in history, WWII history in particular, this was a must-visit! I've visited before, when I was 15, but unfortunately wasn't mature enough to understand what I was looking at. This visit was going to be different!
The format of Pearl Harbor is a little interesting. There are a handful of exhibits that you can see for free. There are some memorials and other features placed around the harbor, but most of the big things, you'll need to buy a reservation/ticket for. The most competitive ticket is the tour of the USS Arizona, the most important feature of the whole experience.
There are a couple options. The first option is to pay a pretty penny and buy the all inclusive tour. This can be done through visitpearlharbor.org or pearlharboroahu.com. After some discussion with customer support at Pearl Harbor, we decided to buy the Passport to Pearl Harbor tickets from visitpearlharbor.org, which is the Pearl Harbor Visitor's Bureau. We bought the standard Passport, not the deluxe, to save a little bit of money.
Now, the Passport DOES NOT INCLUDE tickets to see the USS Arizona. We were driving ourselves because we wanted the flexibility of getting there when we wanted to, and leaving when we wanted to. We have three children, 8, 6 ,and 4, so we wanted the option of leaving if the 4 year old started to melt down. We could have bought an all inclusive tour pass, tour bus and all, but we would have been on their schedule. We decided to drive ourselves, which caused us to get creative with the tickets. So we bought the Passport, which left us responsible for buying the USS Arizona tickets. The tickets are free, if you want to arrive at 6am and wait in line. There are a limited amount of tickets, and no guarantee that you'll get tickets. But customer service recommended that we try to grab tickets online through Recreation.gov. This website allows buying tickets for many of America's parks, forests, and monuments, including the USS Arizona. This only costs $1.50 per ticket service fee. The catch with this service though, is that the tickets are opened up only 24 hours prior. We rolled the dice, jumped online 24 hours before we had planned on going, and were able to buy 9 tickets without a problem. We wanted to go a little earlier in the day, but no tickets were available. We ended up going right around noon, which worked well. All in all, we paid $65 per adult, $35 per child, and the service fee for the USS Arizona tickets. This allowed us access to everything we wanted to see, gave us the flexibility to do what we wanted, and we weren't pressed for time!
USS Bowfin Submarine
We started with a tour of the USS Bowfin. First launched in December of 1942. The Bowfin claimed over a dozen enemy ships while in service, some account for many more. We were handed some headphones to provide guests with a narrated tour, which was pretty amazing. There was an adult version and kid version. As you walked along, little placards would give you a number to type in, which told a story about that part of the ship. It was a great experience, one that brought light to how amazing our submariners and sailors were. The amount of time they spent in these tiny submarines, sailing all over the Pacific... Check out some the pictures from the deck of the Bowfin and the inside of the Bowfin. After we exited the Bowfin, we went through the USS Bowfin Museum, located just across from the Bowfin itself. It was a hot and humid day, making the museum a great place to escape the heat a little bit. We also had a few minutes before we needed to be ready for the USS Arizona tour.
USS Arizona Memorial
Before the actual tour, you start with a 25 minute film about the events that happen on December 7, 1941. This was a perfect way to set the scene and allow people to get into the proper, solemn mind that this place deserves.
The USS Arizona was a battleship, commissioned in 1916. It was used as a training ship mostly, until 1940, when it was transferred from California to Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii. On December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, a Japanese bomb struck an ammunition depot inside the Arizona, causing an immediate detonation and sunk, along with 1,177 of her crewmen. Several hundred of the crewmen were never recovered, remaining entombed in the Arizona.
After the documentary, you have a short boat ride across the harbor to the memorial itself.
The memorial itself is beautiful. The white of the memorial, contrasted against the blue of the ocean and the dark wreckage of the Arizona below is something to behold. The memorial stretches over the Arizona, allowing visitors to walk over the deck of the Arizona, giving you the ability to look below and see the ship sitting on the ocean floor.
As you walk towards the center of the memorial you begin to see the body of the ship, and the cylinders of the smoke stacks still above the water.
Then you notice that the ship is still bleeding. The ship is still crying for those she lost. The oil leaking out of the ship, about 9 quarts a day, returns to the surface. When the oil drop breaks the surface of the water, you can see the oil slick extend out, creating a rainbow of colors.
As you move along the memorial, at the opposite end of the entrance, there is a memorial wall for those that lost their lives at Pearl Harbor that day. This was extremely solemn, extremely sad. You start to see fathers, brothers, Navy, Marines, and there are just too many names.
The names on the marble were tough to read, but the feature beautifully memorializes their efforts and sacrifice. It was just a bunch of boys and young men, but they gave their lives for their brothers, and their country.
As we walked out, in the center of the memorial, there was a placard, describing how some of the Arizona survivors, have decided to be reunited with their brothers upon their death.
Survivors of the USS Arizona, can be cremated and a Navy diver places their ashes in the hull of the Arizona, uniting the survivor with their shipmates once again. I've seen this happen a time or two in the news and it tears me up. The thoughts and guilt the survivors must face. Daily they have to ask themselves, "Why did I survive?" In the sign, you can see a quote from the Navy diver that mentions how they can feel the ship accept the survivor back. As the diver places the survivor into the hull, they can feel a pull, and the remains are accepted back into the ship. This makes me proud of my country. This makes me amazed at the sacrifices our servicemen and woman give for this country and her citizens.
If you are ever in Hawaii, have an inside look at "a date which will live in infamy".
Jack of All Trades, Master of None