Saturday, December 18, 2010

USS Arizona Memorial

 We spent the better part of a day visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.  Our first stop was the Arizona.
 This is one of the three anchors from the USS Arizona.
 This is a view of the memorial as we approach on a water shuttle.
 We watched an excellent video on shore before ever boarding the shuttle to the memorial site, so we had learned of the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, in particular the horrific explosion on board the Arizona  that killed a good portion of her crew.  Over 2400 lives were lost in the Pearl Harbor bombings, most in the first 15 minutes; almost half of those lives lost were on board the Arizona.

 I think the most powerful part of the memorial for me was the oil still bubbling up from the wreck.  It spanned all the years since the sinking, and as you stood at the rail of the memorial with fuel oil fumes rising from the water, it linked the past and the present.  Many of the sailors that died that day are at rest in the waters below, and the USS Arizona is an active U.S. military cemetery.
 These "tears of the Arizona" are astounding - having worked around boats in the fishing industry so much, having oil in the water sounds alarm bells in my head, and to see it still belching up from the depths puts the whole event into a sharper focus.  It is as though the threads of oil floating away from the vessel symbolize the continuing tragedy of that lost human potential, ended in an instant 69 years ago.

1177 of the 1400 servicemen aboard the USS Arizona that morning died.  Over 1 million people visit the memorial each year and I feel blessed to have been able to make the trip in person.  You can read about it, and study it, but until the stink of bunker C assaults your nostrils in an otherwise pristine tropical environment, and you can see how much marble is required to inscribe almost 1200 names, you can't fully understand it.  I also certainly gained a deeper understanding of the complex politics involved in the United States conflict in the Pacific theater as at least a third of the folks joining me on the shuttle were Japanese, seeking to understand and answer the same questions as I. 

In a very rare departure for my blog, I did not take this photo, it is a file photo from Wikipeida.  I think an aerial view of the memorial really helps as you can see very little of the actual wreck from the just-above-water-level of the memorial.  In this photo you can also see the seeping oil on the water and heading towards shore.


each day an adventure in alaska said...

wonderful post..really felt like i was there. i was a kid when i was in hawaii last and more interested in the bars than the history. would definitly do different if i went again. thanks...

Bren said...

Well written, little bro