Day 3 around Honolulu Hawaii & Pearl Harbour - 15 June 2015

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June 15th 2015
Published: June 22nd 2015
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Day 3 around Honolulu Hawaii & Pearl Harbour - 15 June 2015

Today was the day we were off the Pearl Harbour. We decided to take a tour as well as do our own thing. The deal with the USS Arizona Memorial is because it is free one of the options is to go with a tour and the other is to get there early and pick up one of the 2000 entry tickets. We chose the former as it was the easiest.

The other advantage of the tour was that the bus took us around some of the sites of southern Oahu Island and around Honolulu. The tour guide was very informative stopping at the Iolani Palace, King Kamehameha Statue in front of old Judiciary Building Hawaii used to be Kingdom for 100 years before the USA took it!), Parliament House (which is designed to look like a volcano and a tropical design including water and vegetation), as well as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

We learned a lot of the history of Hawaii and how it was settled and governed over the years.

We eventually arrived at Pearl Harbour which is on the southern coast of Oahu, to the west of Honolulu and it is the largest harbor in Hawaii. It is also a United States National Historic Landmark. Pearl Harbor is most famous for being the target of a surprise attack by Japanese fighter planes on December 7, 1941. On December 8, 1941 the United States declared war on Japan and on December 11, 1941 Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. On September 2, 1945 the Japanese officially surrendered to the United States in a formal ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri Battleship which, at the time, was anchored in Tokyo Bay.

We arrived there at around 9:00am.USS Arizona Memorial is the most significant sight at Pearl Harbor. Once our guide gave us our tickets to see USS Arizona, we knew we were scheduled for the 9.45am time slot.

The memorial is offshore and features a platform that has been built over the spot where USS Arizona (the boat that sunk in under 9 minutes) lies. The boat remains at the bottom of the water and the shrine is kept in honour of the fallen military members, whose names are engraved in marble on the shrine’s far wall.

The memorial is reached by boat which leaves every quarter of an hour from the visitor centre complex. Before boarding the boat we passed through a small theatre where we saw a fantastic short film about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The documentary featured some video footage, photos and newspaper clips from the time of the event, providing excellent immersion before taking the journey out to the shrine. The entire trip (video, boat and visit) took around one and a quarter hours.

Parts of the sunken ship can be spotted from the platform and even to this day oil continues to seep from the wreckage, floating to the surface and presenting an oil slick of rainbow colours that belie the sadness of the site.

I was really surprised to learn that the remains of some of the crew members are still inside the ship. I stared over the edge of the memorial thinking about that for a long time, imagining what that day must have been like for everyone involved. I suspect even my most harrowing thoughts came nowhere close.

I then thought about the US retaliation on 6 August 1945 when they dropping the world’s first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and promised myself that we must include Hiroshima in our visit to Japan in January next year.

Back on land, within the visitor centre complex, we visited exhibits, galleries, and a remembrance circle. It was very well set up.

Next we visited the battleship Missouri Memorial known as “Mighty Mo”, USS Missouri. This 108-foot United States battleship is most famous for being the site where Japan signed the formal instrument of surrender, effectively ending World War II in 1945. The ceremony was conducted by General Douglas MacArthur. The ship was retired in 1992 and public tours have been offered since 1999. Together with USS Arizona, and USS Bowfin, the three are commonly considered to represent the beginning, middle and end of the war. Mighty Mo is situated on Ford Island.

There is a bridge from Ford Island to the Oahu mainland, but only authorized military and tour vehicles are permitted to enter. Pearl Harbor's Ford Island was named after Doctor Seth Porter Ford, a physician who owned the island in the mid 1800's. Before the 1800's, the island was called Mokuumeume by the Hawaiians. After Ford Island was purchased by the United States military, it was turned into a naval base and airfield. The area along the south side of Ford Island is known as "Battleship Row". There are plaques on Ford Island to mark the spots where the eighteen battleships were sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship provided an informative story of the War and the role that the ship played.

What was really interesting to learn was that if the Japanese attack planes had done a 2nd sweep, knocking out the USA aircraft carries and oil tanks which they had missed during their first and only sweep, they may have 'won the war' (or perhaps temporarily). It didn't take the US too many months to repair several of the battle ships and attack the Japanese on their own front.

After an hour and a half on the Missouri, we had a quick bite of lunch and then had time to visit USS Bowfin. Known as the “Pearl Harbour Avenger”, this WWII submarine was launched a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor and played an important role in the war. We didn't enter the submarine due to time, but we did visit the accompanying museum briefly. Bowfin Park is next to the USS Arizona site.

Back in the park we also saw one of the survivors of the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941 who was signing books for tourists. I understand there are only 3-4 of the men left who were involved in the Pearl Harbour event of the War.

Pearl Harbour was definitely a "must-see" and we got back on our bus satisfied that we had experienced yet another thought-provoking site of the world's unfortunate history.

That night, walking along Waikiki Beach was certainly a distinct contrast from our day's trip. We certainly felt lucky that we have grown up in our time rather than through those times of the early 20th Century.

We then found a lovely Italian restaurant, the IL Lupino Restaurant at the Sheridan complex and shared a couple of lovely pizzas and red wine.

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