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Published: September 7th 2019
This morning we’ve booked a tour to Pearl Harbour. Issy’s still feeling a bit jetlagged, so Scott and I set off and leave her to rest up.
The Pearl Harbour Visitors’ Centre includes a museum which gives extensive background to the events of 7 December 1941, a date which is clearly firmly imprinted in the American psyche. It seems scarcely credible in these days of satellites that a fleet of six massive Japanese aircraft carriers was able to make its way thousands of kilometres across the Pacific without anyone noticing. We’re told that around 40 percent of Hawaiian residents at the time were of Japanese ancestry, and the military was far more worried about sabotage than an air attack. In order to reduce the potential damage from sabotage, the US fighter planes were kept in rows on the airfield with their wing tips touching and their guns unloaded. This made them an easy target for the Japanese fighters, and also meant that they couldn’t be mobilised quickly to mount any sort of defence. Some of the local Japanese did indeed prove to be excellent spies, and the intelligence they collected and sent back to Japan apparently proved to be invaluable
in the attack. All eight US battleships were sunk, although all but the USS Arizona were eventually raised, and six went on to see active service in WWII. In all 2,403 American servicemen were killed including 1,177 on the Arizona. Most of the bodies of the Arizona victims were never recovered and they remain entombed in the sunken hulk on the seabed.
We go into a theatre to watch an excellent documentary on the event, and then board a boat which takes us out to the Arizona memorial. There is a strong emphasis on this being a memorial rather than a tourist attraction, and I get the impression that this is to Americans what Gallipoli is to Australians. The mood is appropriately sombre given we’re above the tomb of around a thousand men who didn’t really stand a chance of surviving that fateful day. One of the Arizona’s rusty gun turrets sticks out of the water on one side of the memorial, and other parts of its hull are clearly visible below the waterline. One end of the memorial is a room with the names of the victims filling one wall. Being here is a very emotional experience.
We collect Issy and walk along the part of Waikiki Beach we missed yesterday. We are clearly in surfing central. Some of the younger surfers look like they were probably born welded to their boards, which in some cases seem to be about twice the height of their owners.
We queue up for happy hour cocktails at the hotel bar. We’re used to happy hour drinks being half price, but these seem to be free. We then notice a sign next to the bar saying something about a manager’s reception. We’re now not sure that we’re supposed to be here, so we sneak away with our free fancy cocktails before anyone has a chance to ask us too many questions.
We sip our drinks on sunlounges next to the pool and stare up at the Trump hotel next door. We wonder what goes on behind those walls; well in this case it’s more windows and balconies, but we’re curious just the same. According to the Google machine the hotel’s only upcoming events are protests against The Donald, which it seems are held here every Wednesday and Friday at 6pm. Good to see that democracy is still alive and
well in Hawaii.
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