Friday, May 24, 2019

Pearl Harbor Memorial takes on special Memorial Day meaning

Millions honor the fallen on all sides at the USS Arizona Memorial, where the valor and sacrifice of WWII is remembered.


Photographer Bruce Keller puts down his photo
equipment for a perch aboard a torpedo.


A VISIT TO the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu is a must for anyone interested in history, culture and the complex results of war: death, violence, disruption, prejudice, fear, determination, recovery.
We chose a half-day tour with Roberts Hawaii, and were met by the company's trademark green bus and a jovial driver-guide who calls himself Cousin Dave.
He picked us up at the historic Ilikai Hotel, an easy half-block from our digs at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. We drove the eight miles in less than 20 minutes to the resting place of the sunken USS Arizona. There, at Pearl Harbor, 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on Arizona are honored in their graves within the sunken ship. They were among the casualties when the Japanese engineered a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy," as FDR said.

A young Japanese man studies the sad story of the
internment of thousands of innocent Japanese
 Americans during the WWII years.

THE MOOD was quiet and respectful as we joined an international queue with fellow tour members, including a Japanese couple our age from Tokyo.  It was interesting to travel with them, and glean their take on the memorial.  For while the U.S. suffered grievous losses, Japan suffered destruction of two cities and Americans of Japanese descent suffered loss and humiliation in the internment camps. One is in Wyoming, not far from where I grew up in south-central Montana.
Docents  with expertise in history give insightful
commentary as Navy sailors pilot us to the Arizona grave.
After checking our bags and backpack, we entered the nicely designed complex, which includes spacious walkways, museum buildings, artifacts, sculpture, a theater and visitor center. Besides the interesting boat ride to view the Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park is part of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The Bowfin, a fleet attack submarine, fought in the Pacific during WWII and helped to make famous the term, "Silent Service." Bowfin was launched on Dec. 7, 1942, exactly one year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
One strolls the grounds past well marked torpedos, missiles and other instruments of war, with fair-minded commentary and attention to suffering on both sides of the story.
WE ALL KNOW THAT the attack was a pivotal moment in U.S. history, which propelled the U.S. into World War II with the backing of Congress and support of the American people.
The Bowfin may be visited on the museum grounds.

The monument also preserves and interprets the story of the internment of Japanese Americans, the battles in the Aleutians and the war's ending with the dropping of the bomb on two Japanese cities. There are other nearby attractions.  Both the battleship U.S.S. Missouri Memorial, on whose decks the war ended, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are on nearby Ford Island. a quick bus ride away.
A sculpture to peace makes a stunning backdrop for photos.
The Missouri side trip interests many because the Japanese surrendered on board the Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, early on a Sunday morning, the same day of the week on which Pearl Harbor was bombed. The Aviation Museum hosts a aviation exhibits directly relating to the attack.
On our boat trip to the Arizona, our elderly historian guide told us that three survivors of Pearl Harbor remain, all in their late 90s.  They have been honored at the Arizona Memorial and have visited the 45,000-ton Missouri to pay their respects.
IT IS NOT possible to go on board the Arizona at the moment, because of structural concerns. Repairs are scheduled to be completed by early next year.  But our ship circled the memorial slowly so all 120 of us had ample time for photos and reflection.
    We were pleased to see so many students and people from all over the world at the memorial, quietly honoring those who gave their lives and the thousands more who suffered. Perhaps we are learning not to repeat the horrors.
The Navy owns the land and the memorial is run by the National Park Service. We recommend Real Hawaii Tours.

Singer Willie Nelson is aging with grace and still
on tour.  His guitar prowess is still sharp. 
UP NEXT:  Willie Nelson remains an engaging, entertaining performer, well into his 70s.  This week, we took in a concert by the energetic singer-songwriter.  The Humphreys Concert By the Bay in San Diego is one of two dozen on Nelson's current tour which began on the west coast, crosses the country and ends in Ohio. We take a look back at Nelson's career, his impressive endurance and his newest recording, out soon. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more.


  1. Great Memorial Day weekend story and stunning photos. Thank you.

  2. Hartford historiansMay 26, 2019 at 6:37 PM

    Thanks for the moving story on your timely visit to this splendid memorial. Love that it receives international attention.

  3. Wonderful reminiscence .... full of hope for our future.

  4. Pennsylvania PacifistsMay 27, 2019 at 9:33 AM

    May we have learned on so many levels.

  5. Glorious remembrance of a horrifying event. So much suffering on all fronts.

  6. Veteran of VietnamMay 26, 2023 at 3:31 PM

    Everyone should visit this moving memorial.