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January 30, 2020
The USS Arizona Memorial

Russell writes…

Though we have been to Hawaii before, we have never visited the USS Arizona Memorial until this trip. As part of our “Pearl Harbor & City Highlights” excursion in Honolulu, we were able to spend several hours at the site of both the beginning and end of America’s involvement in World War II.

Just before 8:00 am on Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on US military forces at Pearl Harbor. The US had consolidated its Pacific forces here as a show of strength. More than 300 aircraft had been parked wing-to-wing and chained to the ground to prevent possible sabotage. And because the crew of the battleship USS Arizona had been at a music celebration the night before, they were allowed two extra hours of sleep this morning.

In two hours and two waves of attacks, 21 naval vessels were sunk or damaged. 164 aircraft were destroyed; 159 were damaged. 2,390 people were killed and 1,178 were wounded. The Arizona alone lost 1,177 officers and men after a Japanese bomb hit a magazine and caused a violent explosion.

President Roosevelt’s original speech to Congress. Note the immortal expression “a date which will live in infamy” was an afterthought – the original said “world history”

Though the Arizona’s superstructure was scrapped and salvaged, her wreck remains at the bottom of the harbor. The ship serves as a tomb for the servicemen whose bodies were never recovered.

The USS Arizona Memorial straddles – but does not touch – the wreckage underneath. It was designed by Alfred Preis, an Austrian-American. “The structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends,” he said, which “expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory.” (Ironically, Preis was interned by the US after the Pearl Harbor attack because of his German ancestry.)

The official name of the site is the “World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.” Here, we saw a historical film and walked through exhibits titled “Road to War” and “Attack.” We reached the Memorial by taking a boat from the mainland over to Ford Island.

One of the only parts of the USS Arizona still visible above water is the base of gun turret no. 3

Ford Island is also the location of the battleship USS Missouri, where Japan signed documents of surrender that formally ended World War II. Between these two vessels, America’s involvement in WWII both began and ended.

This site is well done and really drives home the significance – and sacrifice – of everything that happened here. We are thankful to everyone who has ever served their country.

Alpha and Omega: The USS Arizona Memorial (right) and the USS Missouri (left)

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