A History Nut’s Pilgrimage to Pearl Harbor

While on exercise recently with the Canadian Forces, I had the rare opportunity to visit historical sites around the island of Oahu (O’ahu) in Hawai’i.

Immediately, I was surprised with how small the island actually is.

On our first day off, many of my crew mates and I decided that our first pilgrimage had to be to Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t exactly easy to find, as the signage leaves a bit to be desired, but after an unanticipated road tour around the airport we managed to find the main gate to the memorials on a beautiful, sunny day.

To say I was awed would be an understatement. I tend to have a bit of an over-active imagination when working on or touring historical sites, and Pearl Harbor just overloaded my brain.

Immediately entering the site, the first thing that drew my eye was the stark whiteness of the Arizona Memorial across the water, nestled up to Ford Island. Besides the beauty of the memorial itself, it was almost disappointing to notice that only one part of the Arizona remains above the waterline. All of the period, iconic photographs of the mortally wounded ship show the vessel settled into the mud, smouldering while the forward superstructure leans forward like a dead man. All of this sad, twisted metal has been removed, understandably, as the base was an active military installation for the almost four years of WW2 fought by then Americans.

It is almost impossible to look along battleship row and visualize the terror of 7 December, 1941. Grainy videos, hurried and blurred photographs of the day may twinge our conscience, but how can we empathize with those killed and wounded during the ‘sneak’ attack (I won’t go off on a tangent about how I feel about the true surprise impact of the attack).

Under a beautiful summer sky, the USS Missouri seems to provide a guard detail to the stark white USS Arizona Memorial next to Ford |Island.

Approaching the USS Arizona Memorial. Ford Island shoreline is in the background.

oil still leaks from the sunken Battleship Arizona
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