The Arizona Memorial
Of course, the first visit on this first of three trips to Pearl Harbor was to the Arizona Memorial.
Rolf Hippmann and I were surprised that the memorial is free to visit, but this really makes sense. After grabbing our tickets, our touring group quietly waited to enter the theatre to see a short video about the impending short boat ride to the site. Inside, the theatre was packed. A stern Park Ranger admonished the crowd that we were about to visit an active grave site, and to pay proper respects. Sadly, perhaps the warning to turn off cell phones should have been stated in English and Japanese, as a tourist’s phone rang during the movie and the offender had the audacity to talk.
We were quiet during the short boat ride, as the memorial slipped closer. Seeing the mooring quays glide by reminded me of the photos of these iconic white-concrete docks, the names memorialising the vessels so badly mauled. Of course only Arizona remains, but the USN leaving the quays behind adds perspective to the term ‘Battleship Row’.
Inside the stark memorial, I was amazed at the frivolity and (dare I say it) goofiness of many who were now at one of the most tragic shrines to man and the horror of war. Ball caps remained on heads, tourists posed with arms around each other, getting snaps taken displaying 300 dollar haircuts and 500 dollar sunglasses while the pitiful remains of over a thousand men mouldered a mere 20 feet below their uncaring feet. I guess to say it was offensive is a bit of an understatement.
I noted that an admiral was listed on the wall of those lost – Admiral Kidd. I made the mistake of asking one of the park Rangers if this Kidd was the reason for the naming of the US’s Kidd Class Destroyers (I honestly was curious – not playing stump the chump). In his wrinkled shirt, he didn’t seem pleased as his mouth twitched beneath a three day growth on his face. He looked like he was going to BS me, and thought better of it, smiled and turned away to answer more anticipated questions from the crowd (are there really dead men down there?) Of course, the rest or the park Rangers and military personnel were amazingly patient and knowledgeable.
Looking over the side of the memorial, I noted the glistening of oil on the surface, drifting away from the hulk and off towards the USS Missouri. Amazing that 71 years later, the ship continues to bleed. Though environmentalists rightly voice concern, it seems that this should be allowed to continue. Monitor it, yes, but Pearl is an active military Harbor – I would bet that there are many more contaminants in the water than the small oil spill marking Arizona’s sacrifice.