Saturday, November 26, 2005

Neglected to mention...

Part of the "Military Culture Course" that I am taking as part of my quest for a raise from the State of Hawaii was a trip to the Arizona Memorial. I guess it's sort of a shame that we haven't visited before...but that made this "required" visit all the more interesting.

Our tour was a private and special tour kicked off by a welcome from the Admiral of PACCOM (Pacific Command, pronounced pay-com and not pac-com for some reason) seemed like he was pretty important.

We took a pretty comfortable barge (with two navy officers as tour guides) around Ford Island (the man-made island in the center of Pearl Harbor) and saw the Utah Memorial (which is more impressive than the Arizona, because you can actually see the partially righted ship).

The best story award goes to the sailor that showed us the big dent in the side of the USS Missouri. Apparently a Japanese kamikaze pilot flew along the water directly into the side of the "Mighty Mo" in an attempt to single handedly sink the battleship. The 18" thick steel thwarted his attempt, but the dent remains. The commander of that ship was so impressed by this act of bravery, he ordered his sailors to make a Japanese flag, and held a funeral for this pilot at sea.

We came around to the Arizona Memorial where we could actually get off the barge. The memorial itself is pretty impressive, supported by two cement beams and held above the Arizona, making no contact with it. Inside the memorial, one can look through Hawaii's clear water and see the rusted details of the fallen battleship. A few of the gun turrets protrude through the water. The most captivating thing about the memorial is the oil that leaks from the hull of the ship (they say about five quarts a day), the navy officers called this the "tears of the Arizona."

The wall of memorial is very sobering; it's hard to see over a thousand names that represent individuals that died within minutes of each other. The attack by the Japanese was so quick that most of the sailors did not have time to escape the ship before it was sunk, and as it stands today there are over 900 bodies still entombed aboard the USS Arizona. The few sailors that survived the attack have all agreed to be buried with their shipmates, having their ashes placed aboard the ship by divers.

I'm surprised at how this affected me.

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