Visiting Pearl Harbor

Continuing my recap of my recent Hawaii trip, let me tell you about one of the most moving experiences of the week. We flew to Oahu for one reason - we wanted to visit Pearl Harbor. What an incredible day. I have about 350 pictures from that day, so there's no way I can share everything I learned. But here are a few highlights.

First, we visited the USS Missouri, otherwise known as the Mighty Mo. This battleship survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, but not without sustaining some damage.The Mighty Mo's biggest claim to fame is an important one - this is where the Japanese officially surrendered, thus ending World War II.

I thought it was kind of appropriate that the statue in front of the ship depicts that famous picture, the Freedom Kiss. Bob and Patti did a great job of replicating that kiss, don't you think? 


The ship has been restored, and we were taken on a tour by a knowledgeable guide who gave us too many interesting tidbits to post here. 


See that dent in the side of the ship? That was where a Kamakazi plane crashed into the side of the USS Missouri. His bomb had dropped too early, so he hit the battleship with his plane. Here's an interesting thing I didn't know: Kamakazi pilots were not volunteers--they were conscripted. In other words, they were not given a choice. These young men, who were typically between 17 - 19 years old, were taught how to take off and how to fly, but NOT how to land. Because, of course, they didn't need to know how to land. I was always under the impression that these pilots were volunteers, so that was interesting. Yet it was a great honor for them to die for their country.

On  the Surrender Deck, a plaque has been installed where the table was placed that held the document of surrender. It was incredibly awesome to stand in the place where history took place.


Another interesting fact that I had not heard. The document was laid out on the table. The Japanese Foreign Minister was the first to sign, followed by the head of the Japanese armed forces. This man was a Samurai, and therefore completely against the surrender, but he was a good soldier and did as he was ordered to do by the Emperor. However, to sit down would be to bend knee to the enemy, so he signed standing up.

Next we visited the Pearl Harbor hangers, and saw many of the planes that flew in WWII. There are still bullet holes in the windows in one of the hangers.

But by far the most moving display was the memorial to the USS Arizona, the battleship that was blown up during the attack. The Arizona is still under the water, resting on the harbor floor, and a memorial has been erected above it. 1,177 men lost their lives on the Arizona, and nearly 1000 of their bodies were never recovered. Therefore the Arizona is not only a memorial, but also an active grave site. Many of the survivors have had their ashes returned to the Arizona, and most of those who are still living have left instructions to do the same. I read a note on one of the plaques there that quoted one of the divers who has been tasked with interring the ashes of survivors. He said (and I'm paraphrasing from memory), "There's a large hole down there, and when I take a box with a man's ashes, I reach into the hole. The current grabs the box and pulls it into the ship. I tell the family that's the ship receiving back one of her own."


George Santayana said, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." That's why historical sites like Pearl Harbor are so important.

I wish each of you could visit Pearl Harbor. It's important to remember!


  1. I went to Pearl Harbor but only did the tour of the USS Arizona Memorial and I agree its very moving.

    1. I was really moved by the tour of the USS Missouri. They have pictures of the surrender as the document was signed. Really fascinating.

  2. I was there many years ago, and it is very amazing and touching to visit those sites. We also rented a car and drove all over Oahu and did many things over the 8 days we were there. The only thing I didn't like was the long flight over water. :)

    1. Yes, the flight was VERY long, but that's what books are for. :-)


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