Visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial was a very different experience for me, in comparison with the other WWII sites that I have seen on my extensive travels. I had visited many WWII sites throughout the UK and Europe; and each site was a crystal clear example of how Europe was altered during the war, and for decades after.
I wanted to compare visiting Pearl Harbor to visiting Normandy, as our presence during WWII is still remembered there through the cemetery and memorials. Pearl Harbor was still very different, and the difference was that it was the only foreign attack on US soil during WWII.
On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service executed a surprise military strike on the the naval base at Pearl Harbor just before 8:00 AM. The strike was significant to the United States because the country was neutral at the time. The attack led the US to a formal entry into World War II, on the following day. This was the turning point of the United States’ involvement in this devastating war.
For me and how my mind works, it was seeing it for myself- the start of the war especially with United States involvement, and then attaching it to everything that I had seen in Europe and in the UK. It connected the dots visually, and in my mind.
The USS Arizona Memorial, which straddles the sunken hull of the battleship but does not touch it was constructed in 1962. It marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were more casualties that day than the 1,102, a total of 2,403 U.S. personnel, which included 68 civilians lost their lives. A total of 19 U.S. Navy ships were damaged or destroyed, which included eight battleships.
The design of the national memorial was created by a Honolulu architect, Alfred Preis. When working on the design, the US Navy specified that it be a bridge floating above the USS Arizona, which could accommodate 200 people.
The structure has two peaks at each end with a sag in the center. Although most critics initially called it “a squashed milk carton”, I found it be stunning, simple and pure, but striking and strong at the same time. There is something surreal about it, and how it sits peacefully on top of the water, which marks the resting place of over a thousand US sailors and Marines. It was like the quiet after the storm.
To say that I was emotionally moved as I looked back at the memorial when we are on the boat back to shore, would be an understatement.
The US Arizona Memorial Visitor Center opened in 1980 and is operated by the National Park Services. It is advisable to plan your visit beforehand, since the memorial is a highly visited attraction. For more information on hours and ticketing, please visit – Pearl Harbor NPS
We are not makers of history. We are made by history…– Martin Luther King Jr.
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