Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pearl Harbor

A lot of people go to Pearl Harbor just for the Arizona Memorial, and are done with it. But Todd is really interested in military history, and World War II in particular. So we went to Pearl Harbor for ALL of it, and spent most of the day there. There is a lot to see if you want to take the time.

First, a summary just to cover the practicalities of it. We drove, leaving Waikiki around 8:30-8:45. We got to Pearl shortly after 9AM, and parked near the Bowfin park. There is very little parking near the entrance to the Arizona memorial, and you have to buy tickets at the Bowfin area. We were pleased to find the ticket lines were quite short, we only spent maybe 10 minutes getting our tickets. We had the 10AM tour of the Arizona Memorial, and paid tickets for everything else, including wristbands for the guided tour of the Missouri. We saw a bit of the Arizona visitors center, then spent about an hour doing the Arizona memorial. From there, we walked back to the Bowfin area to get the shuttle bus which takes you across to Ford Island to see the USS Missouri. We were there for quite a while, it was probably 1:30 by the time we finished and got back on the shuttle bus for the short ride to the Pacific Aviation musuem. Lunch at the musuem, walk through, then shuttle back to the Bowfin, which we actually toured at this point. We were amongst the last of the day to see the Bowfin, finishing after they closed it, around 4:45. So its a pretty good day if you want to see everything there is to see.

Now the specifics and the pictures...

For the Arizona, first they let you into an auditorium where they show a short film about the attack on Pearl Harbor. After that, you get on a small shuttle boat, which takes you and about 40 people across the harbor to see the Arizona Memorial. Here's what the memorial looks like when you approach:

You spend just a short time, maybe 10 minutes, actually inside the memorial having a look around. It's a little bit of an odd experience. Its moving, in a way, and I do tink about the soldiers who died and are still entombed in the waters below. But somehow the dozens of people wandering around taking photos and chatting, make it feel less somber than it should. Of course, I was one of those folks taking pictures too. I feel a little conflicted about it though... I'm not sure its respectful.

You can see the wreckage of the battleship beneath the water:

After spending a bit of time on the memorial, we are shuttled back on our boat, to the visitors center. There's time to visit the gift shop, or look at the exhibits and then head to see the Missouri.

We got a good look at Mighty Mo from the boat:

We had signed up for the guided tour of the USS Missouri. We thought it would be interesting to hear the stories from a person, rather than just walking around. Plus you can only go into the modern command center with a guide. Our guide was a retired sailor name Bob. He served on an aircraft carrier during the Korean war, I believe. Here he is telling us a bit about the armaments used by the ship. These are shells for the big guns:

You know...THESE guns:

This ship wasn't in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked, it was just being built at that time. It was launched in January of 1944, and was on board the MIghty Mo where the Japanese signed the instrument of surrender in September of 1945. It was decommissioned after the Korean war, when battleships were not much in use. It was recommissioned by Ronald Reagan as a show of force in the Cold War, and was used in the gulf war. When it was modernized in the mid 80s, they put new weapons on it, such as this tomahawk missile:

The room that had once been the admiral's quarters in 1945, became the modern command center, complete with a chair:

And computer controls for the modern weapon systems:

It still has a teak deck though:

And there is a medallion embedded in the floor, where the documents ending the war in the Pacific were signed:

After finishing up on the Missouri, we took the shuttle to the Pacific aviation museum. They have a very good cafe there, set up to look like a 1940's era bar. We get a couple of very good sandwiches, and have lunch while watching "Tora, Tora, Tora", which is showing on a nearby TV. Look at what is hanging on the wall, and no I don't mean Sweet Leila. See, Red Sox nation is everywhere...

The aviation museum is not large (especially not by comparison with the one in Tucson which is humongous). It takes us less than an hour to walk through the whole thing. They do offer docent guided tours, but we decided to skip that, since we felt a little short of time. Here's a Japanese Zero

When we finish at the museum, it's back to the Bowfin to tour the submarine. The audio tour is included in the ticket price.

Unfortunately the tight spaces and my claustrophobia keep me from going the length of the submarine inside. I checked out both ends, but I couldn't walk through. Todd did, and he said it was interesting.

I did get a good look at the torpedo tubes which are in both ends. These are the aft torpedoes

Of course, it's close to 5 when we are all done, so we head back to Waikiki in rush hour traffic. But its really not bad, it still only takes maybe 20-30 minutes to get back to the hotel. It's been a very interesting day, and I have a renewed interest in World War II history, after looking at all of this. Which, of course, is the point...that we should not forget.

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