Today I’m sharing our visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. This was my number one must do while on Oahu and the hubs was in total agreement. We tried to buy tickets in advance online but they were sold out for the date we wanted. Luckily, after some research the hubs learned that they give out free tickets each day to the first 1,000 people in line. The catch is that although they open the gates at 7:30 am, the line starts forming around 6 am. So we made plans to get up super early and ended up being numbers 4 and 5 in line. It was one of the few days we had to get up early during the entire trip and was completely worth it because it meant we were in the first group of the day to visit the memorial. I highly recommend doing the first tour because you get to enter the memorial while it’s empty rather than fighting the departing crowd of the group before yours who are trying to board the boat you just took across. Here’s the view of the memorial and the USS Missouri as we approached and docked at the memorial.
Once aboard the memorial you can see the remains of the ship just beneath the surface although some portions are above the water line. Oil spots are visible on the water all around as the vessel continues to seep these fluids, which they expect will continue for another 50 years.
At one end of the memorial there is an opening over the ship for viewing. This is the spot where divers add the ashes of former USS Arizona crew who choose to join their shipmates upon death. To date, not one of the eligible veterans has refused this opportunity. The day we visited someone offered a lei in honor of those entombed here.
Beyond the opening is a room where the names of the entire crew are displayed on a wall. It’s powerful to see just how many there were. Those who perished with the ship or during the attack are listed on the main wall divided by service – Navy or Marine, while those who rejoined their crew upon death are listed on the smaller walls in front.
As we prepared to leave the memorial I happened to look up and see the flag against a bright blue sky. It was a striking scene as I thought about the attack, the lives lost and the countless acts of heroism that day and in the months following.
There was also a beautiful view of the USS Missouri docked just a short distance away. It’s a fitting addition to the memorial park given it’s rise from the attack and return to service including being the vessel where Japan’s surrender was accepted. And it’s placement next to the USS Arizona is a quiet salute to the costly victory. Across the channel in the other direction is today’s active joint military base, where usual activities were in progress, including a ship heading out of the harbor.
Back across the water at the park we walked the trail of reflection, noting important landmarks along the way. This sign showed a great aerial view of the memorial which gives a better sense of it’s positioning over the vessel.
Along the walkway of viewpoints were signs with quotes from those present during the attacks, but the most moving was this poem Eleanor Roosevelt kept in her wallet during the war. It’s one we should all consider daily, especially these days as many forget the sacrifices military service men and women give to allow their countrymen to safely enjoy their rights back home and around the globe.
This map depicted the layout of the harbor the morning of the attack and next to it was a list of the vessels present, indicating which were destroyed or damaged.
We toured the various displays in the museum area which showcased stories of those present in a variety of ways. One of the most memorable for me was this one about the recovery efforts after the attacks.
Experiencing the memorial and exhibits was something I’ll always remember. While the environment is somber, it’s also a perfect showcase of America’s pride and ability to overcome. That evening we attended a much more lively “must do” activity – a traditional Hawaiian Luau. We decided to go to the luau at the Hale Koa where we were staying just because it was convenient, but I hear it’s one of the best around. After seeing the show I’d agree. The evening began with a welcome to the luau garden where musicians played traditional songs, guests enjoyed drinks and learned how to do Hawaiian activities like making lei’s, weaving palm fronds and swinging rhythmic balls.
As the other activities died down one of the cast members came out to show how natives climb coconut trees. This guy was a total hoot! Full of energy and quick wit he was certainly the star of the show all night. With a cloth tied around his feet for gripping he quickly hopped his way up one of the taller trees in the garden.
He went almost all the way to the top!
And he had jokes from way up there too! Noticing that we were all taking pictures he decided to give a variety of poses.
After the tree climbing there was a short fashion show on how long pieces of cloth were tied in different ways to create a variety of looks for both men and women. And next was the call to dinner, via traditional conch shells.
The men pulled the large roasted pig out of the underground oven and welcomed us into the seating area which was decorated with banana leaves and fresh pineapples – cut and ready to eat next to Hawaiian appetizers. The seating area was a large area with both covered and open air sections. Since the weather was nice we used the open air portion and had seats right up front next to the stage. Our table was in the second row on the left in the photo below. If you look closely you’ll see the hubs next to my empty chair.
The cast performed a variety of dances using gourd moroccos and sticks to accompany the beat of the musicians.
As we enjoyed the dancing showcasing each of the cultures around the Polynesian islands dinner was served. There was a good helping of the roast pig, local beef, rice, a fried banana and sweet potato all topped with a pretty orchid. We also tried Hawaiian poi which is a traditional local food. I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but I did try it.
The final act of the show was a champion fire dancer, who is only 17 years old! It was such an amazing scene I only got this one picture as he began.
Enjoying both of these activities on the same day was good planning and gave us quite the sense of living Hawaiian. In my next post I’ll share our visit to China Town for the Chinese New Year celebrations, shopping at the swap meet and hiking to the ruins!