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Monday, February 22, 2016

Pearl Harbor

Just over a week ago I got to stand in a place where history was made.

Because I grew up in Britain, my view of WWII has always been shaped from the perspective of a Brit. I was focused on the European theatre, and Africa, maybe the Eastern Front. Both my grandfathers and my grandmother, numerous aunts and uncles all joined up and fought in Europe. Frankly, I never understood why the Americans weren't fighting Hitler when Germany invaded Poland in Sept 1939. I knew the Japanese had invaded mainland China, but I hadn't put that timeline into context with WWII.

Visiting Pearl Harbor and the museum there brought the war in the Pacific Theatre to vivid life, which is ironic and incredibly sad at the site where so many people died. The museum tells the story from both the Japanese and the American POV. And, right now, there is a display on board the USS Missouri all about the kamikaze pilots who attacked that day. It is fascinating. If you want to read more about the attack itself you should read the website. It has photos and great historical detail and is much more interesting than I will ever be.

The most poignant part of the visit to Pearl Harbor was the trip out to the USS Arizona which was sunk with 1177 lives lost. The memorial straddles the wreck itself--an official war grave and tomb.

Memorial USS Arizona

The tree of life at the memorial
The tree of life at the memorial

Names of the dead.

The dock of the USS Arizona
The wreck of the USS Arizona
The stern of the USS Arizona, looking toward USS Missouri
You can see the slight stain of oil on the surface of the water--oil that still leaks from the wreckage of the USS Arizona. 
USS Missouri
After visiting the memorial we drove to Ford Island for a tour of the USS Missouri. The Missouri wasn't commissioned until 1944, but she played an important part in the end of the war. There's a lot of symbolism at Pearl Harbor about the start and end of WWII. This ship is where the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was sighed in Tokyo Bay in September 1945, and the ship retired to the place where the war officially began.
The Canadian signed in the wrong spot and nearly screwed up the whole thing.
The dent is where the ship was hit by a kamikaze plane.

I was honored to visit this incredible place and learn the history of America's entry into WWII. What happened on December 7th, 1941, changed the course of the world. It sounds so long ago, but the older I get, the closer it seems. Only seventy-five years ago the world was at war. I pray it never happens again and that the conflicts that exist today are soon over so we can all live in peace. 


jean harrington said...

I remember the Arizona Memorial very well. When my husband found a Harrington on the wall of hero victims, he teared up. Thanks for the touching reminder to a sad page in history.

Anne Marie Becker said...

So powerful to visit these places and imagine what it must have been like to experience the chaos and devastation of war. Thanks for sharing the pictures and your experience.

Marcelle Dubé said...

From your lips to God's ear, Toni. Thanks for the post.

Rita said...

Pearl is a special experience.
Living in Hawaii I was fortunate to hear first hand accounts of what happened that morning. Everything from locals on the windward side who thought the Army was blowing themselves up at Hickham, to civilians and military who reported attacks at Kanahoe and were dismissed. The worst for me was two men telling us how after the attack they went to work every day at Pearl clearing wreckage and could hear men trapped in ships banging on the hulls to be freed and no one was allowed to help. One man said the banging went on until Dec 27th. BTW This is something that is denied by officials.

Toni Anderson said...

Rita--why on earth was no one allowed to help????

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