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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The "Arizona Memorial: A Remembrance" Story

An ad for the tour we took of Pearl Harbor shows
the Arizona Memorial sitting on top
of what remains of the USS Arizona Battleship.
It was an ordinary day.  I can almost hear the planes attacking as I stand, looking at one of the monuments along the shoreline and reading the story emblazoned in marble while off in the distance I can see the remains of the USS Arizona, laden with the 1,102 sailors and marines killed during the bombing, trying to escape it's underwater tomb.  As I read more I can feel tears forming in my eyes, knowing that these brave soldiers died for me and every other American during the attack of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Shortly Carol and I will board a boat that will take us to the Arizona Memorial so that we can view the names of those who died as well as stand on top of the huge ship that once was part of the Pacific fleet of Battleships that, after being sunk that fateful day, led to the involvement of the United States in WWII.  
Entrance into Pearl Harbor and the visitor's center.
We will be part of the more than one million visitors that visit the site since it was first opened in 1962.  The walk through the memorial is a very emotional experience as we looked below at the top of the sunken ship and see the "tears of the Arizona" break the surface of the water below us.  
The discoloration on the water shows "the tears of the
Arizona" as the oil seeps into the surrounding waters.
The "tears" are oil leaking from the sunken battleship, rising to the surface of the water.  We are told that less than a quart of oil escapes daily and it will take our lifetime and longer before all the oil escapes the tanks of the ship.  Our tour of the Arizona started today when we were picked up at our hotel in downtown Honolulu by a Mercedes travel limo driven by our tour guide  Clayton, a personable young man who has lived on the island for over four years.  
View of the Arizona Memorial from our boat.
He hops on the highway nearby and heads toward Pearl Harbor, narrating the trip as he drives.  After arrival the dozen of us in the limo are treated to breakfast, then ushered toward the entrance of Pearl Harbor.  
Inside the Arizona Memorial.
After entering the visitor's center we are given directions as to what time we will watch a short film and board our boat to the Memorial.  Carol and I visit the two museums that are part of the tour and then enter the studio for the film.  We then, silently, walk to the boat for the 10 minute trip to the Memorial.  
"Old Glory" flying high above the Arizona Memorial.
After our tour of the Memorial we returned to the visitor's center and waited for our tour to continue.  Wasn't long until we were greeted by Clayton, loaded back in the limo and heading to the Punch Bowl Cemetery which is also known as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and is a burial place for men and women who served in the US Armed Forces.  
The Punchbowl Cemetery.  The gravesides are all level
with the grass, but many have flowers or flags on them.
The Punchbowl Cemetery opened in 1949.   At this point there are only six riders in the limo and I ask Clayton if he can stop for photos.  He told me that he is required to continue in motion, slow as it may be, or face a fine of $1,000.  If you are a visitor to the the cemetery in a private car you may park at the off site parking and walk through the cemetery, but touring vehicles may not stop.  
King Kamehameha Statue in front of the Ali'iolani Hale.
I still managed a few good photos for my vacation slide show.  Then it was off for a tour of Honolulu with Clayton narrating the entire trip.  We passed the State Capitol building, the Supreme Court building and then finally made a stop at the King Kamehameha Statue which stands in front of the Ali'iolani Hale in Honolulu.  
Getting ready to enter our limo.
The statue had its origins in 1878 when Walter M. Gibson, an Hawaiian government official, wanted to commem- orate the 100-year arrival of Captain Cook to the Hawaiian Islands.  $10,000 was approved by the legislature and Mr. Gibson contacted Boston sculptor Thomas R. Gould about making the statue.  
Our tour guide Clayton.
Photographs were sent to Gould of Polynesians so the sculpture could make an appropriate likeness, but at the time Gould was living in Florence, so the resulting bronze sculpture had a Roman nose and European features rather than the proposed Polynesian likeness.  In 1883 the sculpture was shipped to Hawaii, but near the Falkland Islands the ship wrecked and the statue was thought to be lost.  Insurance covered the cost of another bronze statue, but before it was finished the original one was found by Falkland Islanders who sold it to the captain of the wrecked ship for $500 and in return he sold it to Mr. Gibson for $875.  
Carol and I are standing in front of
the King Kamehameha Statue.
Now Hawaii had two statues.  One stands near the legendary king's birthplace on the island of Hawaii while I am taking photos of the other in Honolulu.  When Hawaii gained statehood in 1969, another sculpture was cast and placed in the United States Capitol.  When Hawaii-born Barack Obama was nominated as a candidate for President the statue was moved to a prominent position in Emancipation Hall.  Carol and I walked around the surrounding grounds where the statue stands, then headed back to the limo.  Clayton and the other passengers were waiting as we stepped into the limo.  Our tour was over, but it was one of the highlights of our travels to Hawaii this year.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - On this Veteran's Day, I posted the story about our visit to the Arizona as a remembrance of the struggles and triumphs that our veteran's have achieved for all Americans in the past.  I certainly appreciate every veteran and what they did for me and my family as well as their country.  Happy Veteran's Day!

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