“…December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy -”
Honor Those Who Perished
If you’re visiting Hawaii, then a Pearl Harbor tour should be on your ‘must see list.’
In April 2007, hubby and I embarked on a cruise to Hawaii from California. For years, Hawaii had been on my ‘must see list.’ While we were eager to see everything this tropical paradise had to offer, utmost on our list was to take a Pearl Harbor tour, and pay our respects. Given we were Hawaiian newbies, we decided to take a ship sponsored excursion, entitled, “Pearl Harbor VIP Military Base Tour.”
Pearl Harbor is still a fully functional, working, US Navy base. In fact, it’s the home of the United States Pacific Command. Therefore, when taking a tour, certain security requirements need to be followed throughout your time on the base. Also, of interest, this Naval base is also on the National Register of Historic Places as well as having received the designation of being a National Historic Landmark.For years, the Hawaiian Islands have been a hub for weddings, especially honeymoons, conventions, as well as being just a delightful place to visit for vacation. Whatever your reason for being in Hawaii, I urge you to please make time to take a Pearl Harbor tour.
Those who are cruising, like hubby and I did, you can take a ship sponsored Pearl Harbor tour, and sit back and relax, knowing that your time and tickets have already been allotted for you. Or, if you’re going to be docked in Honolulu, Oahu, just for the day, and you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, plan ahead, rent a car, drive yourself to Pearl Harbor, and do your own tour. My one caveat with this option is that tickets to the various sites at Pearl Harbor book up fast, so in order to get a tour, you must arrive early in the morning.
If you’re staying on Oahu, then you have more flexibly, because you have more than that single ‘docked’ day. The good news is you have the option to purchase some of the same tours that are offered to cruise passengers, such as the one hubby and I took. (Check your dates with touring operators, as they’re typically booked whenever a cruise ship is in port.) And, of course, you, too, can drive your rental car to Pearl Harbor, for your tour. The key with any Pearl Harbor tour, which you do on your own, is to be there early.
And if you happen to be staying on one of the other Hawaiian Islands (i.e. Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island), some travel companies even offer a Pearl Harbor tour that includes your flight over and back. Bear in mind, these tours, because of the flight, will cost more. But, if you feel that this might be your only opportunity to travel to Hawaii, a Pearl Harbor tour is worth the extra cash.
So, why is a Pearl Harbor tour worth my precious vacation time and money? What if I am more surf buff than history buff?In my opinion, a Pearl Harbor tour is less an attraction, like, say, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and less an experience, like, say, snorkeling. To hubby and I, our Pearl Harbor tour was an opportunity to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to those military service people who died for our freedom. And it wasn’t the preservation of freedom, for only their generation, for which they gave the ultimate sacrifice. No, it was for the continuing preservation of freedom, for every generation to come - for their children, their grandchildren, and their great grandchildren.
While you may not approve of every military decision made, by every member of government, please remember that, ultimately, our freedom, its very preservation, comes from the sacrifices made by our military. So, while you have the right, and the freedom, to question decisions made, please support our troops, as they ensure you will always have this freedom to question your government and elected officials. Whatever might be ‘wrong’ with us at times, we have the best country in the world, because we have FREEDOM! Freedom, which is given to us - maintained for us - due to the sacrifices of millions of men and women.
Even if you’re not a history lover - please take a Pearl Harbor tour. You don’t have to see everything that’s offered - just say ‘thank you.’ And while you can only say a silent ‘thank you’ to those who are no longer with us, whenever you see the Pearl Harbor survivors, while on your tour, who are there to answer questions, and share their experiences, give them a smile, thank them, and give them a big hug! They deserve it.
Consider this quote by Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004), 40th President, and loved by many Americans:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Take a Pearl Harbor Tour
Whatever Pearl Harbor tour you choose, listed below are five key sites you can visit. You will begin your Pearl Harbor tour at the new Visitor Center and Museum.
USS Arizona MemorialFor most people, on a Pearl Harbor tour, paying their respects at the USS Arizona Memorial is the first, and primary, stop on their excursion. Like other Naval ships that fateful day, the USS Arizona was docked along that famous ‘Battleship Row,’ on the morning of December 7, 1941.
“The Japanese aerial bomb that struck the forward section of the USS Arizona ignited the forward magazine causing a catastrophic explosion that sunk the battleship in nine minutes.” (Quote courtesy of: http://www.nps.gov/valr/planyourvisit/index.htm)Standing above the USS Arizona was a humbling experience. And as I peered into the water, at the wreckage that was once the USS Arizona, a tear slid down my cheek. But mine wasn’t the only tear shed there that day. According to Hawaiian legend, the USS Arizona is crying. After nearly seventy years, the USS Arizona is still seeping oil. And according to this legend, the USS Arizona will continue to ‘cry,’ until the last Arizona survivor has passed.
The following sites, which I haven’t yet visited, are on my ‘must see list’ for my next Pearl Harbor tour, on my next trip to Hawaii:
Battleship Missouri MemorialThe era of the ‘great battleship’ has passed, in favor of newer Naval technologies. The USS Missouri, a.k.a., the “Mighty Mo,” is the last of these ‘great battleships,’ and you can visit her on a Pearl Harbor tour. It was upon the decks of the USS Missouri that the Empire of Japan signed their surrender. And, for the younger generations of Americans, the “Mighty Mo” participated in Operation Dessert Storm, in 1991. And today, she continues to live her exalted life by, not only serving as a historical site, but by also teaching all whom she welcomes aboard, about those ‘great battleships.’
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
The USS Bowfin is a World War II era attack submarine, famous for its triumphs in the Pacific. This US Navy submarine was launched precisely one year after the Japanese attack. In honor of all those who perished that tragic day, this sub was called the Pearl Harbor Avenger. Come, visit, take a tour, and learn about Navy submarines.
Pacific Aviation Museum
This museum, which is located on historic Ford Island, focuses on planes used during the battles of the Second World War. So, if you, or your kids, love planes, then this is a ‘must see’ on your Pearl Harbor tour.
USS Oklahoma Memorial
Along with the USS Arizona and the USS Utah, the USS Oklahoma was the only other battleship that couldn’t be repaired and reinstated for Navy used. This Memorial is a tribute to all those USS Oklahoma servicemen lost on December 7, 1941. Please come pay your respects on a Pearl Harbor tour.
USS Utah Memorial
On the other side of Ford Island, from ‘Battleship Row,’ is the USS Utah Memorial. However, due to its proximity to residential military housing, it seems that only military personnel, and those with them, may visit. If you’re going to Hawaii for a Pearl Harbor tour, and you have a military friend, or family member, stationed there, ask them to take you to the USS Utah Memorial, so you can pay your respects. Fifty-eight crewmen went down with the USS Utah.
In ClosingIn addition to the above Memorials and Museums, there are other military areas, which would be of interest to World War II history buffs. However, to see some of these spots, visitors may need to take a package excursion, like what hubby and I took, which has access to these military areas.
Enjoy your trip to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, and please, make time for a Pearl Harbor tour.
My Own Pearl Harbor Tour
World War II Valor in the Pacific (US National Park Service) (www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm)
Battleship Missouri Memorial (www.ussmissouri.com/)
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park (www.bowfin.org/)
Pacific Aviation Museum (www.pacificaviationmuseum.org/)
USS Oklahoma Memorial (www.ussoklahoma.com/Pearl_Memorial.html)
USS Utah Memorial (www.ussutah.org/)