Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Aloha Oahu: Pearl Harbor


Want to start from the beginning of the "Aloha Oahu" series? Make sure you've read: 
Waikiki & Luau and Manoa Falls, Pali Lookout, Kailua Beach, & Diamond Head.


Initially I planned to write one post for each day of our trip, but a family wedding deserves its own piece so Tuesday, February 17th, will be documented in two parts - one about our adventures during the day and one dedicated solely to my sister-in-law's wedding. Considering it was a destination wedding, there was basically nothing I could do to help (not for lack of offering, though!) and it didn't take place until the early evening...which meant most of Tuesday was open for Michael and me to continue exploring.

We chose to visit Pearl Harbor that day for several reasons. Not only did we want to go at some point during the week, but it wasn't far away, it wouldn't take all day long/the hours were flexible (because you can pick and choose which attractions you'd like to see), and it wouldn't physically tire us out. All of these things were important requirements for whatever we did leading up to the wedding; after all, the main reason we came to Hawaii when we did was to witness Michael's sister's wedding to support and celebrate with her on one of the most important days of her life!

The "Mighty Mo"
After breakfast we caught a shuttle to Pearl Harbor and secured our tickets to see the USS Arizona Memorial. The Memorial is one of the only Pearl Harbor attractions that is free, but because of the high volume of visitors it receives there are scheduled times for tours that have a limited amount of spots. The next available time slot was 12pm, which meant we had the rest of the morning to dedicate to something else. We only had time for one other big attraction, so we opted to tour the USS Missouri, or "Mighty Mo." 

We caught the shuttle over to Ford Island where I then stepped aboard a battleship for the first time. A 35-minute guided tour was included with our tickets and I'm grateful we took advantage of this free feature. The guide took us through the entire main deck of the ship, describing much of the battleship's history and highlighting all of the historically significant events and sites along the way. We were able to see where a kamikaze plane hit the ship (and where the US soldiers gave the Japanese pilot a proper sea burial), the actual site upon which the Japanese signed the official surrender documents that brought World War II to a close, and more. 

Truth be told, we could have spent even more time exploring the various decks of the ship, but after seeing only about a third of the lower deck's museum displays we had to head back to the shuttle so we wouldn't be late for our USS Arizona Memorial time slot. 

About to walk aboard the Mighty Mo
Seal marking the spot on deck where the Japanese signed the surrender documents

Michael standing before 3 of the 9 16-inch guns

USS Arizona Memorial
We hurriedly grabbed a couple of snacks then joined everyone else that would be part of our 12 o'clock tour group. The tour begins with a brief (about 15 minutes long) video, which allowed us to learn more details and see actual footage of the Pearl Harbor attack. It was a somber yet appropriate video to watch prior to boarding the boat that would carry us to the memorial site.

The memorial functions much like a bridge, straddling the hull of the sunken battleship and allowing visitors to look down and see actual parts of the ship. At the far end is a room that serves as a shrine to the US sailors and marines that fought aboard the Arizona on December 7, 1941. The entire design includes much symbolism about what took place in Pearl Harbor on that day as well as throughout the rest of the war.

Parts of the ship are still visible just below the water's surface, while a few parts like these stick out above the waterline
"To the memory of the gallant men here entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941 on the U.S.S. Arizona"

A view of the Mighty Mo and half of the black and white markers that indicate where other battleships and lives were laid to rest during the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor isn't exactly a "fun" way to spend a day due to the somber nature of what took place there. However, I'm incredibly grateful that we were able to visit this significant historic landmark during our travels. In touring the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial, we visited what are often referred to as the "bookends" of World War II here in America - considering the bombing of Pearl Harbor officially brought the U.S. into the war and the Japanese signed the surrender documents aboard the Mighty Mo while it served in the Pacific.

Not only did our visit to Pearl Harbor mean a lot to me as an American citizen, but it had great personal significance to me as well. Both of my grandfathers (Army and Navy) served in the Pacific during WWII, and my maternal grandfather was even held by the Japanese as a POW in the Philippines. Learning more about the war's history as it pertained specifically to the battles of the Pacific helped me gain a far better visual understanding of what the war may have looked like to my Grandpa and Granddaddy. 

At times I was nearly overwhelmed by Pearl Harbor's vast amount of history, the impact its attack had on the U.S., and how crucial its role was in bringing the Second World War to an end. If you find yourself in Honolulu, I highly recommend taking the time to experience it for yourself.

"Pearl Harbor caused our Nation to wholeheartedly commit to winning World War II, changing the course of our Nation's history and the world's future."
-Joe Baca


Want to read more about our time on Oahu? Next up: A Waikiki Wedding!


  1. Thanks for sharing! We are going to Oahu for part of our honeymoon this summer. Reading about your experience has been such fun!

    1. You're welcome! I'm sure you guys will have SO much fun!