During a time many are remembering the lives lost a decade ago on 9/11/2001, we are sneaking up to the seventieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. During our recent trip to Hawaii, my husband and I knew the plan to visit the memorial was a must as history buffs and as Americans. How would the kids feel about the experience, even they were infants and toddlers when the Trade Center attacks occurred, they know only what they’ve learned in school. It was a experience we knew we all would appreciate if not immediately, down the road.
Arriving at Pearl Harbor that morning, we immediately got our tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial tour. Starting every 15 minutes from 7:45am-3pm daily, we had 11:30am tickets and it only being 10am, we had time to tour the visitor’s center. We explored the museum which gave a graphic and written timeline of the fateful day, December 7, 1941. For my older two children who had a million questions, they were able to tour the museum, use the interactive videos and monitors, and literally read the walls all about the decade of deteriorating relations between Japan and the US that led up to the attack.
There is a whole building of the prelude to the war, then a second that encompasses the very day. Both areas hold different aspects that made an impact on our family. My youngest, at 5 saw the model of the memorial and could already visualize what we were about to experience, “is this the underwater part that sunk?” My husband remembers the draft of Roosevelt’s “Day that will live in Infamy” speech and his personal handwritten edits, my children and I remember the decoder machine that gives you the feeling of how close they were to interpreting the Japanese communication, to be more prepared for the upcoming events. That combined with the radar signals they picked up that was enemy though they didn’t have the full capacity to interpret, just gives you the heartbreaking feeling, and realization how far communication and technology has just come. Resonating with us most, the question my oldest asked, “why does war even have to happen, it’s stupid.” Not a question easily answered.
Once you begin the tour, which is free, you enter a theater and listen to a National Park Service ranger talk you to about Memorial etiquette. Then a 23 minute documentary film is presented on the attack on Pearl Harbor. Immediately after the film, visitors board a Navy shuttle boat to the memorial. The USS Arizona is the final resting place for many of the ship’s 1177 crewmen who lost their lives, the 184-foot-long memorial structure is truly awe-inspiring. It spans the mid-part of the sunken battleship in 3 sections, the entry and assembly rooms with flags representing the states and the armed forces. The central area is designated for ceremonies and the ability to observe the parts of the ship under the water as well as the oil that still surfaces to this day from the ship. In the back, the shrine stands powerful as well as sad where the names of those killed on Arizona are engraved in the marble wall.
Also in the harbor you’ll find the Battleship Missouri, first launched in 1944, it’s final decommission was back in 1992. A memorial to all those who have served our Nation, you can explore the ship with all of it’s physical characteristics of her service still intact. “Knee-knockers” and “head-bangers” abound on the ship while you still need to ascend or descend ladders facing the steps.
Aboard you can take the walking tour as we did on our own pace through the main deck touring the most famous aspects of a ship. Below deck you’ll find the reality of life at sea which we all enjoyed. The quad bunks stood out to my younger two kids who share a two-bed bunk, also you see the cafeteria style dining commons and rooms and areas where seaman would spend their free time playing checkers or cards. “A library? Computers?!” Yes, kids remember the ship was last used in the early 90’s so you will see some sort of technology relateable to what our young family knows.
My son’s highlight was the command and control centers of the ship as well as the Captain’s quarters, not to mention posing with a machine gun. A contrast to the Arizona Memorial, we had a chance to recover some of the sad feelings for a bit to enjoy the fascinating Missouri. Also sensing the pride of the seeing the signed document ending the end of WWII and Japan’s surrender on the deck by MacArthur.
My kids still talk about Pearl Harbor and the Battleship Missouri experience as well as ask questions, memories were made on this experience and was a huge impact on our vacation.
Our tickets for the Missouri were hosted, all opinions are our own.