Wednesday, May 16, 2007

History All Around

My last day in Hawai'i took me to Pearl Harbor. The museum and memorials there are just amazing, in a heavy, important way. First, the mueseum just has all kinds of interesting artifacts from WWII and the soldiers that were involved, along with a bunch of models and illustrations of everything that happened during the attack. The official tour consists of a 20 minute movie about the attack and then a boat that takes you out to the memorial for the USS Arizona. The Arizona sank in nine minutes when a Japanese bomb penetrated its armoring and exploded in the ammunition cache, literally blowing the ship apart. 1,177 men were lost when the ship went down, nearly half the total of all the people killed during the attack. The ship still rests on the sea floor, with nearly 1000 of the bodies still inside. It remains as a shrine and cemetary for all the men who died that day. Even today, men who survived the attack can be accorded a special honor on their death. Their ashes can be taken down and interred in the Arizona, if they want. Over the ship there is a large memorial building where visitors can look out and see the Arizona just a little bit below the surface of the water. Some parts even still protrude above the water, like the mounting for the rear gun turrett. There's also a wall inscribed with the names of all the men who died on the ship. The optional audio tour that I was listening to included an interview with a survivor of the attack, who described what it felt like to look at the wall and see the names of friends, people that he knew, to see faces in his mind that go along with the names. It was powerfully sad and moving.

After the memorial part, Jeremy and I went to Ford Island, in the middle of Pearl Harbor, and toured the USS Missouri, the last battleship to have been in active duty in the world. It was also the ship on which the Japanese offered their surrended to the Allied Forces. You can tour through the ship itself and see a plaque where the signing took place. The funniest part of the place is the fact that they have the signed surrender documents. There's a US copy and Japanese copy, with lines for signatures for representatives of Japan, the US and all the Allied forces. On the Japanese copy, the Canadian representative signed wrong line, and so all the representatives below him had to sign the wrong line and correct their designation underneath the line, until the representative of New Zealand was forced to sign the empty space below the pre-made lines and make his own. You'd think people signing the document to end the deadliest war the world has ever known could manage to get the right line. Jeremy showed me some other cool things about the ship. I highly recommend touring naval vessels with someone in the Navy. The insight is unequaled.

After my day of history, Jeremy took me to the airport and sent me off. I had the joy of an 8 hour flight from Honolulu to Chicago in seat 41J the last seat of the airplane, in front of the bathroom, and seated next a guy who decided that good airplane attire included a sleeveless hoodie. I don't care if you have nice arms (and this guy did, I'll give him that), but when you're going to be two inches from someone for eight hours continuously, that's not the time to be overly revealing with your clothes. I also disagree with wearing flip-flops on airplanes for similar reasons. I'm all for contact in appropriate circumstances, but airplanes are not among them. Seriously, people.

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