Other Hawaii posts: Kauai, Kauai Quilting, Kauai Food, Kauai Sightseeing, Oahu Fireworks, Oahu Food.

On July 7th we went to Pearl Harbor. It deserves its own post, honestly.

The entire Pearl Harbor site is a solemn, efficient, respectful, and yet somehow still entirely pleasant experience. They allow pictures pretty much everywhere; the entire site exists to keep Pearl Harbor in everyone’s memory. The staff are very informed and polite, and they treat military men with the utmost respect. Especially older ones. Some of the last remaining survivors volunteer there and tell their stories.

The Visitors Center lets you buy tickets for all the sites (USS Arizona, USS Missouri, USS Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum) in one place. The USS Arizona Memorial is obviously the big draw here, and the tickets are free. But you have to go early or the tours will run out. We got there around 9am, and we were on a 12:15 tour for the Arizona. So we went to the Pacific Aviation Museum in the meantime, and it is so well done.

The museum is split into 2 hangars on Ford Island, 37 and 79. Hangar 37 is a detailed recreation of the events of December 7, 1941 and the months that followed.

Hangar 79 houses the Reproduction Shop. Staff are still working to fix up old cars and planes from WWII on, and some of them are on display here.

Outside that hangar, you can see one of the old guns that fired at attacking planes during the attack. In the background is the old radio tower (first to announce the air raid on Pearl Harbor) being restored.

There are still bullet holes in the hangar’s windows. That kind of stops you dead.

Then we took the shuttle back to the visitors center for our USS Arizona Memorial timeslot. That was just devastating.

All of these exhibits begin with short films about Pearl Harbor, which were packed with information I didn’t know before (like why exactly Japan attacked). Everyone was subdued and quiet during the Arizona tour. When you go to the memorial, you can still see parts of the ship sticking up just above the water (Google “USS Arizona Memorial” to see photos of the whole ship’s outline in the water), and the battleship still leaks oil periodically. There are white buoys to mark the bow and stern of the ship, and there are big white concrete structures in the harbor to mark where other ships and boats sunk during the attack (21 total).

Adam told me later that I missed the small plaque off to the side of the main memorial wall. These are men who survived the Arizona but chose to have their remains interred on the ship. When they pass away, Navy divers take their remains down to the Arizona and bury them with their shipmates. There are about 30 names so far.