Sandy, Victoria and Seth left us on Sunday January 1, 2017 and went back to their home in San Rafael, CA. For the rest of us, it was on to the Aulani Resort (a Disney facility) on Oahu. This transition went very smoothly, and we began enjoying ourselves right from the beginning. The Aulani is on the western coast of Oahu, about 45 minutes from the main airport, and somewhat away from Honolulu, although how far is difficult to tell. We stayed mainly at the resort, although on one day we ventured out to explore a bit more.
On that day, Courtney, Joey and I went to the Pearl Harbor memorial, while the rest of the crew went to various places around the island, including the Dole Pineapple plant, a spectacular donut shop, and other places. We had only one car, so they dropped us off first, and we were able to spend most of our day at the memorial site.
The site is officially called the “World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument”, which actually includes a number of related memorials located across the Pacific. It includes the Visitor Center where the museum, theater, the submarine Bowfin and its museum, the ticket office and assorted eating places are located. The harbor boat to the USS Arizona memorial leaves from this site as well as frequent buses to the USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum, Pearl Harbor, both located on Ford Island.
The most difficult ticket to obtain is the one to the USS Arizona memorial, as they only issue them the day before or the day of your visit. We had tickets for the 1:00 tour, so we had to be in the line for the theater by 12:45. As it turned our we made all our connections all day, so we spent the maximum time site-seeing.
First stop was the USS Missouri. This is the ship where the Japanese government signed the Instrument of Surrender document in September of 1945.
This is an excellent example of the Battle Ships that populated Ford Island’s piers on December 7, 1941. There were eight of them, and all of them were harmed by the bombing. The USS Missouri was not there, as it was built between 1941 and 1944. It is an Iowa-class “fast battleship” which saw service in WWII, the Korean War, and finally the first Gulf War. She was “permanently” settled in Pearl Harbor in 1999.
The first picture is looking across the teak deck of the ship at the Arizona memorial. I was unaware that ever since they started building metal ships, they have decked them in wood. To those of us who do not spend a lot of time on board ships, the practical reason may not be obvious. The wood decking provides needed insulation. We were told it also is a tribute to the wooden ships of old.
The circle above marks the spot where the desk sat upon which the Instrument of Surrender sat for its ritual signing. The second picture is looking up from that spot at the guns and the equipment on the decks above the main deck. The third picture looks across the harbor to the main island.
The next stop for us is the USS Arizona memorial. We get back to the Visitor Center in plenty of time to make the cinematic presentation which precedes the boat ride to the memorial. The film is quire good, explaining the context of December 7, 1941, and in particular what happened to the Arizona (a bomb designed to break through the top decks and detonate close to the ship’s hull actually did that, and ended up exploding in the ammunition store, detonating much more than just itself). The Arizona sank quickly, and became the gravesite for over 1100 men, the largest single-ship loss of life that day. After the movie, we all boarded a ferry for a 15 minute ride to the memorial.
The picture immediately below shows the largest stack still visible above the water. A smaller stack is closer to the memorial itself, showing a ladder and electrical cables which have been cut. In the center of the memorial, a square is cut out showing another stack on the upper right.
The top picture below shows the plan of the Arizona as it existed on that day, as well as the way the memorial straddles the remains as they sit on the bottom below it. The smaller picture on the left below shows oil seeping from the Arizona’s tanks. This oil comes out in drips, dissipates colorfully and disappears, soon followed by another. This has been going on since 1941. ON the right below is the rear wall of the memorial, where the names of the men who died are listed.
Courtney and Joey said later they very much enjoyed seeing the memorial, and the associated museums. The Missouri is in the background in the pictures below.
Our next stop was the USS Bowfin, one of the many submarines in service in WWII. The Bowfin saw service from her commissioning in mid-1943 until the end of the war, and then in the Korean War. She served as a training vessel for a number of years, and was finally sited at Pearl Harbor in 1971, and listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Viewed from the deck, the Bowfin is a sleek and efficient fighting machine. However, to make this possible, the machinery and crews areas are efficiently laid out, but not very hospitable to the crew. This is especially true of the hatches, which were not easy for me to maneuver through at my height and age. Beds seemed to be everywhere, which they more or less had to be to accommodate the 80 man crew aboard the 312′-long by 28′-wide vessel. In addition to the beds, of course, also inside are the diesel-electric propulsion system and numerous torpedoes, their main weapons.
Her service record is quite good, as the flags on her outer shell indicate.
The Bowfin museum was very enlightening as well. It gave me quite a lot of history of submarines in general (starting in the Civil War), and Joey and Courtney spent their time on more recent developments.
The last stop on our tour was the Pacific Aviation Museum. The museum is also a WWII memorial , and the exhibits in it are primarily WWII related. The picture on the left below is a painting of what a zero pilot would have seen on December 7, 1941. The top picture on the right is of a fully reconstructed zero. The zeros were technically ahead of anything else in the sky at that time. In the hands of a well-trained and experienced pilot, they could outmaneuver anything we could put up against it. That changed over the first year of the war in the Pacific for two reasons: the Allies obtained an in-tact example of a zero and the number of well-trained experienced pilots flying for Japan dropped swiftly especially with the Battle of Midway six months after Pearl Harbor.
One of the sidelights of that infamous day were the six private pilots up over Oahu who, once they figured out what was going on, scrambled to get on the ground and out of the way as soon as possible. One was a young lady, a flying instructor and her student. They got down successfully, and she (I can’t remember her name) shortly thereafter went into training in Texas to become one of the women flyers taxiing completed aircraft from the US to bases abroad where they would be used for the war effort. Unfortunately, she was killed during the training sessions.
At the back of the Museum is a line-up of flight simulators. Courtney was brave enough to try it, and duly took her place as seen below. The simulators were loosely enclosed, with meters appropriate to the type of aircraft flown on a computer screen in front of them, a joy-stick control, and a large screen projection of what they would see out of the windscreen in front of them. The picture on the right shows Courtney taking a hard right following her target (one of the other simulator pilots), which the picture on the left shows the con trail indicating her success at shooting him down. The picture on the right of each picture below shows the type of aircraft simulated. It looks like the P-38, which was the primary US fighter during most of the war in the Pacific.
Below is the view toward the ocean at the Aulani. The featured image on this page shows the Aulani as seen from the beach. We really enjoyed our stay there.