We woke up at the crack of dawn and with sleepy eyes jumped on to our Discover Hawaii Tours bus and headed to the most visited site in all of Hawaii – Pearl Harbor. From the moment we began the drive to the naval base we felt like we had stepped back in time to 1941. Our driver painted the picture of what occurred on that dark December day when an unexpected attack by Japan catapulted America into World War II. She shared with us that in just two hours, over 2,500 were dead, 188 American aircrafts destroyed and 7 vessels were sunk or damaged beyond repair. The most famous of those ships, The USS Arizona, still lies in the harbour and is subject of the famous memorial we would be visiting that day.
When we pulled in to the harbour we were greeted with a spectacular sunrise, and an even more spectacular queue! Visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona is free, however you need to get a timed entry ticket to gain access to the USS Arizona memorial. Tickets cannot be reserved or purchased online and available only in person on a first-come, first-serve basis. Luckily, being in a group tour situation we were exploring the site, ticket in hand in less then 20 minutes.
While waiting for our ticket time of 8.30am to be called, we explored the 2 museums set up along the harbour. We both felt ignorant as we wandered through, absorbing all that had happened before, during and after the attack.
While exploring we had an unbelievable experience. Sitting near the entrance to one of the museums was one of the last surviving veterans who fought during the Pearl Harbor attack. We didn’t want to overwhelm him as he began to gather quite the crowd, however he beaconed us to come over, asked us more questions then we could ask him and took a photo with us.
Once our ticketed time arrived we were shown a short film with real footage from the attack, which made the horrible event sink in that much deeper. We all quietly boarded the boat that took us out to the USS Arizona Memorial, about to stand in the same place that ignited the United States to enter World War II, the deadliest conflict in all of human history.
We were both impressed with the design of the memorial. The 56m long structure has two peaks at each end connected by a sag in the center. The beginning peak represents the American pride before the war, the sag symbolises the sudden depression of a nation after the attack, ending with the rise of American power once the war had ended.
Accessible only by boat, the memorial floats upon the sunken USS Arizona, the grave of 1,102 sailors killed on the battleship that day.
The most touching aspect is the oil slick that floats upon the water. Even after seven decades the Arizona still leaks oil, some refer to this as “blacks tears of the Arizona”.
Once we paid our respects and returned back to the main land we hopped back on the bus and headed to our second location, the USS Missouri Battleship. The Missouri was not only the last battleship commissioned by the United States, but the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II. Standing in the exact spot that such a HUGE event in history took place was unreal.
We were given time to go for a wander and explore the insides of the ship, weaving our way through kitchens, bunkers, offices and even popped our head inside a turret.
One of the interesting stories that were shared to us involved a low-flying kamikaze that crashed on Missouri ’s starboard side. The wing of the plane was thrown far forward, indenting the side of the ship. The remains of the pilot were recovered on board the vessel. The ships captain, Captain Callaghan, decided that the young Japanese pilot had done his job to the best of his ability, and with honour, so he should be given a military funeral. The following day he was buried at sea with military honours.
After exploring the ship for a good two hours (and still not seeing everything, yes the ship is that big) we all scrambled back on the bus and headed on home, however we took the ‘historic-scenic-route’ home. We past Punchbowl National Cemetery, Iolani Palace and other historic monuments while our guide shared stories of their past and significance with the Hawaiian culture.
Tour Price: $89 pp for the Discover Hawaii Tours Battleships of World War II Tour
If you want to see some footage of our day touring Pearl Harbor, simply click play below.
Have you visited any historical war sites before? We would love to hear your stories.
Many thanks to Discover Hawaii Tours for hosting us during our World War II experience. As always, all opinions are our own.
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