Pearl Harbor

Dec. 7, 1941 The day that will live in Infamy! 

‘AIR RAID, PEARL HARBOR- – THIS IS NO DRILL’

Message sent in uncoded , Plain English at 7:55 am on Dec. 7, 1941

My visit to Pearl Harbor was on a much calmer day in Oct 2007. I am sharing my impressions from that visit. This post is a repeat because I don’t think I can say it any better now.

Pearl Harbor

During our first trip to Hawaii we avoided doing tours. We wanted to explore at our own pace. There are pros and cons to this approach. By not having a guide you can end up getting lost, miss out on side trips and miss some of the local lore and flavor that a guide can give you. On the other hand, traveling on your own gives you flexibility. There’s no one telling you to move on to the next event or attraction when you’d like to spend more time somewhere. I’m a fan of exploring on my own but find tours helpful at times. So I guess I’d vote for a mix of both. Pick and choose the tours carefully and explore the rest on your own, that’s my motto!Anyway we decided to use a Tour for Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t that expensive and it meant someone who knew their way around Honolulu would be driving us.

 The tour bus picked us up right next to our condo at the Fairway Villa so it was very convenient. It turned out that if we were looking for local color or flavor that we got both with our guide. His name was Kemo and he arrived wearing his native dress, a sarong. I forget which Polynesian Island he said he hailed from, maybe Fiji or Samoa? But he was very personable. On the drive to Pearl Harbor he explained the events that led up to the attack and pointed out the gaps in the mountains that the planes came through that Sunday morning.He did an great job of setting the mood and impressing on us the seriousness of the memorial we were about to visit. Once there, he guided us through the ticketing process before telling us he would meet us back at the bus after we had explored the Memorial.

The Visitor Center has a beautiful garden in the courtyard and the grounds are so lovely and peaceful, it gave me the strangest feeling as I walked around this Island Paradise imagining the horror of the attack. As if to drive home those events, our turn to see the movie was called. The movie is a documentary with real video & audio clips and screaming headlines. For me it was almost overwhelming. I don’t know how others who come here feel but for me there was just an incredible sadness. To think of whole families wiped out because back then brothers or fathers and sons could serve on the same ships. I don’t believe that is allowed anymore precisely because of what happened here.

After the movie we took the launch out to the Arizona Memorial, a gravesite for hundreds of young men. The Arizona Memorial is achingly beautiful, pristine white against the deep blue of the harbor.

From the Memorial you can look into the clear water and see the outline of the Arizona. Oil still seeps from the Arizona to this day.

 On the back of each ticket is the name & photograph of one of the men who died in the attack. Mine was Ensign Frank C. Flaherty of Michigan.

He was aboard the USS Okalahoma and awarded the Medal of Honor. Above and beyond the call of duty…For conspicuous devotion to duty and extraordinary courage and complete disregard for his own life…When it was seen the USS Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ensign Flaherty remained in the turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.I did not know Ensign Flaherty or his family but my heart breaks even now as I copy this into this post. And he was only one of the 2,388 military and civilian personnel to give their lives that day.

I know this post is getting kind of long but there is one more item from my Pearl Harbor experience that I would like to share. When we got back to the bus, Kemo asked us if we had ever read a poem called DID YOU KNOW ME THEN? It was written by a park ranger assigned to the Arizona Memorial. I looked for a link to share but couldn’t find one so forgive me for going on and on but I have to share this:

DID YOU KNOW ME THEN
I was born in a small town in the mid-west or was it a large city back east?
I can’t remember anymore.
Did you know me then?
I remember getting the chores done so I could go to the Saturday matinee or was it the baseball game.
I can’t remember anymore.
Did you know me then?
I remember the depression of the 1930’s and Papa working so hard to care for the family,
Anyway he could with odd jobs. I especially remember Mama making ends meet.
Papa was stern with the family but, Mama sweet Mama , what an angel she was.
Did you know me then?
I remember the swimming hole that we swam in, the bicycle rides, the picnics.
Did you know me then?
I remember school, Boy, do I remember School. I remember the soda shop and the good times after school.
I remember Mary the girl next door or was it Sue the girl I met at the dance.
I can’t remember anymore.
Did you know me then?
I remember people talking about the war in Europe,
But we’re in America why worry about what’s going on there.
This is America, the land of opportunity. We would never get involved in their problems.
Did you know me then?
I remember my brother Bob and I enlisting in the Navy together.
I remember Mama insisting that we serve on the same ship together, so we could take care of each other.
Did you know us then?
I remember our being assigned to the battleship USS Arizona, she was a beautiful sight to behold.
I remember when we were told we were to be home ported in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu.
Wow! Hula girls, grass skirts, beautiful beaches. Paradise, a dream come true.
Did you know us then?
I remember December 6, we all went to Bloch Arena to watch the battle of the music competition.
The music played by the bands was great.
Did you know us then?
I remember Sunday, December 7, not too much going on, just lying around.
Then that thundering noise that broke the Sunday morning quiet. It sounded like hundreds of aircraft.
I remember the explosion, my breath and whole being taken away from me.
Did you know me then?
I can hear Mama crying, Papa hasn’t cried yet.
I want to tell him “It’s ok to cry , Papa, every tear is a prayer”
We’ve been home ported here for a very long time.
I can see our buddies aboard other ships saluting as they pass by. I hope they see me returning their salute.
Do they know me?
My buddies and I are really at peace now. Pray for us!
Did you know me?
Then if you knew us, remember us always.
 
 
John Vierra, Park Ranger, USS Arizona Memorial

 
 
Thank you
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0 Responses to Pearl Harbor

  1. Sandra says:

    When I think of Pearl Harbor, I am still upset over the Japanese tourist laughing while on the memorial. It was and still is a very sad, but beautiful memorial.

  2. Patti Ross says:

    Thanks for this reminder on this momentous day.

  3. cuz says:

    Very Touching, makes me tear up

    • Dusty Roads says:

      Me two. I bawled my eyes out when I wrote it and even now when i re-read it. Being in Pearl Harbor was very emotional. I was surprised it hit me so hard.

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