My first visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu was about 25 years ago. What is so striking to me about each visit is the large number of Japanese tourists in attendance. Many arrive by organized Japanese tour companies. I would really like to have the ability or nerve to speak to them and learn their impressions and thoughts during their visit to the site of their country’s surprise attack which killed more than 2,500 Americans. It is certainly an odd twist that anyone who visits Hawaii today quickly realizes the economic vitality of Hawaii clearly depends on the Japanese tourist.
Entry into the Pearl Harbor Memorial is free, however reservations are necessary for the short boat ride to the actual memorial. Visitors first view a movie and then board a boat that takes them over to a white cement walkway and viewing platform built directly above the sunken remains of the USS Arizona battleship. Parts of the boat protrude above the water, other parts of the boat are clearly seen just below the blue green surface of the water. Occasionally, throughout every visit, a few drops of oil from the sunken battleship rise to the surface, spreading a two foot oil slick across the water, glistening with all the colors of the rainbow. Hawaiian flower leis and wreaths float on the surface as daily visitors make personal tributes to the men still entombed in the ship below.
On the tour you will learn the details of the rookie radar scope reader who spotted a huge number of blips on the newly installed radar screens that would ultimately prove to be the 180 Japanese fighter bombers comprising the first wave of the early morning attack. Since radar was so new, it is possible there was no such thing as an experienced radar scope reader or plotter. There was discussion within the US military that the battles would be won and lost at sea, not in the air. The radar scopes were only manned between the hours of 4 and 7:00 AM. One private remained on duty after his shift ended on the morning of December 7, 1941 and saw the radar blips eventually covering the scope. This was reported to the new lieutenant in charge. It was the lieutenant’s second day on the job who had no training with radar. His now famous reply was, it is likely our own bombers coming from the states, “Don’t worry about it.”
You will also learn Elvis Presley helped raise $60,000 for the Pearl Harbor Memorial through a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor.
USS Arizona survivors of the December 7th bombing raid may still be buried with their shipmates, cremated and placed below deck by divers.
I’m not sure why there is a morning rush to attend the memorial, but my suggestion would be for a late afternoon visit. Spend some time before the boat trip to go into the various museums and activities. The afternoon boats we saw going out to the memorial were well less than half full.
It is estimated 500,000 gallons of oil remained in the USS Arizona after the attack.