Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Trip to Paradise, Part 2

Day 2 (Monday)

A trip to Pearl Harbor was on our itinerary. This was my first trip to the Aloha State. I wanted to see where the great cataclysm began. We began our tour with a walk through the permanently moored submarine USS Bowfin.
(In the foreground of that picture you can see 2 of the memorial plaques to submarines lost during the war.)

The United States submarine fleet in World War 2 completely decimated the Japanese merchant marine fleet, one of the primary reasons America won the war in the Pacific. It managed to do this despite continuous problems ranging from supply shortages to malfunctioning torpedoes to total lack of any support from the surface fleet. 52 American submarines were lost in WW2, and 3,505 sailors are known lost--"On eternal patrol". The American submarine fleet suffered the highest per capita mortality rate of all branches of the U.S. military during World War 2. WW2 submariners earned 7 Medals of Honor, 3 of them posthumously. Despite all of this, this part of history is not well known. There is a reason it is called the "Silent Service".

Then, we entered the USS Arizona memorial theater. We viewed a short film on Pearl Harbor, and then boarded the Navy launch to the memorial.

Once there, we saw the hull of the sunken ship. I entered the memorial. My eye immediately moved to the Johnson surnames, and I saw the name “E.R. Johnson” (My initials.) I was quite surprised. I looked over to my dad, who had seen it before, and he simply smiled at me smugly.

According to a National Park Ranger, the sailor’s name was Edmund Russell Johnson. I can safely say after a small amount of research that the man was no relation to me. It was still a bit freaky though. Other than the man’s name, I can find no other information on him. Apparently just one of the many killed on the ship.

1177 American servicemen died on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. The hull of the ship lies on the bottom of the harbor, holding whatever remains of them. The U.S. Navy considers them all honorably buried at sea.

Currently only 21 known survivors of the disaster are still alive. Survivors, when they die, have the right to have their cremated remains interred in the sunken wreck with the rest of their former shipmates. The last one will die some day.

We then took a tour of the USS Missouri, the permanently moored Iowa-class Museum battleship that was one of the ones built to avenge Pearl Harbor. It was on this ship that Japan signed the documents of surrender that ended WW2, and the exact spot where it happened is clearly marked. The ship itself still contains the refits it was given when it was re-commissioned under the Reagan administration (Harpoon missile tubes, Phalanx AA gun mounts, etc.), refits that were performed even though the Battle of Pearl Harbor had graphically demonstrated the obsolescence of the Battleship 50 years before its re-commissioning. Still, it was quite a sight to stand on top of the ship’s flying bridge and gaze out over the giant 16-inch guns that now stand as silent guardians of the remains of the Arizona. The sunken ship, where 1177 men lost their lives in the worst disaster in U.S. Navy history, is where the war began for America. And the ship that served as the stage for the end of that war now stands permanent watch over them. I'm sure they are all resting a little easier knowing that.

Afterwards, we drove up the west side of Oahu. We managed a brief stop at the Dole plantation. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was too late in the day to really explore and it will have to wait until the next time I manage to make it out to the Aloha State to see what that is all about...

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