I really, really wanted to see the memorial to the USS Arizona. Growing up a military brat and living the nomadic life style (7 schools during my 12 years of public education), more often than not my extended family was the corps: “The few, the proud, the Marines.”
“Yep, I enlisted one year, one month, and one day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor,” my father reflected when I shared our plans to see the USS Arizona Memorial.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor was obviously indelibly etched into the consciousness of the “G.I. Generation.” My father was one of the 16 million veterans who came of age during the Great
Depression and fought in World War II. He is one of a million veterans remaining from what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.”
Growing up my dad was a “bulldog” through and through (he was the epitome of the Marine Corp mascot), but now, at 87, he’s all bark and no bite. He has grown into his greatness although it’s not a moniker he embraces.
December 7, 1941. As Jim and I crossed this lagoon harbor via boat to the site where the USS Arizona sank 9 minutes after being hit, I couldn’t help but think about the 1,177 crewmen (more than half the total casualties that day) aboard the ship that died that morning. I grabbed Jim’s hand, savoring the life we shared together minus such tragedy.
We joined the quiet throng of visitors as we moved into the Memorial via a gangplank. At the far end of the Memorial, adjacent to the wall bearing the names of the crewmen lost aboard the USS Arizona I saw the Tree of Life relief again. Designed by Memorial architect Alfred Preis, the relief is a symbol of renewal and contemplation for the 1.4 million annual visitors that come to see this watery grave site. I found his efforts inspiring.
The battleship USS Arizona was decommissioned from the US Navy after she sank, but symbolically “re-commissioned” on March 7, 1950 when a flag was raised again on the ship.
I always call my father and my brother on Veterans Day and thank them for their years of service. On Veterans Day I also whisper a prayer for all the families that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Freedom is never free.
The Bottom Line on the USS Arizona Memorial:
Verdict: This was a very moving memorial to one of the most significant and tragic events in US history. If you’re in the neighborhood, you don’t want to miss this tour. The tour includes a 23 minute film on the history of the Pearl Harbor attack before transport via a Navy launch to the actual memorial site. It usually takes about 75 minutes for the entire tour, but wait times can be as long as tour hours. This National Historic Site includes the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine, USS Missouri Battleship, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
How to Get There: The USS Arizona Memorial and National Historic Site is located at 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, Hawaii, very close to the Admiral Bernard Chick Clarey Bridge and the Kamehameha Highway (Interstate 99). Parking was free.
Insider Information: Plan your visit and purchase tickets online at the official site to avoid long wait times. Tours run from 8 to 3 every day of the year except Pearl Harbor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Since 911, there is a “No Bags” policy while visiting Pearl Harbor. That includes purses, diaper bags, fanny packs – anything that can
conceal an object, so leave bags in your vehicle or opt for the $3 on site storage fee. Several coupons are available on the Pacific Parks Site that will get you a free copy of the December 7, 1941 newspaper as well as a 70th anniversary commemorative mug.
Nearby Food: There is cafeteria style food onsite. We visited the site early and had lunch later along Waikiki Beach.