It is so easy to forget that on the sunny, tropical island of Oahu lies the Pearl Harbor Navy Base, famous for the 1941 bombings that killed almost 2,500 people. When my friends and I decided to vacation in Hawaii, I know they had surfing, tanning, and swimming in the ocean on their minds. I, however, grabbed my Diana F+ and booked a seat on a bus to take me to Pearl Harbor, where I had one of the most moving experiences of my life.
I booked a tour through “Discover Hawaii Tours.” For $30 dollars, they provided a shuttle service that brought me to and from Pearl Harbor, and then toured around the island pointing out historical sites like the home where Barack Obama grew up. The price also included a guided tour of the Pearl Harbor Museum, but I opted to grab an audio headset and walked around by myself.
The museum traces the beginning of Pearl Harbor and how it transformed over time leading up to the bombings that took place on December 7, 1941. The exhibit follows a few navy personnel who were serving in Pearl Harbor on the day of the bombing. The personal stories helped me connect with navy men and women who were about my age and already serving their country.
After my audio tour ended, I jumped aboard the navy-operated power boat and we sped out towards the memorial that was built where the USS Arizona sunk. On the way, the boat passed by other naval ships that are still in service. I could see men and women dressed in uniforms scurrying around the top of the ship.
The boat stopped and we all got off on this floating white monument. Inside I saw this wall, which lists the names of all the navy men and women killed during the December 7th bombings. A man on my boat left a bouquet of flowers in front of a name on the wall.
Outside of the memorial, as I was boarding the ship, I smelled oil and looked down to see it leaking into the water. Since the USS Arizona has been left untouched since it sunk in 1941, oil is still leaking out of it at an estimated 2-9 quarts daily! I was able to snap a quick picture before our boat sped back to shore.
Both seeing and photographing Pearl Harbor moved me. I got to walk, breathe, and stand where brave men and woman stood before. The entire experience was easy to navigate, as the museum did a great job giving the history and the floating memorial made the bombing seem more real than watching “Pearl Harbor” did. I know Hawaii is mostly about relaxing on the beach, but during your next trip to Oahu, I really do suggest that you go see Pearl Harbor. Everything included, it cost me $30, plus the money I spent in the bookshop. I learned a lot about my country’s history and got some great pictures out of it too.