The first Sunday I was there, Brian and I went to check out the Pearl Harbor Memorials. We went in the morning and first stopped at the Arizona Memorial to get tickets for the ferry. We had a few hours before our ferry was scheduled to leave, so we went over to explore the Bowfin submarine anchored next door and the submarine museum nearby.
The museum had a lot of cool artifacts in it and I learned a lot that I didn’t know about the war and how the submarines were used during the war. Outside there was a memorial to all the men lost with downed submarines and it seemed like a startling number of submarines that had been lost during the war, some just months after they were commissioned.
Even more surprising to me were the number that were just initially lost. Some of them were discovered to have been sunk by enemy forces, but the location and fate of others remains a mystery. I suppose that’s part of the deal with submarines, but it was still unsettling to me to know how many subs just disappeared off the map, never to be heard from again. Often taking hundreds of submariners with them.
We got a chance to walk around the Bowfin submarine as well. It was relatively small, but we got the audio tour and it was cool to get to see how submariners lived while aboard. They also have torpedoes on display and described how they would be loaded up and fired during wartime.
At our designated time we headed over to the ferry terminal to be transported to the Arizona memorial. Before boarding we were shown a very well made film about the attack at Pearl Harbor and why it had happened. There was a lot of back story about Japan and China that I hadn’t known before. They also described the chaos of the morning and mapped out where all the downed ships had been. It gave good context for going out on the harbor so that we could imagine how it had all been back before December 7, 1941.
It was a quick ferry trip to get out to the memorial, which is very iconic looking, as I’m sure most people know from pictures at the least. It was really something being able to stand in the memorial and look down on the wreckage of the Arizona. You could also look down and plainly see the drops of oil that were still emerging from the ruins.
On one end of the memorial there is a wall listing all the men who died aboard the Arizona. There are also benches that commemorate those men who survived, but chose to be interred within the wreckage to rejoin their fallen comrades. Those who served on the Arizona get the choice to do so, and the most recent burial was in Fall 2012. Apparently the survivors are cremated and then divers take their ashes down into the wreckage where they remain. Quite a few people were listed has having chosen to do this, and it was made clear to visitors that the memorial is still an active burial site.
We stayed for maybe about 30 minutes before the next ferry arrived to take us back to the other shore. After that we hopped in our own car to head over the Ford Island, which is a Navy Base and home of the Pacific Aviation Museum, Battleship Missouri, and technically the Arizona Memorial, though you have to take the ferry to get to the latter.
When we had arrived, we found out that the Missouri was closed that day because of some movie filming that was happening that afternoon. It was a disappointment since we really wanted to see it, but we stopped by anyway. Normally you have to take a shuttle to visit since it’s on a Navy base, but Brian’s military so we drove ourselves over. Brian was really curious what movie it could be at the guard told us “maybe” it was Godzilla. There were certainly enough trailers, tents, and trucks around to know that something was going on.
Since we couldn’t get on the Missouri, we stopped at the nearby Oklahoma Memorial and then headed over to the Pacific Aviation Museum. It was a lot like the Dulles location of the National Air and Space Museum, in that it was pretty much just a warehouse full of planes, this time specifically from WWII. There was also a separate hangar that included a few jets and helicopters. Brian was in heaven I think and it was fun looking around.
After all that we decided to head down to Waikiki since I hadn’t seen downtown yet. We stopped at a great restaurant called the Pint and Jigger for an early dinner. We then stopped by a scuba shop and bought (super cool/expensive) dive lights for the night dive we had booked for that weekend. Then we headed down to the Hale Koa Hotel for military personnel to get access to the Waikiki Beach.
I must say, I was disappointed by the beach. It was smaller than I had imagined and pretty crowded. It was hard to believe that some people go all the way to Hawaii just to sit on that beach. It made me realized just how spoiled we were staying a few blocks from Kailua Beach which is big, beautiful, and mostly empty. Brian and I both decided toward the end of the trip that staying with locals outside of Honolulu was really the way to do Hawaii.