Saturday, December 24, 2011

Waikiki and Pearl Harbor

This morning, we set out to see the monuments at Pearl Harbor, and were particularly hoping to see the USS Arizona memorial.  Unfortunately, the wind was up, so they were not running boats out to the monument; we had to look upon it from afar.

Nevertheless, we strolled the park and absorbed the impact of the lives lost, documented in the many monuments throughout the park.  In the submarine section, each plaque documented by name each man lost in each sub.  Many subs were lost with no trace, no word on what happened, they simply disappeared into the sea during the war.

In the museum, there was an excellent short film documenting the attack on the harbor.  In less than two hours, the Japanese wiped out almost all of our Pacific fleet, plus nearly every aircraft we could have used to retaliate.  They inflicted hundreds of deaths, dozens of big ships lost, 182 airplanes destroyed, and escaped with only 62 casualties.  It was a brilliant and deadly tactical attack that caught us totally by surprise.  I finally understood why my grandfathers had so much hatred for the Japanese, even into the 1990's.  They could never forgive this unprovoked attack on the USA, much like many people today feel about Al Qaida.

Pearl Harbor is a solemn place, and when you try to grasp the sense of horror, sorrow, and subsequent anger of this place, it forces you to reflect on the massive tragedy of war.  My grandparent's generation was absolutely shaped by World War II.  Five long years became the axis around which their entire lives pivoted, and to their dying days, they identified themselves proudly as WWII veterans first, before Christians, Americans, or Oklahomans.

In the gardens, reflecting on the past, then, I was brought into the present and began to understand more deeply how today's soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are still sacrificing themselves personally in defense of our liberty.  The biggest contrast today, sadly, is that we're not all personally affected by this.  In the 1940's every single family had a member at war.  Everyone was at war. 

Today, we are so much removed from the actuality of our wars, it is easy to become complacent, dismissive and lazy.  We take too much for granted.  Most of us still have our digital television, our sumptuous meals, our trips to the mall, (our vacations to Hawaii), etc. etc. etc.  War is a remote thing we watch only on the news or read on the Internet for ten brief minutes each morning.  We sacrifice nothing.

This poem, which I found while strolling through the park, summed up my thoughts for the day:

Dear Lord,
Lest I continue
My complacent way
Help me to remember
Somehow out there
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
Then I must
Ask and answer,
Am I worth dying for?
-- Poem Eleanor Roosevelt kept in her wallet during World War II
If you ever get a chance to come to Oahu, do make time to see the Pearl Harbor monuments.  Despite the very busy shuffle through crowds of people, it is very much worth seeing, and a key piece of our American history.


After a very, very long shuttle ride back to the hotel, we decided to chill for the rest of the afternoon on Waikiki Beach.  The boys and I played in the surf while Becky soaked up the sun.  After a few hours in the salty surf, we rinsed off in the hotel pool before heading to dinner on the strip.

Another beautiful day in paradise.

The USS Bowfin

The USS Arizona Memorial

The USS Missouri

This is a Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata).

This poem was my favorite, capturing very nicely my thoughts for the day.

Christmas in Hawaii is certainly different from back home.  But we still had carolers!

Click on this panorama below to view full size... this is a five photo composite I made from Hilton Hawaiian Village (on the left) to Diamondhead (on the right)--the entirety of Waikiki!

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