Several years ago, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to see two amazing places in this world almost back to back. In May, my husband and I traveled to Hawaii to spend our wedding anniversary at the Disney Resort there. The true highlight of the trip for me was our visit to Pearl Harbor. My mind is still blown. On the grounds of the visitor center, they have a submarine you can tour, The USS Bowfin, and several exhibits you can explore. This is also where you catch the boat ride over to the actual USS Arizona Memorial. If you ever want to go, please go as early in the day as possible. We had afternoon tickets and the ticket agent bumped us up earlier in the day. If he hadn’t, we would have missed out because they had to stop the boats due to choppy water. They did a fabulous job of presenting the facts of the Pearl Harbor bombing without a lot of emotion. This was a major plus, since I was honestly shocked at the amount of Japanese tourists that were there. They had school kids on class trips – Retirement groups – and then us bumbling mainlanders. (Remember this… It will be very important in Part 2) After you watch a short film about WWII, you exit and board a small boat that is piloted by the US Navy and taken across to the Memorial. You get about 15 minutes on the Memorial and then are taken back across to the visitor center. It is an extremely peaceful location – They ask that if you have children that you keep them quiet or keep them in the entrance part of the Memorial. The back section where they have the wall of names is supposed to be reflective and prayful. It’s very moving. (Did you know that people that served on the USS Arizona and survived can be brought back to the Memorial and buried with their shipmates?) The oil is still leaking from the Arizona and you can catch it bubbling to the surface while looking out over the water.
Next to the Memorial you will see the USS Missouri. To reach this massive ship, you have a catch a bus at the visitor center and ride around to the other side of the harbor. It’s a quick trip on an air-conditioned bus and the time you get to spend on the ship is a blast. It’s a great piece of history to see the Missouri next to the Arizona. The Missouri still has marks where it was attacked by kamikaze pilots and is the ship where Japan surrendered at the end of World War II. The Big Mo lets you experience what life would have been like on a Battleship – cramped. But it’s a fun way to see history. It also allowed me to understand better what my friends went through as they served their time aboard these vessels.