World War II Valor in the Pacific

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World War II Valor in the Pacific, a National Park, is a must visit for every Oahu visitor. The National Park is located at Pearl Harbor and includes the U.S.S. Arizona and two museums along the harbor. The December 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Park houses many japanese-airplaneartifacts, short movies and interactive exhibits.

There are plenty of tours advertised around Oahu which will take you to Pearl Harbor. The advantage of a paid tour is knowing you will have a seat on the boat out to the U.S.S. Arizona. Those who want to save the money can arrive at the park early in the day and receive free tickets. The Visitor Center only provides 1,300 tickets per day. With over 4,000 visitors to the park per day the tickets go fast. The entrance to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free. Access to the two museums along the harbor are also free. Parking is also free. No bags are allowed in the park. There are warning signs in the parking lot that a lot of break-ins occur. There is a manned bag checking station available for a nominal fee.

Insider tip-if tickets are available for the day but not for a time you want, still get them. Walk over to the tour bus operators at the park entrance, be nice and sometimes they are willing to swap tickets for an ideal time.

ticketsPrograms run every 15 minutes and tickets are for a specific time. At the appointed time ticket holders gather in a staging area. From the staging area ticket holders move into an auditorium to watch a 23 minute video prior to boarding the boat. The U.S. Navy operates the boats that travel to and from the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. If there are high winds all boat trips are cancelled.

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Flowers left from the 75th anniversary

The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial symbolizes the lives lost during the attack. Young men that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Visitors should remember they are visiting the resting place of these soldiers and be respectful with their behaviors.

As of January 8, 2017 there were only 5 U.S.S. Arizona survivors, ranging in age from 94 to 97 years old. These men all reside on the mainland. (The local term for the rest of the United States.) Of the five survivors, four of them made the journey back to Pearl Harbor for the 75th anniversary in December of 2016.

Upon arrival there is a short guided tour by a park employee before allowing time to explore. My mother’s heart was struck this visit by the 38 sets of brothers on board the U.S.S. Arizona at the time of the attack. 63 of the 79 brothers died during the attack. There was only one set of brothers who both survived the attack. There were 3 sets of three brothers on board and only 1 brother from each family survived. Also killed in action on the U.S.S Arizona was a father and son pair. I imagine when the brothers became shipmates the family found relief knowing the brothers could watch over each other, never imagining the unthinkable would happen.

The U.S.S. Bowfin and U.S.S. Bowfin museum has a nominal fee and is based at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The U.S.S. Missouri, is nearby and has a fee to access the boat. Finally, the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor is also nearby and has an access fee.

 

 

 

The National Cemetery of the Pacific

 

The National Cemetery of the Pacific, the Punchbowl or Puowaina is nestled above Honolulu in an extinct volcanic tuff cone. It is a must see!

lady-columbiaWe wound our way through the curvy, poorly marked streets, by poorly marked I mean you have to be alert and have your game on. The signs are quite close to where you need to turn and we missed one. Trying to navigate turning around on the narrow, busy streets adds to the adventure.

The first glimpse of the National Cemetery of the Pacific is breathtaking. An American flag flows in the gentle breeze. In the distance stone stairs lined by the Court of the Missing, lead to the 30 foot white statue of Lady Columbia as she greets visitors. The Court of the Missing has 10 marble walls listing the names of over 29,000 U.S. service members whose remains were never recovered from battle. Lady Columbia represents all grieving mothers. There is an inscription from Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, a mother who lost five sons in the Civil War. Behind Lady Columbia are buildings with maps and descriptions of different battles.

A short drive up the hill to the left of the entrance are restrooms, a computerized system to look up buried service members and a walkway to a stunning lookout. The walkway is wheelchair accessible. Looking south I saw Diamond Head, the hotels along Waikiki beach, Honolulu’s business center and the airport. A few steps in the opposite direction were views of the National Cemetery of the Pacific. It is easy to see why the National Cemetery of the Pacific is nicknamed the Punchbowl. The grounds are immaculately groomed. Grass is kept short, leaves are removed, dead flowers are removed and there are strict rules as to what is allowed to be placed at each grave site.

 

Historically, Puowaina, the Hill of Sacrifice, was used for human sacrifices to the Hawaiian gods. During World War II, the military used the area for coastal defense. Shortly after WWII, Congress approved the location as a cemetery. Some of the first to be interred were those military members that lost their live during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The National Cemetery of the Pacific is the second largest military burial grounds.

The National Cemetery of the Pacific is a must see. There is no admission fee and it serves as a reminder the number of military personnel who made incredible sacrifices so we can continue to enjoy our freedom.