Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Remember Pearl Harbor

Last May my wife and traveled to Oahu. On Memorial Day Sunday we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The ship was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941, along with many others.

This is the original ship's bell of USS Arizona, recovered from the sunken vessel and now on display at the entrance to the National Park Service pavilion across the channel from the memorial, below.

Looking from the visitor's pavilion to the site of the sunken Arizona, topped abeam by the memorial.

A forward turret barbette of USS Arizona projects upward from the water. Across the channel is the hospital ship Mercy. Oil still seeps from the battleship; the oil spots have been nicknamed "black tears of the Arizona." A half million gallons of fuel oil are estimated to have sunk within the vessel. At the present rate of seeping a quart per day it will be centuries before it all leaks out. The oil bunkers seem to be in good enough condition not to spring large leaks for decades, minimally, and probably a few hundred years.

Many of the Pearl Harbor dead are buried in the National Military Cemetery of the Pacific, 
nicknamed the Punchbowl.

The Arizona Renunion web site has many links, photos and videos of movies taken by both Americans and Japanese on this day 64 years ago, including these two (both AVIs):

American movie of the explosion of Arizona. Also several frames of the explosion photographed from a Japanese airplane.

The site was transferred to the custody of the National Park Service 1980, although the US Navy retains title to the ship's remains. The San Diego Union has an outstanding article about the site and the efforts to preserve it.

It is estimated that 900 crewmembers of the ship are still entombed within it. Anyone living today who can document that he was assigned to the ship on Dec. 7 may be entombed within it. About 20 men have been entombed with their shipmates since the Park Service began allowing them. As I recall, the remains must be cremated because there is no way to manipulate a coffin under the water and entombents take place only on Dec. 7, which is certainly appropriate.

Update: See the National Park Service web site about the Memorial. Keep paging down and read the in-depth report on what happened to USS Oklahoma, too, which IIRC was berthed alongside Arizona. The site has a gallery of photos, including this one, which is the only color photo of the Arizona's agony I have ever seen.

Also, Eric Scheie has a link-rich post that is worth the time.