By: Smith Schwartz |
It was a cloudy, rainy day when we headed out to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Despite the typically sunny Hawaiian climate, this day’s weather seemed to lend itself to the somber nature of this visit.
The memorial is beautifully and respectfully designed above the wreckage of the ship by Honolulu resident and architect Alfred Preis. Previous to designing the structure, he was detained after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor along with many other Japanese and European citizens. His crime? Being born in Austria, a country he fled to escape the German occupation.
Although forced into an internment camp, Preis apparently didn’t hold a grudge for long. The memorial is probably one of the most well-designed places of remembrance I’ve been. The structure straddles above the sunken ship where thousands of barrels of oil seep from the watery grave. The stench is still strong enough to remind us of the horrors of war and reveals a tiny slice of what the harbor must have been like on that fateful December day all those years ago.
Inside, the back wall is engraved with the names of Navy seamen and Marines lost, 1102 of the 1177 on board. Several small planters in front list the names of the survivors who chose to have their ashes interred within the ship by Navy divers upon their eventual deaths.
Leis (which have dried) are left on the wall in honor of the fallen soldiers as well as a flower arrangement from Elvis Presley and manager Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis’ 1961 benefit concert was one of the main contributors to the memorial fund).
Like many historical sites, people flock from all over the world to see Pearl Harbor. Therefore, it’s difficult to visit without rubbing shoulders with 200 of your closest friends. Though mildly annoying, the crowd was definitely was a suggestion of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and a reminder of the sacrifice of soldiers who made it possible for us to have the freedom to be tourists today.