November 13, 2005 by Allen George
I really wanted to see the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor, a structure that’s striking in its simplicity and beauty. I wasn’t able to. Time constraints being what they were, it was impossible to line up for over an hour to receive a “tour ticket” and then wait until it was my turn to board the ferry. I had to content myself with staring at the concrete structure from across the harbor and taking a snapshot at 70mm. Hardly “seeing” the memorial.
At Henry’s insistence, I decided instead to visit the USS Bowfin next door. A beautifully restored WWII submarine, the USS Bowfin aka. The Pearl Harbor Avenger sits next door to the Arizona Memorial Visitor’s Center. Being inside the submarine was an incredible experience. The entire ship is laid out single file, in fact, it looks like a straightaway.
The living quarters are impressively compact and I can’t imagine how crowded it would have been with a full crew complement on board. Most of the dials and gauges are impressive; large analog meters, their brass-rimmed exteriors glow in the dim lighting and it feels like you’re in a forgotten treasure trove. If you’re a mechanical enthusiast, this place is a dream.
I’d also wanted to see the USS Missouri, but Lisa had to return to the hotel. As a result, I did a 10 minute (!) run around of the The Mighty Mo. I don’t even consider that “seeing” such a venerable battleship – after all – most people take upwards of 1.5 hours to explore the 20-storey ship.
If you stare at the USS Missouri from across the harbor, it seems dimunitive in comparison to the closer Arizona Memorial. Don’t be fooled. The Missouri is over 20 stories tall at its highest point and takes 2 miles to stop from flank speed. The main guns are the biggest I’ve ever seen, and I cringe just thinking about the shells they used to lob at targets over 50 miles away. There’s something aggressive about a battleship that’s not captured by a carrier, cruiser or destroyer. They are the embodiment of power; a machine whose clean lines endow it with deadly purpose and grace.
As we left Pearl Harbor, I noticed two very interesting things. All battleships are named after US states – and if memory serves me correctly – all carriers are named after US presidents. Second, I wondered out loud about the significance of berthing the USS Missouri directly fore of the USS Arizona.
You see, the USS Missouri was the ship on which the Japanese signed their surrender…