Category Archives: Opinion Piece

Memorial Week Part 3


USS Arizona's final resting place

USS Arizona’s final resting place

This week I commemorate Memorial Day with repeat articles from the Normandy American Memorial Cemetery and Memorial, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Next week I will commemorate the 73rd anniversary of one of the greatest invasions in military history, the D-Day Invasion of June 6, 1944.

USS Arizona Memorial:

It’s a short hop, or sail in this case, from Hilo on the Big Island to Honolulu on the island of Oahu.  Ursula and I have been to Oahu too many times to count, as had our frequent cruising companions Lisa and Al Fittipaldi, so this excursion planned by Ursula would forsake the usual in favor of memorializing.  As Al Fittipaldi is retired U.S. Navy (who says Air Force and Navy can’t mix?) Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial seemed a natural.

Ursula (center) with Lisa and Al Fittipaldi

Ursula (center) with Lisa and Al Fittipaldi

For those unfamiliar with World War II history, the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor signaled the entry of the United States into this catastrophic conflict that would eventually involve over 100 nations around the globe.  This conflict in turn lead to a very dangerous nuclear-armed  Cold War that lasted another 44 years, the effects of which we still live with to this day.

USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial

The 26-year-old USS Arizona (BB-39) was blown apart by the Imperial Forces of Japan early that Sunday morning, sinking where she was berthed at the U.S. Naval Station Pearl Harbor.  She took with her 1,177 lives, the vast majority of which were left entombed in the sunken remnants of the ship.

USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial

Visiting the memorial, which straddles the remains of the USS Arizona, is a solemn experience.  Bear in mind that lines are long, so if you decide to take this memorial trek make sure that you make advance reservations.

USS Arizona gun turret

USS Arizona gun turret

Beneath your feet and protruding beyond both sides of the memorial is the rusting hulk of a once might battleship.

USS Arizona

USS Arizona

That battleship to this day still bleeds.  Watch for black oil breaking on the surface of the water and spreading out into a multicolored sheen.

USS Arizona still bleeds oil

USS Arizona still bleeds oil

Inside the memorial you’ll peer down directly over the ship:

USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial

And you’ll come to the wall containing the names of those who lost their lives that day:

USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial

Back ashore after a brief motorboat ride you’ll find two interesting exhibits.  The first is the USS Bowfin (SS-287), a Balao-class submarine that survived nine patrols during the war.

USS Bowfin

USS Bowfin

The other exhibit is the USS Missouri (BB-63), one of four Iowa-class battleships that marked the largest and the last of this class of ships used by the U.S. Navy.  The USS Missouri’s most famous moment occurred on September 2, 1945, when representatives of Empire of Japan stood on her decks and signed the Instrument of Surrender that brought World War II to conclusion.

USS Missouri — the "Mighty Mo"

USS Missouri — the “Mighty Mo”

 

 

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Memorial Week Part 2


 

National Memorial Cemetery of the PacificNational Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

This week I commemorate Memorial Day with repeat articles from the Normandy American Memorial Cemetery and Memorial, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Next week I will commemorate the 73rd anniversary of one of the greatest invasions in military history, the D-Day Invasion of June 6, 1944.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific:

Lisa and Al Fittipaldi joined Ursula and me for a ride that would take us high above the towering buildings of Honolulu.  Exiting the bus we still had a bit of a hike to our destination.  Along the way we would find spectacular views of Honolulu and Diamond Head.

The view from the Punchbowl

The view from the Punchbowl

Honolulu and Diamond Head

Honolulu and Diamond Head

The sun was settling low on the horizon by the time we reached our objective.

Entrance to the Memorial

Entrance to the Memorial

This is a trip Ursula has wanted to take for quite some time, and we finally made it.  We were in Punchbowl Crater, home of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

The photos below are captioned, so additional words are unnecessary and distracting from this solemn place.  Bearing that in mind, below is today’s photo gallery.  Click on any image below to enlarge and start today’s slide show.

 

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Filed under Opinion Piece, Photography, R. Doug Wicker, travel

Memorial Week Part 1


This week I commemorate Memorial Day with repeat articles from the Normandy American Memorial Cemetery and Memorial, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Next week I will commemorate the 73rd anniversary of one of the greatest invasions in military history, the D-Day Invasion of June 6, 1944.

Lest We Forget — No, It’s Not National Barbecue Day:

We seem as a society to forget what this weekend really commemorates.  Memorial Day weekend does not mark the unofficial beginning of Summer, the end of the school year, or the weekend of the Indianapolis 500.  It’s not about throwing Frisbees at the beach, flipping burgers, and downing a few cold ones.

And, no, we do not on this day thank a veteran.  That is not what today is about, as we veterans should solemnly remind those who do thank us on Memorial Day.  Today is a day of remembrance—remembering those who fell defending this nation and her allies during times of armed conflict.  Thank a veteran on Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), but spend today remembering our fallen comrades in arms.

Those who followed my blogs on our most recent cruise foray will recall that we spent some time in the cool, damp drizzle at a cemetery in Normandy, France.  That would be the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.  It was a very moving experience, and I saw grown men reduced to quivering lips and teary eyes that day.  If you’ve served in uniform then tears come easily while casting eyes upon this site.  If you lost a friend or loved one who fell while in uniform, those tears come even easier.

This country has been at war now for the worst part of eleven years.  We recently ended our direct military involvement in one war that did not serve our national interests, and we’re winding down another that did.

During this time, and for the first time in the history of this republic, we at home were not asked to make the sacrifices that other wartime generations have been called upon to make.  Instead, we allowed politicians to tell us to take tax cuts, go shopping, and leave the fighting to an all-volunteer military force.  We acquiesced to that relatively painless strategy, and left it to future generations to pick up the tab for our collective acts of irresponsibility.  Meanwhile, we have allowed our political leaders to slash the benefits and much needed post-combat services of those who did volunteer, leaving them to cope on their own with injuries both physical and mental.

It is for those decisions that both history and future generations will condemn and curse us.

As you look over that sea of Crosses and Stars of David below, be grateful for those who sacrificed everything.  But be wary of those who never wore a uniform, who declare themselves to be “Great Americans,” and yet who continue to advocate cuts in support to the families of the fallen and the services to veterans—all the while demanding that no sacrifices be asked of those who stayed at home.  There is truly no greatness in such a stand.

And there never will be.

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