Independence Day at Pearl Harbor

We turned and stood erect at 8:00am when the National Anthem blanketed the entire Memorial, silent in contemplation and in wonder at the stillness of hundreds of people honoring our country’s flag over the tomb of thousands of soldiers. When the Anthem concluded, there were no applause, no immediate sounds, just breath being caught, tears wiped, and thoughts gathered.

To attempt explaining the overwhleming mix and surge of feelings being at the Pearl Habor Historic Memorial on Independence Day seems merely impossible.


Docked side by side in the Harbor were a United States Aircraft Carrier and a Japanese Battleship who flew an American Flag in honor of our Independence. Our tour guide atop the USS Missouri said, “Look how far we have come,” as she pointed to the two ships across the Bay.

A view from the USS Missouri Battleship toward the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
Left: United States Aircraft Carrier – Right: Japanese Battleship – Docked together as they both fly the American Flag in honor of Independence Day

We entered the Pearl Harbor Monument Theater to watch a daunting 23 minute video as a preface to our boat tour passing Battleship Row to get a closer look at the USS Arizona who lay at the bttom of the bay as a resting place to 1,102 of the nearly 1,800 men killed in the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The almost 30,000 ton ship sank in 14 minutes and burned the just-filled oil tanks for 3 days following the attack. Oil, or “Black Tears,” continue to seep from Arizona at a rate of 1 gallon per day; believed to be the tears of the soldiers below which will conclude rising to the surface when the soul of the last soldier rests.

USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri (behind to the left). They sit bow to stern as a representation of the ‘start’ and ‘end’ to WWII.
Tree of Life (oil) above the USS Arizona. *Photograph by Jerry Kaufman

As we walked about the ‘Road to War‘ and ‘Attack‘ gallaries, we listened to various accounts of the Attack from Civilians, Survivors, and Children (via self-guied audio tour). We walked carefully and quietly along side of hundreds of people around model ships, preserved uniforms, and facts and stories spread across every wall of the open buildings. Feelings similar to that of being in your favorite History class, investing your attention so much so that you lose track of time and never want the class to end, is how I felt as we inched our way through every exhibit, hoping my eyes could capture every bit of information.

We stood in the exact spot where the Japanese surrendered, marking the end of WWII, atop the USS Missouri Battleship. We walked about the quarters of the ship impossibly imagining a sliver of how it would have been 77 years ago.

One of the most interesting and empethising backgrounds was that of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, a man of contemplation as every human experiences. It is recorded that Yamamoto, while all his staff members were celebrating, spent the day after Pearl Harbor sunk in depression. True or not, the background of Yamamoto is definitely provoking.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial should be among the top of everyone’s bucket lists. We have never felt such a sense of patriotism, reverence, and honor – especially on the Fourth of July. I can’t help but wonder and ask: what would July 4th mean to you if the world were in black and white? No red, white, and blue, just 50 stars and 13 stripes flying high over the free land we stand on at the expense of so many defending peace, democracy, and love. IMG_9350

We watched fireworks over the Memorial from a neighboring beach that night.
A few more pictures showing sheer joy of being at one of our favorite places on Earth on one of the best days of the year!

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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