Today I visited Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The park and memorial here are available free of charge. This is an experience that Americans should have and it was interesting as well to see the many people of other nationalities who were visiting on this day.
The visit begins with a twenty minute film that offers the background on how hostilities were heating up between the US and Japan in the time before December 1941. Despite the misgivings of the leading military man in Japan, Admiral Yamamoto, Japan decided to make a pre-emptive strike against the US fleet in Pearl Harbor. As the film shows, the aircraft carriers with planes got near Oahu before the planes were launched. I have been staying near Kaneohe on this trip and that was also the place where the first bombs struck that morning. The more famous attack on Pearl Harbor followed.
After the film, we took a boat out to the site of the sunken Battleship Arizona. It still lies on the base of the harbor where it was sunk on the day of the attack. Strangely, there are still highly visible spews of oil which are being released from the ship after all of these years. I'd seen a battleship of this style in Fall River, Massachusetts a few years back (aka Battleship Cove) and it was tragic to see that a ship with over 1000 people aboard could be destoyed so quickly. Several of the explosions were magnified by hitting ammunition that was stored on the ships.
Pearl Harbor is part of the history of the US and Japan, who ironically are now allies. We all need to be aware of this history and the miscalculations which produced such a great loss of life on both sides during that war.
I also visited Aloha Tower a few miles away. It offers a great 360 degree view of Honolulu and the surrounding mountains. This is a remarkable pastiche of a city that has been overlaid onto a scene of great natural beauty. For the most part, the buildings of Honolulu are unremarkable, but you will not get a better vantage point for viewing them and the forested hills beyond.