The battleship USS Arizona sank within nine minutes after a Japanese bomb ignited 500 tons of her explosives at 8:06 a.m. during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941
A total of 1,177 sailors on board were killed and only 229 of their bodies were recovered. The rest of the men remain entombed within the ship. Since the Arizona went down, 36 survivors have chosen to have their ashes interred at the site, rejoining their shipmates after death.
Almost 1.5 million gallons of fuel were on board the Arizona and roughly 500,000 gallons still remain. Particulates of the ship’s black oil continue to permeate the surrounding ocean water, oozing up to several quarts on any given day. Some have called these the “black tears” of those who perished.
These were some of the facts presented in a documentary film during our family trip to Pearl Harbor, before our boat trip to the Arizona. Although I knew “intellectually” that the men lay at rest beneath us, setting foot on hallowed ground above them felt sobering and surreal, particularly in the physical context of the stark white memorial juxtaposed against the halcyon-blues of Oahu’s sea and sky.
A breeze flowing over the ship’s wreck, carried the smell of oil mingled with saltwater toward me. I tried to imagine what the harbor might have looked like–chaotic and burning on “the day of infamy” when seven other occupied battleships were damaged and destroyed. I couldn’t.
Decades later a feeling of peace seemed to prevail here, despite the sudden and profound loss of life. It reminded me of what my mother, a survivor of WWII told me as a child–that the dead can rest easier when they are remembered by the living. Every year, 1.7 million people visit the USS Arizona from around the globe to honor their memory.
I balanced my then two-year son on my hip for a closer view of the submerged battleship. His soft hair and skin smelled of baby shampoo and little-kid sunscreen. We watched as other visitors threw fresh-flower leis onto the waves in tribute to Arizona’s crew.
A sea turtle appeared in the water surrounding the smoke stack. Naturally, the playful creäture peaked my son’s interest more than anything we’d seen on the tour. The turtle lingered, diving and then resurfacing for several minutes, until he dove a final time beyond our sight.
According to ancient Hawaiian tradition, sea turtles or “honu” represent peace, wisdom and the spirit of the islands. Aloha, as we know can mean “hello” and “goodbye” . On a deeper level, aloha embodies a way of life in which we treat each other collectively with love and respect.
I’ll close with a quote: When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace–Jimi Hendrix
For more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above, click HERE
Stop by my Fiction page for a novella scene set in the Philippines during WWII.
- Pearl Harbor (mrsmaher.wordpress.com)
- USS Arizona: Beneath the Surface (pacificislandparks.com)
- Highland Veteran Brings Pearl Harbor to Life (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Battleship Missouri, other Pearl Harbor sites benefit from sequestration (bizjournals.com)