"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A profound stillness and whispering

Approaching the Arizona Memorial
December 7, 1941...75 years ago.
Today, at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, daily tours bring hundreds to stand over the sunken, rusting hulk of that battleship off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i.
You take a ferry, operated by U.S. Navy sailors,  out to what was battleship row, where she and her kin were destroyed in a surprise attack from the Empire of Japan, plunging us into WWII.
A bomb struck her ammunition magazine and exploded, sending 1,177 men to instant death. 
Their remains are still there, beneath the water, their ship still oozing oil after all these years, from translucent slicks on the clear water, where you can look down and see the rusting remains of that ship.
I knew all this, but was reminded even more last week when visiting a bookstore, and noticed many new books displayed about that day.
It's more than a Memorial, it's a cemetery. I was privileged to visit there a few years ago when my son M/Sgt. Vance Clark, and family, USAF, were stationed.
When you get your ticket to the ferry from the visitor center at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument on the island of Oahu, it carries the name and biography of every sailor killed that day. I can't find mine now, though it crops up when cleaning out a closet every few years. Mine was from a young sailor from Hominy, Oklahoma.
As you board the ferry from the visitor center, it's striking that the directions on the wall are in both English and Japanese. I'd guess from my visit that half the visitors are young Japanese. 
There's chatter in the visitor center, but when you board the ferry and head across Pearl Harbor, approaching the Memorial, it gets hushed.
When you pull up to the quay, and head down the ramp onto the Memorial that spans the ship, there is a profound silence, a whispering as people read the names of the victims on the walls, view the rusty circular mount of a forward turret rising above the gently lapping, oil stained waves, look at the rusting steel below, or gaze astern stern to the battleship U.S.S.  Missouri, moored as another museum. It was on her decks that Japan surrendered almost four long bloody years later.
Pearl Harbor is still a major Navy, Army and Air Force bastion in the Pacific.
Our servicemen do not forget. There are still machine gun bullet gouges in buildings at Hickham Field, in the seaplane ramps and other reminders of that day when the Pacific was not pacific.
USS Abe Lincoln passing the USS Arizona and USS Missouri
But most impressive to me is that on every U.S. Navy ship that enters, or departs, Pearl Harbor, sailors "man the rails" in their dress uniforms, and salute, in profound silence, as they pass the Arizona Memorial, and their dead "shipmates."
Salute.



 
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I've blogged about this before. Click these links if you're interested. 
Pearl Harbor Thoughts
Here's to the Navy

I can't find my photos from my trip, and my son can't locate his either, after multiple moves, but my daughter-in-law Kerin sent the top three photos above from a friend of theirs, Airman Jonelle Snyder. Others are from the National Monument.
USS Abraham Lincoln arriving at Pearl

1 comment:

  1. Great post Terry. You are right, as the ferry approaches everybody gets quiet and nobody tells them to do so.

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