I can add Oahu to Maui, Lanai, and Kauai as the Hawaiian Islands I have visited. I can live happily ever after, or better yet, happily in the hereafter, even if I never see the big island of Hawaii, the privately owned Island of Niihau, or the desert island of Kahoolawe. The eighth island of Molokai interests me due to the fact that it once housed Father Damien and his flock of lepers; I would like to visit it if only for historical purposes. Many interesting books exist about the shameful and ignorant period of this Island’s history. It would be well worth your while to read one, especially “The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai,” written by John Tayman.
Although my recent excursion to Hawaii involved crossing off another item on my bucket list before I die, simply visiting Oahu wasn’t one of them. Like Molokai, the bucket list item I checked off also had to do with history, some of our country’s darkest history. December 7, 1941, went down in infamy as one of America’s greatest defeats and certainly its darkest hour. Our Pacific Fleet was caught asleep at the helm on that fateful Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii.
I rode the tour bus from our hotel on a rainy, gloomy Saturday morning over to Pearl Harbor as I was fortunate to get tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial. The memorial itself stands directly over the sunken ship which accounted for almost half of the fatalities on that dreadful day. The boat ride out to the site is limited to 150 passengers — not exactly because of the Memorial’s size, but more because of the fact that the site is conducive to taking time for reflection. The names of the dead are etched on the end wall, while in the middle an open area is for peering into the water to see the rusted and barnacle-covered remains of the USS Arizona.
The ride out on the ferry was rather quiet, mostly in response to the tour guide who emphasized the solemnity of the historical site we were about to view. Interestingly, there appeared to be as many Japanese as Americans in attendance. Mostly descendents of our one-time enemy, they viewed the occasion with as much respect as any American.
Previously in the week, all nine of us in our party went on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and toured the USS Missouri, the battleship where the peace treaty ending WWII was signed with the Japanese.
As I am writing this story, breaking news just reported that at least one gunman or more had shot and wounded and killed several people at the Washington Navy Yard. You may be wondering how this person got onto this highly secure base located in Washington, D.C. Perhaps he was already on base and lived or worked there. But I reflected back to five days previous when seven people in my party, without having to show any form of identification at the gate, were allowed onto the Pearl Harbor Naval Station. Here is how that happened. My brother-in-law is a civilian worker for the military on the island of Kauai. He has an identification card that allows him and all of the passengers in his vehicle access to enter the base; no questions asked. Driving our second vehicle was an old friend of mine from South Dakota who for many years has worked as a civilian for the Navy. Although mostly stationed in San Diego where he maintains his residence, he sometimes travels around to other bases, remodeling and maintaining military annexes and exchanges. He happened to be working at Pearl Harbor while we were on vacation so we took up his offer for a private tour of the base.
He did point out that this open policy had only gone into effect on July 1 of this year. Did today’s killer somehow take advantage of that? I plan on calling my friend tonight to see what effect today’s events have on the "open base/no ID needed" policy we used just last week.
Watch for my continuing Hawaiian saga in next week’s column.