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The Journal Gazette

  • File photos The USS Missouri, on which the Japanese signed the surrender papers ending World War II in 1945, looms over the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

  • A photograph from Dec. 7, 1941 shows the USS Arizona listing after repeated bombings in the Japanese surprise attack that resulted in US entry into World War II.

Sunday, December 06, 2015 10:01 pm

A trip that will live in memory

JAN HATTON

It was a trip long awaited … our two-week vacation in Maui and Oahu that we had intended to take for more than 30 years.

My husband and I are not the typical vacationers, not thrill-seekers anxious for the helicopter flight over the live volcano, no parasailing over the Pacific, no dolphin or shark encounters, and you could not count us among the witnesses to the surfer who lost three fingers and his foot while battling the waves in Maui while we were there.

Don and I share a love for nature and, above all, the people and the history behind every spot we visit. You might say we meticulously plan our destinations according to what the area offers and the historical tours that entice us to visit. My father, my Uncle Blake and my husband, Don, are all Army veterans; my brother, Charlie, is a veteran of the Marine Corps; and our son, Don, served as a Navy sailor. This trip to Hawaii, the culmination of our 30-year dream, was about Pearl Harbor.

My father served in the Philippines during World War II. I will always treasure his story about the brass Bible he carried in his breast pocket, given to him by his mother when he was drafted right out of North Side High School. It stopped a bullet from penetrating his chest or, as Dad always put it, “saved his life.”

On Oct. 16, Don and I took the Stars and Stripes Tour from Oahu offered by Roberts Hawaii. We heard about the 1,177 men who lost their lives aboard the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941. At the memorial, there is a somber silence as you peer over the side at the hull of the sunken ship below. A recording by Jamie Lee Curtis endears visitors to the site, as the voices of the survivors emotionally explain what they recall of the attack. A wall bears the name of every man who lies beneath. This memorial is about dignity and respect for those who gave their lives protecting us. The two quarts of oil that continue to seep into the ocean daily from the Arizona are said to be the tears of the crew still aboard. 

Typically, many of the remaining crew have asked that their remains be cremated, placed in an urn and reunited with their military brothers aboard the ship. Divers continue to be assigned to place each man’s remains within the ship for burial at sea. To date, seven men survive the attack on the USS Arizona. Their decisions regarding their burial destinations are individually theirs to make and to be honored.

Following the narrated tour of the Arizona Memorial, we were escorted to the USS Missouri, or Mighty Mo. We ate our lunch surrounded by memorabilia of bygone days, including framed photos of the USO entertainers who had visited our troops. We were encouraged to tour the USS Missouri, which saw active service in Operation Desert Storm. The ship was so large that many tour groups were checking out the deck and the guns, climbing up and down the decks to view the officers’ and chaplain’s rooms, and those that are still in use by military personnel. On deck, we were allowed to stand at the exact location of the Japanese surrender and see the original documents formally signed on Sept. 2, 1945, now preserved under glass, along with photos of that historical moment between the United States and Japan.

For anyone not so familiar with the history of Pearl Harbor, the narration of the tragic loss of so many lives with personal testimonies, along with the documentation and photographs of the event, the Stars & Stripes-narrated tour will fill you with emotion; empathy, grief, honor and above all, pride in the United States of America, and every man who served our nation. 

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed Dec.7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” It will certainly remain in my heart.

 

Jan Hatton is a New Haven resident. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.