Honoring the USS Arizona Memorial
In 1983 I was aboard the USS Enterprise when we arrived in Pearl Harbor. Of course I’d heard about the Japanese surprise attack that provoked the US to enter WWII. I’d seen pictures in history books. In boot camp they taught us Naval history, which included a lesson about the ships sunk on battleship row. Of course I knew what happened there. But honestly, the significance of Pearl Harbor didn’t mean much to me. I’m not being disrespectful. We’d been at sea for over two months, and I was excited to see Honolulu. I wanted to lay on the beach and go to the night clubs on Waikiki.
My chief told me to report to the flight deck at 0700 on the morning of the day we were to pull into Pearl Harbor. I’d been selected to man the rails. My chief told me to wear my dress whites and to look smart, which meant to shine my shoes and make sure my uniform was clean and squared away.
The morning arrived and I put on my dress whites and went up to the flight deck bright and early. I was assigned to stand on the port side. We lined up at arms length and waited as the ship plowed through the waves and the wind threatened to blow my white hat off my head. The island of Oahu appeared on the horizon. Tug boats guided us into the narrow channel. That’s when I saw the cement memorials with the names of the ships that the Japanese had sunk on Dec 7, 1941. Through the loudspeakers along the deck came the command to stand at attention. Then the marines gave a 21 gun salute. That’s when I saw the white memorial with the American flag flapping over the sunken hull of the USS Arizona. I stood up straight and then the command came to give a hand salute.
And that’s when it hit me. I was a US Navy sailor, not just a guy doing his time in the Navy to earn money for college. I realized that I was saluting the USS Arizona Memorial where my shipmates were entombed. I felt pinpricks up and down my legs and back. I had to swallow hard.
Being on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, 80-feet above the water, I could clearly see the rusted remains of the USS Arizona sunk in the harbor mud just a short distance away. The Memorial, a unique white structure, built right over the top of the sunken wreck. There was a little slick on the surface of the water from oil that still leaks from the Arizona’s sunken hull.
I made it a point to go to the memorial during my visit to Pearl Harbor. Since then, I’ve been to Oahu several times, and I always visit the memorial to pay my respects. I’ve read many books and seen movies about the Japanese attack and I now fully understand the importance of that event. It provoked the US to go to war with Japan in the Pacific and with Germany in Europe. To me Pearl Harbor sparked a feeling of patriotism to the US and to my shipmates who gave their lives.
A few years later, I was in college. I kept thinking about Pearl Harbor and what it meant to me as a Navy sailor and a veteran. I eventually wrote a novel about a sailor who arrives at Pearl Harbor. He’s having some health problems, and a doctor orders him to stay at Pearl, while his ship leaves for war in the Persian Gulf. While doctors try to diagnose him, he goes AWOL. He runs around the island going surfing and scuba diving. He meets a lovely girl. Most importantly he learns what it means to be a US Navy sailor.
This week to commemorate 75 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, I’m giving my book, SAILORS DELIGHT, away for free on Amazon Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle you can grab the free Kindle App for your phone or tablet, and then grab this book for free. All I ask is to please post an honest review of my book, SAILORS DELIGHT. Thank you.