Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Price Paid for Freedom

Roadboy visits the Arizona Memorial

Most days I wake up pretty proud of the country of my birth.

As a nation we've made lots of errors in judgement over our history. Most we've come to admit, some we continue to avert from our gaze.

But on balance, no nation has stood as a force for good over evil more than the United States.

And when tested, either during staggering economic depressions or when confronted in war, our leaders have proven an uncanny ability to do the right thing.

Winston Churchill opined that we always do the right thing "once we have exhausted all other options".

Saturday, nearly three decades after my first visit, I returned to the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. 

And after 30 years it is still deeply moving.

The USS Arizona Memorial

A Surprise Attack
On Sunday December 7, 1941, at 7:55 am, Oahu was attacked without warning by the Japanese. The meticulously planned attack resulted in the death of more than 2,400 and the near complete destruction of America's entire fleet of battleships.

1,177 of the casualties were the sailors and marines aboard the fully fueled and armed battleship USS Arizona. When hit by a Japanese torpedo it exploded and burned for days.

A Fitting Memorial
In 1962 The USS Arizona Memorial was consecrated directly above the remains of the sunken battleship. It is white for purity. It sags in the center as the ship did signifying the damage from attack. It then rises at each end celebrating eventual victory.

The Memorial "Floats" Above the Wreckage

This memorial provides a place of remembrance of the 1,102 servicemen that perished and whose bodies still remain aboard the Arizona.

National Park Service rangers at the memorial point out that a father and son and 37 pairs (or trios) of brothers were assigned to the ship at the time of the attack. Of those 77 brothers, 62 (23 full sets of brothers) perished. 

 During My Visit This Group Came, Offered a Solemn Prayer for Peace 
Placing Flower Leis Upon the Rail

Now a sacred cemetery, as survivors die many choose to have their remains returned to the Arizona to rejoin their mates forever.

NPS Divers Continue to Inter Remains Into the Arizona

In just a few weeks, on December 7, 2016, the 5 living survivors of the Arizona are all expected to return to Pearl Harbor for the 75th anniversary of the attack.

The Memorial's Architect
The USS Arizona portion of the "Valor in the Pacific" Pearl Harbor Memorial itself was designed by architect Alfred Preis. 

 A Singular Flag Flies Above the Memorial

The Tree of Life
A Universal Symbol of Renewal

The story of Mr. Preis bears telling.  

Preis arrived in Honolulu in 1939 as an Austrian political refugee escaping Hitler's Third Reich.

I found a sad irony with today's headlines that Preis was initially welcomed and then immediately taken into custody and incarcerated in an internment camp after the attack. 

Yet, after the war Preis emerged destined to create this iconic and enduring symbol; a tangible demonstration of his love for a nation in which he found sanctuary.

Black Tears
After 75 years, the Arizona still releases about 9 quarts of oil a day (which are referred to as the "Black Tears of the Arizona").

The Tears of the Arizona
Viewed From the Decks of the USS Missouri 
On Whose Decks Japan Surrendered to the US 

Integrity and Honor
It is still customary for the sailors of all ships entering Pearl Harbor to approach the rail, stand at attention and salute the Arizona as they pass.

As for me, I left Pearl harbor with two messages I will never forget.

It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. 
War is hell.
     William T. Sherman

And this poem

Dear Lord, 
Lest I continue my complacent way. 
Help me to remember somehow out there a man died for me today.  
As long as there be war I must ask and answer 
Am I worth dying for?
     The Poem Eleanor Roosevelt kept in her wallet during all of World War II  

Both seem important as our Nation's leadership now passes to individuals that have never faced hunger, oppression or shouldered weapons in war.

To all of America's veterans - thank you. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

1 comment:

IniquitousFish said...

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