Pearl Harbour: War and Peace

IMG_6156Being in Honolulu and not going to see the historic Pearl Harbour Memorial site is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Before we visited this National Historic Park, we watched this YouTube about World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbour:    We found it very beneficial to have seen this before going.

The website of the Memorial Park answers most if not all questions a visitor might have:

IMG_6177From it we learned the exact location, the opening hours, the fact that you need a ticket but tickets are free and much more. The hardest part is having to get up at 6 AM. Tickets are handed out starting at 7 AM. Tickets are attached to a time slot so you may have to come back later in the day. 

We planned our visit for a Monday morning and were lucky: after standing in line for only 15 minutes, we were handed tickets for the first time slot at 7:30.

First, you visit a theatre to watch a movie, much of it authentic footage which I found very impressive. I mean, who was filming this? Because, let’s face it, this was a surprise attack that no one was expecting. Yet, on both the American side and the Japanese side, there is all this footage that makes for a complete documentary of what was happening. 

IMG_6164Like the war in Holland, the figures of the dead, the heroic deeds, the number of planes and ships involved, are all staggering. Of the number of ships that sank in the tropical, picturesque site of Pearl Harbour, the one that took most lives was the S.S. Arizona. Made of thick steel, it was impossible to rescue the men on board. The ship was left were it sank.

Eventually the National Parks and US Navy erected a plain white, ship-shaped hall width wise over the rusted remains. It’s a sober place to visit where the fact that this was a world war, not just a European tragedy, was really brought home to me. IMG_6171

After visiting the site, by boat, we walked through the museum. Besides the usually models, maps, videos, and artifacts my favorite display here was that of Sadako’s paper cranes where an original of the thousands of cranes that have inspired children to talk about peace, is on display.

US’s involvement in WWII started with the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. It ended on August 6, 1945 when American forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Sadako Sasaki was two years old when this catastrophic event happened. Then years later she was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer caused by exposure to nuclear radiation. Sadako clung to the Japanese legend that, if you fold 1,000 paper cranes the gods will grant your wishes. She folded many of her cranes using paper medicine wrappers while she was in hospital. After she died in 1955, Sadako’s paper cranes became a symbol for peace. Eventually, students in the US and Japan began sending each other paper cranes with peace messages written on them. One of Sadako’s original cranes is displayed at Pearl Harbour. 

IMG_1527Sadako’s initiative has led to books, a movie and tens of thousands of children around the world folding paper cranes as a symbol of peace. I bought a paper cranes at the visitors’ centre at Pearl Harbour and found out that all cranes, sold for $1.-, help the Pacific Historic Parks organization to support educational programs. These include Make A Wish projects for children and their families to visit Pearl Harbour. They also provide a virtual tour of the Pearl Harbour National Memorial for school groups across the nation and internationally, who would not be able to travel to Hawaii. 

Hawaiian school children regularly fold cranes at the Pearl Harbour Memorial to demonstrate and interact with visitors from all over the world. Meanwhile, teachers and students in Japan fold origami paper cranes and write a message of peace on the wings. These cranes are sent to Pearl Harbour to be shared with visitors who are


encouraged to take a crane back home and spread the message of peace. To date, the centre has received over 65,000 cranes from Japan.

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