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10 things you probably didn’t know about Pearl Harbor

21 Comments
By Amy Chavez, RocketNews24

The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, marked the day the United States entered World War II. Over three thousand Americans lost their lives in the attack and in 1962 the USS Arizona Memorial was constructed over the sunken battle ship USS Arizona to remember those who lost their lives that day.

But you already know that. This article will tell you some other things about Pearl Harbor that you may not know.

1. Pearl Harbor was not originally known for its pearls

Pearl Harbor was called Pu’uloa by the Hawaiians who harvested the bay’s oysters for food, not pearls. They used the shells for decorating bowls and making fish hooks. The gem inside the oyster was not used until the early 1800s when foreign settlers discovered the bay and its abundance of bivalve mollusks, calling it Pearl Harbor for the first time. Hawaii’s King Kamehameha implemented pearl gathering to meet the foreign demand for pearls, but as the area surrounding the harbor fell to deforestation and over-grazing in the 1840s, the bay filled with silt from the rains. The oysters suffered and had become nearly extinct by the 20th century.

2. The harbor continues to function as an active naval base.

In 2010, the United States Air Force Hickam Field and the United States Naval Station Pearl Harbor merged to form the Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam. Pearl Harbor is the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet, which relocated there in 1940. The Naval Station provides maintenance and training for surface ships and submarines as well as berthing and shore side support. It services many visiting submarines due to its location as the closest intermediate maintenance facility in that area of the Pacific. The base is located on Oahu, about 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from the U.S. mainland.

3. Pearl Harbor is known for watercress production

Pearl Harbor is located in Pearl City, about 11 miles (18 km) west of downtown Honolulu. In the past, this part of Oahu was known for its abundant spring water and the locals grew rice and plowed the fields with water buffaloes. Now, Pearl City is mostly residential but is still known for the Pearl Harbor Spring and abundant fresh water, which has led to the development of a dozen watercress farms. Sumida Farm, a small family-run operation of 10 acres of fields among shopping malls just off the Kamehameha Highway, accounts for around 70 percent of Hawaiian watercress consumption.

4. You can View Pearl Harbor monuments while golfing

If you’re short on time and have to decide between visiting Pearl Harbor or going to the greens, don’t despair–you can do both! There are at least two golf courses that overlook Pearl Harbor and from which you can view the monuments. From the Pearl Country Club (home of the Hawaii Pearl Open Golf Tournament), you can view the USS Arizona Memorial, the most notable monument at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, as well as the USS Missouri. The Waikele Country Club also overlooks Pearl Harbor and the slopes of the Ko’olau and Waianae mountains.

5. The architecture of the USS Arizona Memorial represents “initial defeat and ultimate victory”

The sunken ship USS Arizona lies 12.2 meters under water and is the most iconic structure in the park. The architect, Alfred Preis, explains the design of the 65-meter-long Memorial “enclosed bridge” that spans the hull of the ship: “Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory.” The USS Arizona Memorial has come to commemorate all military personnel killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.

6. Oil still leaks from the USS Arizona

The USS Arizona held approximately 1.5 million gallons (5.7 million liters) of “Bunker-C” oil. The ship burned two and a half days, in which some of the oil would have been burnt up, but no one knows exactly how much. It is estimated that 500,000 gallons (1,892,706 liters) of it was within the hull. About nine quarts (8.5 liters) of oil still surfaces from the ship each day.

7. Of the 1,177 crew members who died on the USS Arizona, there were 37 sets of brothers.

8. The USS Missouri fought in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea

The decommissioned USS Missouri, now docked in Pearl Harbor as a floating museum, is best known for being the ship that entered Tokyo Bay on August 29 to prepare for the signing by Japan of its official surrender. On Sept 2, General MacArthur made a speech at the a ceremony to mark the surrender and the official end of WWII. But before that, the Missouri fought in Iwo Jima, Okinawa and, believe it or not, the 270-meter (886ft) Missouri entered the narrow Seto Inland Sea, where it detected a Japanese submarine (which was later sunk), downed four Japanese aircraft and was itself hit by a kamikaze plane. The battleship continued on to raid airfields and naval bases near the Inland Sea.

9. Tora! is abbreviated Japanese meaning “lightning attack”

Tora was the Japanese code word indicating that complete surprise had been attained. The word, which can also mean “tiger” is actually an abbreviation of "totsugeki raigeki" (突 撃雷撃) which means “lightning attack.” "Tora! Tora! Tora!" was the name of a 1970 movie directed by Kinji Fukasaku, Toshio Masuda and Richard Fleischer that represented both the Japanese and the American points of view on the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. 10. In the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center bookstore, you can buy a book about “war dogs”

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were 90 dogs in the military, mostly Siberian Huskies and Malamutes. In 1942, the “Dogs for Defense” program began a military training program for canines in combat units and security. German Shepards, Doberman Pincers, Collies, Belgian Sheep dogs and Alaskan Sled dogs were eventually added.

In "War Dogs: A History of Loyalty and Heroism" by Michael Lemish, you can read stories about the canine influence in battle since WWI. These are true stories of canine heroes who have pulled sleds, participated in search in rescue and at least one who has even parachuted.

How’s that for a twist on combat? A little light reading is probably just what you need right now.

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21 Comments
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I remember watching the movie Tora!Tora!Tora! whilst visiting a friend's farmhouse in 1983 as a young kid. It left quite an impression on me at the time. Don't think it's the world's greatest war movie by any stretch of the imagination but we weren't spoilt for choice back then and as an impressionable kid I was transfixed!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

On the first morning of my first visit to Japan, I was walking around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. I came to Nijubashi and was taking a moment to grab a picture and just take in the view. There was a tour group of elderly Japanese people there, doing much the same thing. When it was time to move on, the young tour guide lady held up her little stick with the little flag on the end, and said, "Tora, tora, tora!" to move the group along. That got my attention! I understood what it meant from the context, but wow....

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I was reading this and was wondering what the commenting was going to be like etc, and was thinking there'd probably be a debate about whether the Americans knew, whether they should have know, whether it was America's fault, whether it all really started with Perry, how the war could have been finished differently, whether the US had any right to be in Hawaii, and all the other arguments that could take place,

and then I read this.

"Of the 1,177 crew members who died on the USS Arizona, there were 37 sets of brothers."

No arguments from me today.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Tora! is abbreviated Japanese meaning “lightning attack”

That may be, but the actually message sent by attack leader Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, in his own words, was further abbreviated to simply "To, to, to" in the Japanese morse code. He mentions this in the English translation of his book on the battle of Midway.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Years ago, a very dear friend of mine was in charge of the public relations center covering the USS Arizona memorial for 2 1/2 years. We still talk about his time there.

The memorial is an interesting place to visit. If you are in Hawaii and get the chance, be sure to see it ...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

12 The more recent movie, Pearl Harbour", was kind of awful.
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The USS Missouri fought in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea

and, believe it or not, the 270-meter (886ft) Missouri entered the narrow Seto Inland Sea, where it detected a Japanese submarine (which was later sunk), downed four Japanese aircraft and was itself hit by a kamikaze plane. The battleship continued on to raid airfields and naval bases near the Inland Sea.

There is no evidence for most of this. Missouri was protecting the carriers which attacked Japanese forces and facilities around the Inland Sea on March 18-19 1945. Reference: "USS Missouri (BB-63) "The Mighty Mo" https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=01NccOjsGI4C&q=Island+sea#v=snippet&q=Island%20sea&f=false

That reference does mention the planes she hit - whilst protecting the carriers.

There are no reports of Missouri detecting a submarine while off the Inland Sea. Task Force 58 reports mention pilots stating they sunk a submarine during the Inland Sea Raid. Ref: http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/rep/Okinawa/TF58/index.html

The Kamikaze attack was off Okinawa, on April 11th.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Of the 8 battleships that were targeted during the attacks, all but 2 were eventually repaired and returned to the U.S. Navy's fleet.

Furthermore, bullet holes and damage from the attacks can be seen to this day at many of the active military installations on Oahu.

Survivors of the attack have the option to join their lost comrades and make Pearl Harbor their final resting place. Roughly 30 USS Arizona survivors have chosen this option and the last remaining survivor, Joe Langdell, died this past February at 100 years old. He chose to be buried with his crewmen from Arizona.

The Japanese had dropped a 1,760-pound bomb on the battleship, causing an explosion and fire that killed 1,177 Marines and sailors. Fires raged for more than two days. Mr. Langdell recalled, "It took two days to take all the bodies. We carefully wrapped them in sheets. The body parts we put in pillowcases. We swept the decks and took the small bones. Everything was taken ashore and properly taken care of."

While most Japanese school children can tell you that the Japanese were responsible for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, not everyone realizes that the Japanese now visit the memorial in droves. Japan, now one of America's strongest allies, is the largest source of international tourists to the state of Hawaii. They pay their respects at Pearl Harbor just as Americans do, and ironically, the economic vitality of Hawaii today depends largely on tourism from Japan.

No Japanese politician has ever made an official visit to Pearl Harbor to pay their respects. Abe has said he would visit during this year's Golden Week, a first for any Japanese prime minister. The Emperor planned on visiting but instead visited a cemetery instead to lay a wreath because of pressure from Tokyo at the time.

Pearl Harbor is the number one visitor destination on Oahu, more popular than even Waikiki.
4 ( +7 / -3 )

No Japanese politician has ever made an official visit to Pearl Harbor to pay their respects. Abe has said he would visit during this year's Golden Week, a first for any Japanese prime minister. The Emperor planned on visiting but instead visited a cemetery instead to lay a wreath because of pressure from Tokyo at the time.

I don't see why it should be a problem. German Chancellors have been to services in both London and Coventry (blown to bits by the Luftwaffe), and British PMs and the Queen have been to Dresden (blown to bits by the RAF) for services or remembrance and reconciliation, so I don't see why the Japanese and Americans can't do the same thing with Pearl Harbour (blown to bits by the Imperial Japanese Navy) and Hiroshima/Nagasaki (A-bombed by the USAAF)... or even to remember the thousands killed in the Tokyo fire bombing (burnt to bits by the USAAF).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

When I visited the Arizona memorial, two Japanese ojisans were laughing there. Not cool.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

When I visited the Arizona memorial, two Japanese ojisans were laughing there. Not cool.

How do you know they were Japanese? Could very well have been Americans!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

harvey pekar, thanks for those interesting points.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

USS Phoenix survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and was later sold to Argentina. It was renamed General Belgrano and sunk by the Brits during the Falklands war...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The scenario most desired by the Japanese right wing is for a Japanese Prime Minister (and Abe would want this) to make an appearance at Pearl Harbor to express remorse of sorts, with an American president (and an anti-nuclear President like Obama fits the bill) would make an appearance at Hiroshima and/or Nagasaki.

That way World War II would be about the Americans and the Japanese beginning in December 1941 and ending in August 1945. In such a scenario, the much hated Chinese would be excluded, and the Koreans were not in the war anyway since the Japanese had annexed them in 1910.

Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial are well worth visiting. Most Japanese are respectful (a lot of Americans are just tourists, too), but I too observed a bit of historical cluelessness on the part of some Japanese during my visits there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I was temporarily assigned to Hickam Field. The bullet holes from strafing by Japanese war planes are still visible in the infamous clock-tower building, and are very impressive.

To the commenter who said that Koreans were not in WWII, there were many thousands of Koreans forced into the Japanese Army, and hundreds of thousands of Korean women were forced into labor as prostitutes for the Japanese Army.

I met a Koran woman whose father had been a laborer in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bomb attack. He survived to come back home. The family had no notice about him until he quietly showed up one night. In the morning they discovered that he had come home and gone to bed without waking anyone.

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I hear alot about japanese tourists laughing at the memorial. ..

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Amazing article. I need to visit the Missouri with my (Japanese) son this year since we're planning a trip to Hawaii anyway. I like him to know both sides of his history.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Tora!Tora!Tora" is a great movie--better than the later movie titled "Pearl Harbor". It was a joint US-Japan production too.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

For a good book on the Pearl Harbor attack, try and get a hold of a copy of Gordon Prange's "At Dawn We Slept - the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor". He does an admirable job of attempting to present the attack from both side's views based on surviving documentation recovered after the war and interviews of surviving participants from both countries. The book was originally a historical piece titled "Tora! Tora! Tora!" that appeared in the 1963 October and November issues of Reader's Digest. That historical piece formed the basis for the screenplay and Prange served as a technical consultant to the filming of the movie. Gordon later expanded it to become "At Dawn We Slept" which was first published in 1981. SOME of the things he wrote were guesses because the U.S. still had the information classified back then, but once they were finally declassified it turns out his guesses weren't too far off the mark.

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That may be, but the actually message sent by attack leader Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, in his own words, was further abbreviated to simply "To, to, to" in the Japanese morse code. He mentions this in the English translation of his book on the battle of Midway best friend quotes

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Re:

When I visited the Arizona memorial, two Japanese ojisans were laughing there. Not cool.

People who've spent time in Japan tell me that Japanese people (especially women) are taught that laughing is the polite thing to do when you have been caught out in a huge mistake. Since Japan lost the war, Japanese laughing at Pear Harbor may not mean what it looked like.

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