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 battleship 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 freshwater, 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 underwater 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 a ceremony to mark the surrender and the official end of WWII. But before that, 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 Sheepdogs, 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.