No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a list of highlights, the top being Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. I took a guided tour that offered Pearl Harbor and other highlights on my sightseeing wish list of historical places on Oahu.
On my list of places to see on Oahu was the National Cemetery of the Pacific, which has been dubbed Punchbowl. At first thought, you might think it’s strange for me suggest a cemetery as a vacation destination, but this one is very special.
What makes a visit to Punchbowl worth visiting is it’s place to remember the sacrifices of the men and women who have served the United States. This volcanic crater’s Hawaiian name is Puowaina which is most commonly translated as “Hill of Sacrifice”. Punchbowl is indeed a hill of sacrifice with hundreds graves representing service and sacrifice to our nation.
Punchbowl is serene and beautiful with its lush shades of manicured green in contrast with the white granite and stonework. The names of 28,788 military personnel who are missing in action or were lost or buried at sea in the Pacific during these conflicts are listed on marble slabs in ten Courts of the Missing which flank the Memorial’s grand stone staircase. At the top of the staircase in the Court of Honor is a statue of Lady Columbia. Here she is reported to represent all grieving mothers. She stands on the bow of a ship holding a laurel branch.
Did you know that there is a royal residence in the US? There is one and only one and that is the Iolani Palace in Honolulu. The palace was built by the last king of Hawaii, King David Kalakaua, in 1882. I need to schedule a tour to learn more. http://www.iolanipalace.org/
King Kalakaua had Iolani Palace and Kawaiaha’o Church designed after the buildings he saw in England. Building materials were shipped from England and it took 90 years to complete. Additional doors and windows had to be installed in the historic church because the Polynesian belief was that the souls needed to be able to escape from buildings when they die. Interesting. https://www.kawaiahao.org/
There are four statues of King Kamehameha in the U.S. He was great because he conquered Maui, Oahu, and Molokai. Kauai and Nihau joined the kingdom by negotiation, not by war. His first written law was to protect common people from brutal harm by other chiefs.
Continuing the tour, I passed the State Capitol Building which was built in 1960 and is surrounded by a reflecting pool which corresponds to Hawaii being surrounded by the waters of the Pacific. The columns are shaped like palm trees. The columns are wide at the base like palm trees then they become thinner in the middle. At the top, they fan out onto the ceiling. I liked how much thought was put into the building representing the state.
Of course, with Pearl Harbor’s importance in American history, many people want to make sure they see it as part of their first Hawaii vacation. Including me. Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial was an exceptionally moving experience. It conjured up so many emotions. The overwhelming emotion was sadness. In fact, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t fight back tears. In addition to feeling sorrow, I felt angry about the attack, injury for my country, gratitude for the extreme debt of lives that were paid, and pride for the valiant effort of the few servicemen who were able to fight. How’s that for a vast range of emotions?
The USS Arizona Memorial is located in the Pearl Harbor area of Honolulu and it’s free to visit this national park. My tour included an excellent 23-minute documentary film depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the short boat ride to the actual USS Arizona Memorial. I learned too much to write, however one thing that struck me was that on Dec. 7th, 1941 Japanese made up 40% of Hawaii’s population. And I treat many who lived here at that time and still bear the scars of their treatment after the bombing even though they were born here. It’s very sobering and humbling. To learn more, please read here: https://pearlharboroahu.com/
There’s so much to explore. I hope you stay with me for this Hawaiian adventure. Pack the sunscreen!