12.12.2012 - 12.12.2012 22 °C
Day two (Wednesday) was a military day - I visited Pearl Harbour. Something got a bit mixed up with my booking to see the Arizona Memorial and they put me on the first boat out when I got there rather than the time I had booked for. Just as well, as the wind became so bad that all afternoon trips were cancelled. For those who don't know, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, the Americans had 8 battleships lined up, as a deterrent to Japanese attempts to dominate the Pacific. All but one of them was sunk in the attack - the Nevada tried to escape but, rather than be sunk in the main entrance channel, the captain run it aground. Most of the battleships were actually recovered, patched up and put into service but for some reason the Arizona was left to lie where she fell, with her 1100 or so crew members. There is very little visible of her - some of the framework and this remnant of a gun turret
In 1962 a memorial was established over the ship's hulk,
and the Navy runs launches
out to it so the public can pay their respects. I shared my trip out with a survivor of the attack (who was saluted by the crew as he embarked and disembarked) and a family from Whakatane (and 140 or so others who were not identified to me).
It is more than a little sobering that I couldn't even get the entire list of victims into the shot. It was even more sobering to learn that the Japanese brought something like 35 vessels across the Pacific, refuelled on the way, and no-one saw them coming.
In the environs, there are several other things to see - I had hoped to see everything, but decided that it was too much to try to take in in one day. Since I was able to wander around a submarine in Baltimore, I decided to give the Bowfin submarine
a miss, although I did get to see a real submarine entering port (it was a little surprising that we could get a good look at the happenings within a naval port)
Instead, I decided to concentrate on the Missouri (a battleship) and the Pacififc Aviation Museum. The former was great. It is the length of three American football fields, and we could explore the main and "surrender" deck, as well as clamber up several levels and down one, into the crew quarters. The big thing about the Missouri is its guns: it had nine 16 inch monsters. As the fellow said, it could fire an armor piercing projectile the weight of a VW Beetle 23 miles! Each gun could do this twice a minute. That's some fire-power but, unfortunately, not useful when the war comes from the air. It had six forward guns
The white box-shaped items in the water mark the mooring points of the battleships when they came under attack. There were also three rear guns
They could not actually be fired straight ahead or straight behind but could only be fired side on - something to do with the level of concussion they produced, although they did control their own recoil, which is pretty impressive. There were a bunch of other guns of various sizes, including the Gatling for when things got really close
I doubt there are any circumstances under which I would have joined the Navy, but here are a couple of reasons why I would not have liked being on this particular vessel: the fact that there are steps going up suggests that people actually went up them which would have terrified me
The other is that I might well have found the sleeping arrangements a bit basic
I doubt I would have had much opportunity to hang out here
This vessel has a particular place in history: on it in the Bay of Tokyo, the Japanese formally surrendered and this brought the war to an end. There is a wee plaque to commemorate the spot
It was more than a little annoying that parents would let their kids jump or sit on the plaque. One of the docents got a bit grumpy about it, and every time he saw a kid where it shouldn't be, would simply hoist it out and call for the parents. You'd think that would only have to happen once, but no. It had had a couple of airplanes on rails on its rear deck - this apparatus has been removed and, when I saw it, replaced with a big marquee for social functions. I was a bit confused by the sparseness of the bridge, which lacked any sort of steering wheel
but all the real work is done in the reinforced command centre
I spent at least two hours wondering the Mighty Mo, as they like to call her but thought I had better get off and go see some planes. This was less successful, less successful even than the modest air museum in Tauranga, where several planes are open to the public. Here, although there were more planes and they were more significant, they were all locked up and it was a very static sort of thing. I did get to see and touch the plane that George H Bush trained in (apparently he was quite the success as a fighter pilot: who knew?).
So I wandered around a bit, took some photos: here are a couple of Sikorsky helicopters (they get incredibly ugly),
the fairly famous F15 fighter
and the B25 Bomber
Even more (in)famous is the Mitsubishi Zero fighter, swarms of which were involved in the attack on Pearl Harbour
A radar operator did actually detect the arrival of the Japanese planes and reported it, but the person to whom he reported it thought it was their own 'planes returning from a mission and did nothing about it. One of the first things the Japanese did was knock as many of the American 'planes out of action as they could.
I'm not sure what role the MIG21 played, but they had one (and my brother wanted to see one when we visited the Tauranga museum) so here's a picture
We were transported out to Ford Island (which is where the Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum are) by bus: on the way I was confused by this thing - it is a radar station:
By this time, everything was about to close down, so I called it a day and caught the bus back to Chinatown.