What an impressive sight this was! When we got to our second stop on the tour we halted briefly by the memorial for the USS Oklahoma (one of the three battleships never to recover from the PH attack), before setting our sights on one of the USAs last, great battleships.
USS Bowfin * USS Arizona * USS Missouri/Hangar 79
Now decomissioned, the Missouri serves as a museum for tourists and history buffs like myself. Right off the bat: She’s huge! I mean truly huge… I totally fell in love the minute I saw her. There’s no way to explain this and photos will not capture the immensety of this vessel, but I was thrilled just to be let aboard. We got our new tour guide, Susanne, who did her best to compete with the one guy in our group who knew everything by heart (*lol*). The Missouri was made famous, not for her impressive firepower, speed or size, but because this was the location where World War II officially ended. This is where the papers where signed, the salutes where made and the hands where shaken. ADD to that her seriously impressive firepower and sheer size though, cause, like I said, it was seriously cool to be standing on that deck. We also got to see the dents in the side of the ship where a kamikaze pilot’s plane hit. The only damage still visible from a pretty botched kamikaze attack. I’d be thouroughly disappointed if I gave my life just to make a dent and a fire they managed to put out in a few minutes 😛
II walked through the marked route around the ship after the tour was done (they let youu look around on your own) and got a bit lost down below for a while before heading for the bridge. That’s when I met George M. Arine (no joke, his name is actually Arine, and there is an M…) He asked me “wanna see something different?” and II was about to explain to him that in Norway you could get arrested for stuff like that (depending on what he meant by “something different”) before he opened the hatch door to where the action had been. And by “action” I mean, where they press the button that fires the million dollar torpedos. I got to sit in the tactical officers chair, pretend to answer the phone and give orders (George sure knew how to set up a photo, these Pearl Harbor guides should all be art directors). Soon some more of my tour comrades filed in through the door and we all had our picture taken before George Showed us a clip from the movie “Battleship”, with him in it ;-D Cool stuff, I had a lot of fun on the Missouri, it was simply awesome.
One tidbit I found touching: After they fished the kamikaze pilot’s body out of the water the crew wanted to just throw him back in, but the captain said something along these lines: “He was a young man fighting for his country, just like you. He deserves a proper burial.” So they sowed a makeshift Japanese flag out of old canvas and gave the pilot a proper farewell.
The aviation museum
This place had so many planes from various wars, countries and eras and a guide that hhad so much to say in such little time… My brain was getting near that “three exams later”-feeling and I was getting mentally exhausted, but I did enjoy this part too. James, our guide, was an old timer who knew everything about everything, not just pretend, he really knew. And, damn, did he have some stories to tell! He made it fun and as light as he could, I really liked him. He showed us Hangar 79 and the rest of the aviation museum. Hanger 79 houses fighter jets like the Gruman F-14D, McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II, North American Aviation F-86 Sabre, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, and McDonnell Douglas F-15C. In addition, it shelters the attack helicopter Bell AH-1 and utility helicopter Bell UH Iroquois. There are more planes and helicopters outside and on the hangar itself you can still see the bulletholes from where the Japanese attacked when they sought to wipe out the US Air Force before they could retaliate. (You can even see some bulletholes clearly NOT Japanese from where ground defense tried to shoot down the low flying Japanese fighter planes (oops…) 😉
So basically, there’s a hangar (and the surrounding area) full of impressive aircrafts either fully restored on in the prosess of being restored, and a really eager tour guide called James waiting for you in Oahu 😉
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