The inspiration for this opinion piece came as a result of watching a video on You Tube last December about a female sailor who drives the tourist boat out to the USS Arizona Memorial. In one scene, she is posing with a some tourist dude with a grey beard who has got his arm over her shoulder as they smile for his wife’s camera like she were a waitress at some glamorous tourist trap restaurant on Oahu, not someone serving their country.
I could not believe the sight. In fact, it smacked of “whistling past the graveyard” to me. But a graveyard she is as the following extract from the memoir by U.S. Navy diver Edward Raymer demonstrates (and also makes even Stephen King’s novel Christine read like a bedtime story by comparison):
Suddenly, I felt something was wrong. I tried to suppress the strange feeling that I was not alone. I reached out to feel my way and touched what seemed to be a large inflated bag floating on the overhead. As I pushed it away, my bare hand plunged through what felt like a mass of rotted sponge. I realized with horror that the “bag” was a body without a head.
Gritting my teeth, I shoved the corpse as hard as I could. As it drifted away, its fleshless fingers raked across my rubberized suit, almost as if the sailor were reaching out to me in a silent cry for help. *
I wonder if the bones of that sailor rest inside the Arizona to this day or if he wound up in Punchbowl with the small number of poor souls recovered from her wreck.
Regardless, I confess I am disturbed by how ignorant tourists like that dude seem to be of the hell that consumed the ship which now is a memorial. Wake up and smell the reality, my friends: the Arizona is a graveyard, not a tourist trap!
*Edward C. Raymer, Descent Into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941, A Navy Diver’s Memoir, 4.