The Scattered Remnants of Pearl Harbor
April 25, 2017
Though the attack on Pearl Harbor was a very public affair and affected the entire United States, not every piece of the remains of Pearl Harbor are available for public viewing. They’re not hidden secrets of history per se, but relics of the attack that are reserved specifically for the men and women serving in the American military.
While not everyone is able to visit them, these pieces of the past are still important to the history of the attack.
The USS Utah Memorial
Maybe the most notable—and more confusing—restricted memorials is that to the men of the USS Utah (BB-31). The vessel is partially submerged just off of Ford Island’s northwestern shoreline, a rusted relic damaged beyond repair during the course of the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time of her sinking, the Utah was actually no longer an active-duty battleship in the Navy’s registry, having been used as a target vessel for the past ten years.
During the attack, the vessel lost 62 of her crew, most entombed within the ship after she started to capsize. Despite efforts to salvage the ship, it was eventually left in place, and a memorial was built for military personnel desiring to pay their respects.
The Ford Island Bunker
Though the main target of the attack was the line of vessels at Battleship Row, many Japanese bombers and fighters broke off to strike the nearby airfields, threatening the lives of families living near these high-value targets.
Offering safety for the women, children, and wounded sailors during the course of the attack, and in preparation for a follow-up attack, was an underground bunker on Ford Island that was lovingly referred to as The Dungeon. Beneath the home of an admiral, the bunker was once a World War I gun battery converted into a shelter meant to protect from a bomb strike.
Remains of John Finn’s Heroic Stand
Many heroes were made on December 7th, 1941, and one of them was Navy Chief Petty Officer John Finn. Like an action hero, Finn engaged Japan’s aerial fleet from an opening on a seaplane ramp off Kaneohe Bay, fighting back with little more than a .30-caliber machine gun and a lot of resolve.
For two hours, Finn fired against the incoming fighters and bombers, surviving an onslaught of machine gun fire and bombs. Having survived 20 injuries sustained during his stand, Finn lived to the age of 101, but the remnants of his heroic act remain. Impact craters from the bombs and machine-gun fire that threatened Finn’s life are still visible at the site, which sits within an active military base.
Hickam and Wheeler airfields took quite a beating from Japan’s persistent fleet. Though the attack was over 75 years ago, signs of it still remain, forever scarred in the concrete walls of the airfields. Pockmarks and craters ranging upwards of 2-feet-wide remind service members of the devastation that once touched the airfields.
These remnants are constant reminders of the sacrifices made to protect the country, even when the odds were completely against the men stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.