Oahu, Hawaii – It was a day that would forever live in infamy, known throughout the world for its brutality and devastation. Two thousand three hundred forty-five soldiers lost their lives while an additional fifty-seven were seriously injured. And the most frightening part was that no one saw it coming. There was no warning, no inkling, that such a thing could possibly happen on domestic soil on that winter’s day. And now, almost seventy years later, those voices are not silent. The guns still fire, screams still echo over the harbor, and people know that those killed will never be at rest.
Battlegrounds are notorious for being places where the dead do not rest. From Gettysburg to Wounded Knee, those who lost their lives defending their ways of life gave the ultimate sacrifice, and something of their passion lingers. But Pearl Harbor is different from others on many counts, not the least of which are that many of those who died were never given a proper burial and that the victims did not run into battle willingly. They were attacked with no warning, and many of them breathed their last moments in fear. In a place so marked with death, terror, and pain, it is little wonder that those who visit can feel the echoes of the past.
Many people are surprised to learn that the naval base known as Pearl Harbor actually dates back to 1875, when the Hawaiian Kingdom signed the Reciprocity Treaty and the US Senate allowed the Navy to lease the lagoon as a naval base. It actually does have a long and storied history that could fill several volumes. However, without diminishing the accomplishments of any who labored over it, as well as Ford Island, most of the trouble with the base began in 1933.
The Japanese military was at war with China and threatened to drag America into the conflict. As a precaution, the Navy staged a mock attack on Pearl Harbor to assess the base’s defensive capabilities. The event was a disaster with the “attackers” succeeding in what would have been a devastating loss. However, it seems like there wasn’t much done to rectify the oversight. On December 7, 1941, those defensive shortcomings would come into sharp focus.
That morning 353 Japanese aircraft attacked in two waves. There was no warning, no time to think. As the bullets and bombs rained down, officers panicked. Many fought back, only to lose their lives in the struggle. Neither women, nurses, soldiers, nor civilians were spared as the Imperial Navy sank four battleships, destroyed 188 planes, and disabled and damaged everything else in their sights. In the end, the human cost was 2,402 personnel killed (60 while eating breakfast), 1282 wounded. The attack shocked and horrified the American people. It marked a turning point in American philosophy as the United States moved to full participation in World War II.
As you might imagine, such sudden tragedy left a large number of scars on the land. All over Ford Island there are reports of strange things, sounds, and presences that correspond to events of that day, but the phenomena are not limited to the island alone. The base itself has numerous reports, from command all the way down to civilian visitors, of apparitions and restless souls. It has been reported that security forces do not like walking the grounds at night because of all the paranormal activity.
On Ford Island residents report phantom voices and footsteps in their homes as well as objects moved, lights and electronics that turn on and off by themselves, and dark shadows that walk about aimlessly, only to vanish when approached. The airstrip also has a reputation, as visitors often report a real sense of panic and a strange glowing mist that floats about.
Perhaps the most well-known ghost on the site, “Charley,” has been there so long and his presence so well documented that it isn’t uncommon for officers to respond “That’s just Charley” when they receive a report. Water faucets turn themselves on, radios have been turned on and their stations switched, and heavy doors have been observed to swing quickly back and forth. All of this accompanied by the jangling of keys and loud footsteps in empty hallways.
Still, the most haunted area, and deservedly so, is the memorial, built upon the sunken remains of the USS Arizona. The most heavily damaged ship suffered three near misses and four direct hits from 800kg bombs. When the last bomb struck, it exploded inside a 14-inch powder magazine, delivering a devastating blow. 1,177 crewmen died, and most of them were unable to be removed from the ship. Their bodies still rest within her sunken walls, mourned and visited by tourists and visitors every day.
The Pearl Harbor memorial was approved in 1958 and completed in 1961. Built on top of the sunken USS Arizona, it serves as a museum and a tribute to all who lost their lives in the attack. It is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is free to visit with tickets being issued on a first-come, first-served basis. There is also a “Remembrance Exhibit” upon which the names of all those who died are displayed. The experience is quite moving with no one leaving unaffected.
For most, the anniversary of the attack would be the ideal time to visit. However, since that is when the most visitors show up, it doesn’t allow much in the way of ghost sightings. Paranormal enthusiasts, however, do not need to follow a schedule as the restless spirits seem to have been sighted year-round without provocation. Whether paranormal or not, the feeling of loss and respect for the soldiers permeates the air year-round. There are also the Bowfin Submarine Museum and the USS Missouri Battleship Memorial for visitors to visit. For more information visit the Pearl Harbor website.
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