Visitors to the Arizona Memorial look at the wall of names.

Visitors to the Arizona Memorial look at the wall of names. (Lem Robson / S&S)

Near the east corner of Ford Island, a glistening white memorial stands as a permanent reminder of a slogan that helped spur America to victory in the Pacific war — "Remember Pearl Harbor."

It spans the rusting, barnacle-encrusted hull of the battleship USS Arizona. The morning of Dec. 7, 1941, she took several Japanese torpedoes and eight bombs. One drove through her deck and exploded in her forward magazine seconds after 8:10 a.m.

Ablaze from bow to stern, she slowly settled into the mud of the harbor bottom and, at 10:32 a.m., was given up for lost. The story that she still is in commission survives in many recountings of the Pearl Harbor attack. She is not, but she still is manned. Some 1,177 crewmen went down with her. Only 75 bodies were recovered; her hulk entombs the remaining 1,102.

The ashes of six Arizona crewmen who survived the attack and lived to die of natural causes have been interred aboard the ship in the past few years.

Ships passing the memorial still render honors, and globules of oil still bubble to the surface from her fuel tanks.

In the shrine room of the memorial, the names of all Arizona crewmen who died Dec. 7 are inscribed in Italian marble. Among them are her skipper, Capt. Franklin Van Valkenburgh, and Rear Adm. Issac C. Kidd, Battleship Division One commander whose flagship she was. Both were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Construction of the memorial began in 1960 and it was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1962. The $532,000 it cost came from many sources.

Congress appropriated $150,000; the state of Hawaii contributed $100,000; $95,000 was raised by the Ralph Edwards TV show "This is Your Life."

Elvis Presley held a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor's Bloch Arena in 1961 and raised nearly $65,000 for the memorial. The Fleet Reserve Association raised $40,000 and there were many private donations.

The AMVETS donated the carillon and the Italian marble upon which the names of the battleship's dead are inscribed.

From 1963, the 14th Naval District operated hourly shuttle boats to and from the memorial as well as three to four one-hour tours of Pearl Harbor. A decade later, more than 1 million people were visiting the memorial every year, and a campaign was begun to build a visitor center to handle the increasing crowds.

The $5 million center — $2 million came from Congress and most of the rest was raised by Pearl Harbor Branch 46 of the Fleet Reserve Association — was opened Oct. 10, 1980, and is operated by the National Park Service.

About 1.5 million people a year visit the center and take 30 Navy-operated shuttle boats a day from it to the memorial.

The center includes a theater where visitors see a movie describing the attack and the memorial. There's a bookstore offering a plethora of books, photographs, posters, audio and video tapes and souvenirs.

Pearl Harbor survivors volunteer as guides at the center, answering questions about the Arizona, the attack and their involvement in it. Some of those questions border on the inane, and some visitors are a bit unusual.

"Some ask if we moved the ship under the memorial after it was built," one volunteer said. Others, after seeing oil still leaking from the ship's fuel tanks bubbling to the surface, ask, "Do you turn off the oil at night?"

"One guy came in one day and announced he was "the reincarnation of Gen. MacArthur."

Many visitors are Japanese tourists.

"The older Japanese are much more respectful than the younger ones," said Bob Kinzler, a survivor of the Hawaii attack and a visitor center volunteer.

The same can be said of American visitors — the older ones are more respectful than the younger.

Pearl Harbor was 50 years ago. Many of the people who visit today — American and Japanese — were not alive then and know of it only what they learned in high school history classes.

Some American visitors voice mild objection to seeing Japanese at the center.

"It just gives you a funny feeling to come here and see so many Japanese," said Lester Carver, a visitor from Amarillo, Texas. "I wonder what they're thinking."

Masao Nishida, from Nagoya who said he was a soldier in the war and who brought his wife, daughter and son-in-law to Pearl Harbor — had an answer.

"It was a tragedy," he said. "Both America and Japan lost people here. It was a mistake because it cost us all so much. But that was a different time and people thought differently then."

Kinzler said one thing that concerns him is what Japanese-speaking tour guides are telling their charges.

"I wonder if they're accurate," he mused.

As he spoke, a tour guide nearby was giving four young women from Tokyo only trivia, explaining that the visitor center's ladies room "has twice as many facilities as the men's," and asking if anyone knew why Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto's name "is written with the characters for `56'."

None of the four, all of whom were born long after Yamamoto — who envisioned the Pearl Harbor attack and who was shot down in the South Pacific — did.

"Because he was born on his father's 56th birthday," the guide said.

The center also contains a small museum. It and the film visitors see before traveling to the memorial has sparked complaints from some Pearl Harbor survivors. They say the film contains inaccuracies and the museum is too small and does not have enough exhibits.

Blanca Stransky, National Park Service public affairs specialist at the center, says both those things are being worked on.

"We're in the process of producing a new film that will correct inaccuracies and add some recently discovered historical information," she said.

The museum, she says, was designed by the Navy and the Fleet Reserve Association and, at the time, "no one realized how many people were going to visit and how big the museum needed to be.

"Unfortunately, the walls can only contain so much.

More artifacts cannot be included until environmentally-controlled display cases are available. Without them, the artifacts will deteriorate.

Those cases are, she said, "very, very expensive."

Part of the money that goes into donation boxes set up at the center by the Arizona Memorial Museum Association and all money put in a special donation box during the 50th anniversary observance will go toward improving the museum, she said.

Artifacts in storage now are kept in special containers in an environmentally-controlled area to protect them, she said.

A new reminder of Pearl Harbor will be added to the visitor center late this year — a concrete and metal relief map of Oahu highlighting military bases that were on the island in 1941 It will be surrounded by plaques bearing the names of servicemen who died elsewhere than the Arizona.

"Until now, the only names you could find were those on the Arizona," said Richard I. Fiske — a Marine bugler on the battleship USS West Virginia — a prime mover behind the new memorial.

"Now, you'll be able to find the names of all the dead. That's something we've needed for a long time."

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