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Memorial Ceremonies Mark Dedication of New Pearl Harbor Visitor Center


The new Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. NPS photo.

The Congress, by Public Law 103-308, as amended, has designated December 7 of each year as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day."

At Pearl Harbor (a component of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument) and other locations on Oahu, a multitude of events, special exhibits and activities were scheduled for December 4 – 8 in association with the commemoration of the Japanese attack that plunged America into World War II. Today, on the 69th Anniversary of that December 7, 1941, attack, the dedication of the new $56 million Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is a highlight event.

Scheduled for 7:30 a.m., the joint National Park Service/U.S. Navy commemoration and dedication is taking place on the back lawn of the visitor center (which faces the U.S.S Arizona Memorial) and is open to the public. There will be a stellar slate of guest speakers, including Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service director Jon Jarvis as well as the Honorable Daniel K. Inouye (United States Senate), Admiral Patrick M. Walsh (Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet), Admiral Thomas B. Fargo (retired former Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command), and keynote speaker Thomas Strickland, Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and the Parks.

Among the 2,500 in attendance will be more than 200 Pearl Harbor attack survivors. The theme of this year’s historic commemoration, “A Promise Fulfilled: 1941 – 2010,” is dedicated to these honored veterans. Members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors organization from all over America are attending their annual meeting in Honolulu during December 4th to December 8th so they (and more than 300 family members and friends) can participate in the anniversary commemoration and the dedication of the new visitor center.

The Pearl Harbor Survivors have played an integral role in volunteering and supporting the National Park Service administration of the USS Arizona Memorial since 1980. In 2007, the organization helped raise money for the new visitor center and museum, supporting the national fundraising efforts of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund and the Arizona Memorial Museum Association (now known as Pacific Historic Parks).

Highlights of the ceremony include music by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, morning colors, a Hawaiian blessing, a rifle salute by members of the U.S. Marine Corps, wreath presentations, echo taps, and recognition of both the men and women who survived the attack and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

A moment of silence will be observed at 7:55 a.m. (12:55 p.m. EDT), the exact moment the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began 69 years ago. The USS Chafee (DDG 90) will render honors to the USS Arizona. Military aircraft will fly over the Memorial in a “missing man” formation. A Hawaiian blessing and dedication of the new Pearl Harbor Visitor Center will follow.

The ceremony will conclude with a “Walk of Honor” by more than 200 Pearl Harbor survivors and World II veterans through an honor cordon of armed services and National Park Service men and women to officially open the new visitor center museum.

Postscript: Also on December 7, about 100 people braved 30-degree temperatures and 25 mph winds to attend a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial honoring veterans who lost their lives in the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.


Great. Now we need a new decent designation of all the Pearl Harbor related NPS units under one umbrella. Preferable a National Monument, but maybe a National Historical Park would do. It should include all sites related to World War II on Oahu. And it would break up the useless World War II Valor thing that is simply impossible to administer, to interpret and to visit.

I see where you are going with this, MRC, and I have to admit that I don't rest easy with the immense sprawl of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. However, given the vast size and complexity of the Pacific theater of war, I suppose it's understandable. There are administration and interpretation difficulties aplenty, that's for sure. As for visitation difficulty, well, it's conceptually messy. There's no rule that says you have to visit every administrative component of a national park before you can count it as a unit you've visited.

It is pure nonsense to have Tule Lake War Relocation Center as tiny part of an umbrella National Monument, while Manzanar and Minidoka are National Historic Sites in their own rights. If you want decentralized units in the National Park System, then combine the War Relocation centers in a decentralized National Historical Park.

The remote Alaskan sites in the World War II Valor whatever Monument could be a NHS on their own, no one would visit it anyway, but at least it would be cheaper to administer from any Alaskan NPS unit than from Hawaii.

And on Oahu, the Valor thing was an improvement over the individual designations, but misses the chance to really tell the whole story. Why not add the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific?

Let's not forget that there is already a National Historical Park created in 1978 with the mission designated by Congress of telling the entire story of the Pacific War - War in the Pacific National Historical Park on Guam. Of course, few Americans visit Guam compared to Oahu. Now we have a National Historical Park 7,000 miles from the U.S. and a sprawling ambiguous National Monument spread all over the place with the same mission. Too bad the Bush administration couldn't get together with Congress and reorganize all the WWII sites into something a little more logical than the current set up. Perhaps the Bush people should have gone with their preferred bad name idea - War in the Pacific National Monument.

On the surface of it, incorporating War in the Pacific National Monument into the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument makes good sense. However, when that idea was vetted, it's a good bet that political considerations stood in the way. Guam's War in the Pacific National Monument is a National Park System unit (counted as one of the system's 393 units) that has its own superintendent and separate identity. Folding that identity into a differently-designated NPS unit might very well have been construed as a downgrading of the existing national park on Guam.

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