Home of the Brave Hawaii Victory Tour
by Tim Larison, CLIA Certified Master Cruise Counselor (MCC)
with contributions from Travel Agent Anne Larison
It had been 10 years since we had visited Pearl Harbor. That visit, back in 2004, was an educational and somber experience. Yet being a history buff I wanted to learn more about the Pearl Harbor attack. Was the Japanese raid really a surprise that could not have been predicted? What was life like back in 1941 for military and civilian personnel living on Oahu? I received the answers to these questions and many more from the excellent Home of the Brave Hawaii Victory Tour
Our tour started with a pickup at 6 a.m. at our hotel on Waikiki Beach. Our first stop was Fort Shafter – the headquarters for the US Army Pacific Command – otherwise known as the “Pineapple Pentagon”. That’s Richardson Hall above, where we saw interesting displays of US military history in the Pacific.
Our tour guide and van driver, Olav, did a superb job giving us interesting facts about the Pearl Harbor attack and the events leading up to that fateful day. Here in Richardson Hall we learned the artist for this huge mural painted his own face on each soldier – a detail not noticed until years later by the artist’s family members.
In this beautiful setting we watched the early morning raising of the US Flag over the complex. I could only imagine what it was like on December 7, 1941 when the peace of the early morning was interrupted by Japanese fighter planes strafing this area.
Next it was on to Pearl Harbor, where Olav had pre-arranged a time for us to view the Arizona Memorial. I liked how Home of the Brave tours took care of all the details. We had some time to browse the displays and grounds of the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center. We then joined other tourists at our pre-set time to watch a short documentary about the attack and board a boat to the Memorial. As it was for me in 2004, seeing the names of all the US soldiers who died that day and the wrecked Arizona battleship still submerged under water was a somber experience.
We learned the Japanese attack was not just confined to Pearl Harbor. We visited Wheeler Army Airfield, where Japanese planes first attacked to prevent any air opposition from US forces. We drove by the Schofield Army Barracks – the largest American Army base outside the Continental U.S.
We stopped to eat lunch at an Army cafeteria for a reasonable additional fee. The food was delicious! Again Home of the Brave tours handled all the details as we had a table reserved for our group.
After lunch we visited Punchbowl National Memorial, the final resting place of more than 30,000 U.S. soldiers. Our tour concluded with a drive through downtown Honolulu and some time at the Home of the Brave museum. We were dropped off at our hotel at 2 pm.
The pictures above don’t do justice to the rich historical details our guide Olav provided in his running commentary throughout the tour. We were treated to many human interest stories, music from the time period, and vintage movie footage. If you want a comprehensive look at the Pearl Harbor attack, I highly recommend this tour!
If you are a movie buff, we visited many interesting sites where movies about Pearl Harbor were made. We saw the backdrop for scenes from the 2001 Pearl Harbor (with Ben Affleck), 1953’s From Here to Eternity (Burt Lancaster) and 1970’s Tora! Tora! Tora!.
I did appreciate the smaller size of the group. The tour was operated on a 16 passenger van rather than a large 50 passenger coach. The early start time was a positive thing since we arrived before the big crowds at the Memorial and were able to enjoy the cooler morning air at the early stops. I truly enjoyed this historic tour.
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