By Mark W. Danielson
No doubt, the 9-11 attack on our World Trade Center permanently etched our brains. While this unimaginable event left our nation in shock, years before another day shall forever live in infamy. I cannot imagine the horror our Pearl Harbor survivors’ experienced as they watched World Trade Center fall.
I don’t fly to Hawaii as often as I used to, but during every Honolulu visit, I've made it a point to climb Diamond Head so I could peer into the distance and imagine the Japanese bombs pounding our ships and airfield. Those who were stationed on Diamond Head helplessly watched, its guns meant to ward off a sea invasion, not an air attack. But had it been better equipped, Diamond Head was still too far away from the attacking planes to have had any effect. The guilt those observing the fight from Diamond Head must have been horrendous. They probably re-lived that nightmare countless times during their lifetime.
Oahu's Diamond Head may have had mystical qualities to the locals, but its strategic significance had the United States military transforming the crater into a military installation in 1905. At the time, the United States was occupying foreign lands with gunboat diplomacy. Military installations were set up in the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii to defend the nation during the Spanish American War. Inside Diamond Head, trails were carved, tunnels dug, mortars and cannons capable of launching fifteen-inch diameter projectiles were placed. Well before World War I, Oahu stood ready to defend itself, but no amount of guns could stop its post-war economic development. In recent years, pineapple and sugar cane fields have succumbed to condos and resorts, cars pack its roads, buildings steadily rise, and yet this steady influx of tourists is what fuels Hawaii’s economy. Thankfully, even on Oahu it is easy to escape the bustle of the city by driving a few miles. Of all the places I've visited around the world, I still consider Hawaii paradise.
While many criticize Hawaii’s development claiming the Untied States raped the island, it is worth noting that had the United States not militarized these islands, history may have been re-written. Had the Japanese pursued their December 7th attack as an invasion rather than continuing their course for Australia, and had our carriers not set out to sea before the attack, the outcome of the War in the Pacific could have been different.
For those visiting Oahu, I strongly recommend visiting the battleships Arizona and Missouri, then Punch Bowl Cemetery to study the Pacific battles depicted on its grand memorial walls. Spend time reflecting on the endless rows of white crosses to remember our soldiers' ultimate sacrifice. Finally, climb Diamond Head to observe Pearl Harbor in the distance so you can imagine what happened that fateful December seventh day in1941. (You can now avoid the steep stairs by using the south wall bypass.)
To all who have served and defended this country, particularly WWII veterans, I salute you. In your honor, I shall climb Diamond Head on every visit so long as I’m able.