January 17th (again!) -- Honolulu

written by bryan on January 25th, 2009 @ 11:15 PM

Bryan from Honolulu

It’s interesting having an article for the same day twice. But we’ve crossed the date line, and it’s January 17th again.

Our Honolulu adventure started last night with our taxi ride back from the airport, when Bethany realized that we’d left a bag at the airport. We’d been travelling with two bags for the entire trip, but we added a third bag yesterday. Maybe if it had ended up right beside our two backpacks we would have remembered it, but with the hassle of customs, it just slipped our mind.

That’s not surprising in my case, but Bethany isn’t absent-minded like I am! Not surprisingly, it was Bethany who remembered while in the taxi on the way to the airport. So we asked the taxi driver to turn around. Pre 9/11 we could have just picked up the bag on the way home tomorrow, but in today’s environment, abandoned bags are likely to be discarded with extreme prejudice.

Our final taxi bill for our ride home from the airport ended up being $110 – essentially 3 times what it should have been. To make things even more painful, that’s about NZD220!

Today is our only full day in Hawaii, so we really only have time to do two things. We decided that our top two would be Pearl Harbor and the beach. We took a quick look at the beach (since our hotel is only a 1/2 block away) and then booked a shuttle to Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor is very interesting to me – at once perhaps Japan’s biggest mistake, yet a stunning success for Yamamoto. For the Americans, Pearl Harbor was a huge loss that could have been easily minimized, yet in the end it mobilized the Americans and enabled their victories later in the war.

Pearl Harbor was viewed as an unjustified sneak attack by the American populace, yet it was entirely predictable. The Americans had almost completely cut off the Japanese access to oil. The United States has gone to war over much smaller disturbances to their oil supply. Talks to restore the oil had broken down, and the Japanese were directly threatening American territories in Guam and the Phillipines. War with the Japanese seemed inevitable. If it was inevitable, why was it surprising that the Japanese would attack the Pacific fleet?

The Japanese believed (erroneously) that an attack on British colonies in Asia would bring America into the war against them. They also believed that the American Phillipines were necessary for their plans. So even though Yamamoto believed that Japan could not defeat the US, he drew up plans to crush the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. He believed that this would give Japan a three year window to complete their Pacific war and to negotiate a truce with the Americans from a position of strength. On the other hand, Prime Minister General Tojo believed that the “weak and divided” Americans could be defeated despite their sizable industrial advantage.

By the goals of the Japanese, the attack was overwhelmingly successful. All of the eight American battleships received significant damage, with five of them being sunk. Both the Americans and the Japanese believed that battleships were the most significant part of any navy. By that standard, the US navy was irreparably damaged. The Japanese also did very significant damage to the Pacific Air Fleet. In the end, it was aircraft carriers and submarines that won the naval war for the Americans. Luckily, their two carriers were away on delivery missions. Yamamoto should have (and probably did) know that the aircraft carriers were essential – he was a master of their use himself. The Japanese did not significantly damage the American’s shore facilities, which very quickly repaired most of the battleships, and proved much more important in the end than anything directly damaged.

The Japanese believed that a stunning upset would fracture the Americans. They believed that the homogeneous nature of Japanese culture and race gave them a huge advantage and were gleefully watching the debates between those who would have the Americans join the war in Europe and those who wished to stay out. But it was Pearl Harbor that united the nation.

After visiting the Arizona memorial, we toured a WWII submarine. Unfortunately we did not have time to tour the battleship or the aviation museum before our shuttle was supposed to arrive.

And I say supposed to arrive: we were there on time, but the shuttle wasn’t. After waiting 40 minutes we shared a taxi back with another stranded group. After we got back, we walked along the beach until the batteries in Bethany’s camera ran out, so we ran back to the hotel to grab the spare because sunset was just starting. After sunset we were able to take in a free Hula dance on the beach put on by a local dance school. Nice!

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