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Topic: Visiting USS Utah, Success Despite Mistakes< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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James F Miller Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 12 2001,12:32  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


Early last November my wife and I honeymooned in Hawaii.  During a respite from working on the family (*ahem*) we spent a day driving around Oahu visiting various attack-related locations, one of which was the USS Utah Memorial.  

Before leaving the mainland I had done some homework, as I knew the Memorial was somewhat off the beaten path.  David Aiken offered advice,  I had gleaned some info from the Internet, and I thought I had become somewhat learned about the necessary “sponsor” required to visit the Memorial.  However, distracted by the planning of our large (300+ people) out-of-state wedding, coupled with some hazy information obtained from a now defunct website and a lack of good follow-through on my part, I arrived on Oahu woefully unprepared and uninformed.  I may as well have said, “Well, don’t worry about it” to my wife when she asked if we had clearance to see Utah.

In order to visit Utah, “anyone not affiliated with the Military/Civil Service that would like to visit the USS UTAH Memorial must be sponsored by the Active Duty/Retired Military, Military Reservists or DOD/Civil Service personnel.”  What this usually means is that you are accompanied by one of these persons as you visit the site.  What this does not mean is you can simply call the Public Relations Office, say “veteran so-and-so said to mention his name to be my sponsor”, then expect to see the Memorial.  However, this is precisely what I did!  

I telephoned Terri Kojima, Community Relations Officer, explained to her that I was now on Oahu and ready to visit the Utah, and expected to receive a time I could hop on over to Ford Island.  Instead, despite emailing her months earlier as to the date of my desired visit, she had no idea that I had even arrived on Oahu. Worse, after explaining to her the situation and attempting to refresh her memory, she could not find any of my emails anywhere amongst her inbox, so she never had any idea as to who I was in the first place!  Worse still, although I could visit Utah with a sponsor, merely knowing a veteran was not the sponsorship they desired.  My expectations dwindled as I began to converse with her as to where and how I had become misinformed, and I finally asked her what I needed to do in order to visit the Utah.  The obvious answer was “You need a sponsor”.

Back at square one, I reached for the white flag I admitted that I could not produce a sponsor. She then asked me if I was associated with Pearl Harbor in any way and to explain in what capacity if I answered in the affirmative.  Outside of intense personal interest I was not “associated” in any way, although I mentioned I ran a website that focused on the Pearl Harbor attack and that my maternal grandfather had survived the strafing attacks on Schofield Barracks and had assisted with transporting the wounded from Wheeler Field.  Reluctantly, although very politely, she informed me that her office does not have the staff to provide a sponsor for everyone who wants to see the Utah Memorial, but that she was going to make an exception.  I don’t know if I was more relieved or excited!

It was arranged that my wife and I would be picked up at the USS Arizona Memorial for transport to Ford Island.  At the appointed time a white van appeared amongst the tourist busses and pulled to the curb in front of us. Opening the doors, we entered the van and the driver introduced herself as Petty Officer Carlson.  Ms. Carlson was very pleasant and professional, resplendent in her white Navy uniform, and agreed to drop us off at the USS Missouri after our Utah visit, thereby saving us driving time.  

Crossing the bridge to Ford Island afforded us a new view of the USS Bowfin and Arizona Memorials, as well as northern Ford Island.  Once on the island I was surprised by the amount of vegetation present and of the heights of the trees, as well as intrigued by the changing harbor views as we circled around the north side of the island.  Viewing the quaint housing along the road and the relaxed demeanor of those persons visible, I had a feeling as if we were on an isolated resort island of some sort rather than in the middle of a Naval Base on the most infamous spot in The United States.  Officer Carlson played the role of tour guide during this slow drive around the island, bringing to our attention various points of interest, and as a light rain from a mostly blue sky began to fall we pulled into a parking lot across from a row of small houses and exited the vehicle.

Just off the parking lot there is a raised platform, modestly landscaped, that boasts a flagpole and a plaque.  Beyond this area is a pier that juts out into the harbor and in view to the left are the remains of Utah, listing silently to port in the now peaceful waters.  During the short walk from the parking lot to this pier the falling rain—although still to be considered a light rain—increased just enough to cause me to turn my back towards it a bit as it fell from the northeast. However, coupled with the brilliant morning sunlight that flooded the harbor despite the rain, this shower created a beautiful little rainbow that appeared directly over the hull of the Utah.  Low and wholly confined within the length of the visible hull, it was as if this rainbow was meant for just the three of us to behold.  Accompanied only by the sound of the wind, gently falling rain and fluttering flag, gazing upon our private rainbow, we walked silently towards Utah. My senses seemed to be heightened during this walk, as for the first time I was seeing with my own eyes that which before I had only seen in black and white photographs over the last 26 years.  As we got closer to Utah I had the presence of mind to realize that—as so very rarely happens in life—I was experiencing “a moment”.

The vessel herself is in very rusty condition.  The Memorial situates one near her starboard bow, and from this vantage point one can observe cables, portholes and parts of the superstructure.  Plants grow on the vessel close to amidships, and an oily scum can be seen along the length of the hull near the waterline. After taking several photographs of the vessel and the area (two are posted below) my thoughts turned to the various accounts provided to me by some of Utah’s former crewmen.  It was difficult for me to imagine what it must have been like to abandon a sinking warship amongst the chaos of war, with explosions and bullets and low-flying radial-engine aircraft roaring over after a strafing run meant to kill you—even though I was standing at the exact spot where such events occurred.  A poor swimmer at best, I gauged the distance from the Utah to the shore and wondered if I could even swim the distance right then, let alone while being strafed!  Walking back down the pier I examined the shoreline of Ford Island and was surprised at how rough and rocky it is, and thought how unpleasant just climbing out of the water must have been.  Many veterans of Utah mention a ditch into which they sought shelter, but of that ditch I found no sign.  In fact, looking along the shore there is no sign that any sort of battle took place there at all—until you turn around.

After our visit—during which Officer Carlson waited patiently for us and made no efforts to move us along—we got back into the van and headed for the Missouri. To my delight she took “the long way” to get there, providing us with an unexpected tour of Ford Island’s entire perimeter—the details of which I’ll save for another time.

The visit described above is an illustration of what NOT to do when one desires to visit Utah.  Although grateful, I do not know why Terri Kojima provided us with a sponsor when normally the Navy Public Relations Office does not do so—I just consider us lucky.  It is easy to see how the NPRO would become swamped if hundreds of people began requesting van rides and sponsors to Ford Island!

If anyone is interested in visiting Utah, I strongly suggest that the time be taken making sure the bases are covered and to plan things correctly.   To that end, I recommend you visit William Hughes’ USS Utah website:

http://www.members.home.net/wmhughes/visiting.html

There you will find the instructions, tips, phone/fax numbers, postal and email addresses necessary to obtain further information as to how one can enjoy a smooth visit to the USS Utah Memorial.

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David Aiken Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 12 2001,1:22 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hi Jim,
Thanx for the insight in your visit. I've been twice, on 3 Dec 1966 and 8 Dec 1991. In 1966, like you, I mentally measured the distance to shore to understand the swim; but in 1991, I added quite a bit of distance in my mind as I had learned that USS Utah was rolled back toward shore to clear the channel.

Will you hold me up at the 75th Anniversary? lol

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Chris Johnson Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 12 2001,11:55 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Jim-

My experience a month ago at Pearl with the Utah was a little like yours, however, I never made any contact before hand to take a visit there.

The first time I tried to go over the Ford Island bridge was about 1:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday. As I approached the guarded booth a little ways onto the bridge, the naval guard was too busy talking to a girl that was standing there, that he really didn't bother to check my car for a military decal or check my ID. I had a parking sticker in the lower left hand of my windshield from the hotel I was staying at, and maybe he saw that and thought differently, but anyways I got waved on through, and Ford Island was mine.

I went to the Utah first and spent a little while there, but then decided to take a tour around the rest of the island. I was ALL over the place. I basically parked the car and got out and walked. I looked inside Hanger 54 since it was open. The Dispensary had its front door open too, so I went in there and stood where one of the bombs took out the floor. Comparing that building to 1941, nothing has changed.

I was able to go down on the dock next to where the Avocet was moored, and then I walked down to where Hangar 6 was (the seaplane hanger that took the first hits). Its no longer there, but the track for its massive doors is still in the ground so you can tell where it was at.

Well to make the long story short, I ended up back at the Utah. And as I was out on the memorial reflecting, I heard a car pull up. It was a naval detachment that was there to lower the flag for the night. I stood there at attention as they lowered it and folded it so neatly and nicely. Kind of a moving moment.

The sun was going down, so I left the island not knowing that the next time I would try to go onto the island wouldn't be so lucky.

Two days had passed and I thought that I would go over to Ford Island again to take a few more pictures (only took five rolls the first time there), but as I approached the gate, I was politely told that I was not allowed access to the island at all without military ID and/or an escort. This was the day the USS Greeneville sank the Ehime Maru just off of Diamond Head, so the security was increasing drastically. I didn't know where else to go now to get access to the island. I wanted to take some more decent pics of the Utah. I had a meeting set up with someone in the Public Affairs department at the base in a few days. Maybe he could take me over there I thought.

The day came that I was to meet with the PA officer from the naval base. I went to the front gate and got a visitors pass for my car (only given to you if you have business with someone and it is checked out), but after I got my pass I called the PA officer to see where I should meet him, and he told me that he had to cancel because of the media and the Greeneville incident. He didn't have time for me and couldn't allow me on the base itself at the time. He was sorry.

I did ask him though if I would be able with my visitors pass if I was able to go onto Ford Island to take some photos of the memorial. He was surprised that the front gate gave me a pass, but he said that as long as I had that pass, I had access to the Island.

So off I went to Ford Island by myself for a six hour "tour". As I approached the gate again I was stopped, but told the guard that I had permission from the PA office that I was able to go onto the island and take some pictures. But he was really hesitant to let me go on by. He kept refering to a sheet of paper he had in his hand. (I guess it was a memo on who could and could not enter the base since security was so high now). But after a minute or so he let me go on by. I spent a lot of time at the Utah, but also got to go down along the shore right next to Battlehsip Row and walk there. I started at the Missouri, and went all the way up to the Arizona. I could see many of the visitors on the Memorial pointing at me as I stood there on the shore line. My mind was filled with thoughts of men crawling out of the oil filled waters. It was one of those "moments" you had talked about earlier.  All up and down Battleship Row there are monuments to the different ships that were there.  Was able to see them all too. The Arizona's and Nevada's are hidden up in the officers housing area that is off limits to everyone except base personnel that live there, but I figured that since I had been lucky twice as to getting onto the island unescorted, I wasn't going to pass up the chance to go up there. There is a good size straight "wall" of dirt in the trees right there, so I couldn't walk right up there. I had to walk back down to where the Missouri was and back around. Beautiful sceen from up on the cliff looking out to the Arizona's Memorial.

But from here I drove over to the red and white striped control tower that still stands on the field. Its a sight to see. When I think of Ford Island, I automatically think of this structure. But it has had its better days. The paint is all peeling off, the windows up top are all cracked out, and the entire metal structure on the top is all rusted beyond belief. But it still stands, and gave me the chills just to stand at its base and look up.

I could go on and on about all of the buildings I saw on the island and photographed (as well as video taped) but will save that for another time.

All in all, I would consider myself so lucky to have been able to go visit Ford Island not only once, but twice. And both times unescorted. The first time I was on the island for about five hours, and the second about six hours. And not once while actually on the island did I get stopped by anyone. I probably should have, but am happy that I didn't. It only made the time I spent there more meaningful and special.

If there is more you want to know about my "adventures" on Ford Island and the Utah, let me know.

Regards!

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James F Miller Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 13 2001,3:21 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Good Lord!!!!

What luck you had!  I felt extremely lucky for the chance to drive around Ford and stop occasionally to take some photos after seeing Utah--I would have killed for 5 or 6 hours!  That pass sounds like the golden ticket.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 13 2001,3:24 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Jim-

If time allows tonight, and my scanner works, I will try to get some pics scanned in and post them here.

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ben e fox Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 13 2001,7:45 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Before reading Chris' and others adventures and luck on getting to the Utah, I had just posted at Visiting PH Today, how I have been able to get aboard several times, as well as get access to every post on the island (as well as most posts and sites in the Continental U.S.) even during times of crises.  I've rarely had an "official sponsor," in fact, I didn't know one was required.  I spell out how I've done it, but basically, I call or write my Congressional Rep. and get a letter of introduction to whereever I am going, and then send it to the site not more than 60 days or less than 30 days in advance.  In addition to never having been stopped, I was fortunate enough about 15 years ago to be allowed to spend the night on Ford, near the Utah, at the Navy's invitation.  I think the most important thing is not who sponsors you, whether a Congressperson or active military, but that you work out the details well in advance.    The occasional ruse is helpful too, although as I note in my other post, I certainly wouldn't advise any dishonesty that could be verified and discovered.  Think up one that sounds plausible and can't be verified(NOT that your wife's grandfather once saw From Here To Eternity, and not that you are writing a book, I'm already writing it and told my Congressperson so.)  


Ben Fox

(Edited by ben e fox at 10:52 pm on Mar. 13, 2001)

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Angie Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 06 2001,11:25 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

#Moderation Mode

moving topic to its new home.

Moved here

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Fireman Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 12 2001,11:26 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

     Gentlemen I want to thank you for sharing your experiences about visiting the Utah. Recently I found out that I had a cousin, Henson Taylor Shouse F1c, who was killed in the line of duty during the pearl harbor attack. I have been in contact with his family ever since. Finding out about my cousin's death and service makes me even prouder to be a citizen of these great United States. Thank You for remembering my cousin and his shipmates. God Bless all of you and have a great day. And to the founders of this board thank you for letting us have a forum to speak about pearl harbor.

    Your Friend, Fireman.

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David Aiken Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2001,8:14 Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Aloha Mr Fireman,
We appreciate your kind thoughts. We try to give comfort to the bereaved and solace to the families by guiding them toward answers. In respect to your cousin, we appreciate your call-in "Fireman", and we would like you to use your real name, too, as we would like to know you better.
Cheers,
David Aiken
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TMARSHALL Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 16 2002,10:49 Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

James,
  Thanks for the pictures of the UTAH. I forgot what she  looked like. I lived in one of those little houses that face the UTAH. When I was 6 I would go to the waters edge and look at her. Then I would go to the und of the peir (I dont know if it's still there) and look at her length wise. Then I would walk and look at her from the shore again. That was back in 69. My father (then a LTJG) told me that the pock marks in our front walk were from the attack. If you were standing at the UTAH and facing the houses the second one from the vary end on your right was were I lived. Thanks again for the pics. I sure do miss Ford Island.

Todd Marshall

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Todd A. Marshall
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