Tuesday, July 06, 2010


The narrow road winds through an old residential neighborhood, and it’s easy to miss the sign. A short, steep climb later and the panorama opens up, or used to until the high-rise apartments obscured the view of downtown Honolulu. At the entrance one notices the colors---the green of the freshly mown grass, the white of the pillars and steps, the gray of the granite, and the red, white, and blue waving overhead.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the Punchbowl crater is just four miles from the bustle of the city center but seems a world away. We stopped at the visitors' center and typed in the names of those to whom we had come to pay our respects. The first was interred in a site not far from the road, and the ashes of the other two, along with their wives, were in the colombarium.

These men had grown up during the Great Depression and served during the war. Like other members of the greatest generation they didn't talk much about their experiences. What would they have thought of the modern propensity to tweet about every inconvenience?

At the top of the memorial steps the major battles of the Pacific war are displayed in large maps [photo at right of the Okinawa campaign from acresofhonor.com].

At Gaudalcanal and Iwo Jima American forces suffered more deaths in a few months than they have in the entire nine-year Afghan war. And those numbers were dwarfed by the losses that Japan experienced at the red dawn of the atomic age.

But one can't dwell on these sobering ruminations for long in this peaceful setting. We returned to the car and took one last look at Lady Columbia. By the way, do you recognize her? Her image used to be beamed into American households every week.

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