The recent site visit to see the Arizona Memorial was an engaging and educational experience from which I gained a lot. Throughout the visit there was much that caused me to rethink many aspects of the history that we had studied in seminar readings and discussions, as well as a lot of things that I found surprising. The visit was useful to me both in understanding and engaging with the topic itself, and also in being able to respect the history as a personal and real occurrence. This paper will summarize my experience of this site visit to the Arizona Memorial.
I found that my understanding of the topic as we have studied it in seminar readings and discussions was greatly reinforced by visiting the site of the Pearl Harbor attack. Around the site there was a great deal of information about the memorial. Much of this I had already come across in some form, but I found that reading it again in such an immersive setting really helped the facts to sink in more than they had. The information available was really helpful in reiterating much of what I’d learned in a context of visual reality rather than simply textbook learning.
My understanding of history has definitely been changed because of this. If before, I had a grasp of the history in terms of its facts, dates and figures, I now understand it as a kind of reality. I will not revisit this topic without thinking again of the memorial and the ground where this event took place, and this makes the history seem very personal. My understanding of the history in terms of how the attacks happened has also been enhanced by having a visual understanding of the setting, as I can now picture it in concrete, rather than abstract, terms.
This was perhaps also the most surprising aspect of the memorial visit. I expected to find the site interesting historically and as a way of consolidating the learning I have done on this topic. I did not expect to be confronted by how recent an event it really was. Seeing the memorial site and the hull of the ship was a moving experience, as it brought home the reality that this history didn’t happen all that long ago. I think this was especially the case because of how much I have discussed and studied the topic in an abstract sense, and to see the remains contrasted greatly with that experience.
I think the most valuable components of the site visit were many and various. In many ways, the aspects of the visit that I engaged with the most were the sentimental aspects of the memorial rather than the consolidation of the history that we have studied. However, I don’t think that this detracts from their value in the slightest, as it has given me a far greater understanding of the event, as well as of history in general. The information provided around the site was also a very valuable resource as it made the history a very immersive experience.
Overall, I think that the site visit to the Arizona memorial surpassed my expectations both in how much I learned from it, and in how it has changed my perspective. I think the poignancy of the memorial itself has given a depth to my study that I previously lacked. It was a useful visit because I learned from it, and also because I think my attitude towards this topic has been changed by it. Although I understood it as a solemn event before, the memorial strongly reinforced this.