Q. Do you think Hawaii would be such a popular tourist destination if the United States’ entry into World War II hadn’t been prompted by the Japanese attack there? Are the ships that sank still there? (I know part of one is.) Where was the USS Missouri docked when the peace treaty was signed?
— L.D., of Red Bud
A. While I’m sure the aftermath of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor draws veterans, history buffs and the otherwise curious, I’d be willing to bet all my coconuts that the delightful climate, gorgeous beaches and verdant landscapes would have been a big enough lure, war or no war.
I know I’ve been there twice and, I’m embarrassed to say, I have yet to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, a void in my travels I hope to fill early next year. An almost too-close-for-comfort encounter with a whale, all-day hikes through the lush greenery and surviving the road to Hana more than filled up my three weeks of travels.
And, while the sheer numbers don’t compare, you might be surprised to learn that many tourists were flocking to this tropical paradise before the Japanese launched their sneak attack. You have to remember that in the 1800s numerous famous writers were visiting Hawaii and sending back enticing dispatches of their finds. The list included San Francisco Chronicle travel correspondent Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London, who tried his hand at the “royal sport” of surfing in 1907. So, by the final boom year of 1929, an estimated 22,000 tourists came to Hawaii — and this was long before your plush five-star hotels and the first passenger flight to Hawaii, which didn’t take off from San Francisco until Oct. 21, 1936.
As air travel advanced and the travel industry grew, the tourist crowd topped 1 million for the first time in 1967 — and then continued to skyrocket to 7.6 million spending well over $10 billion in 2006. Now, they’re seeing many more travelers from Canada, Australia and China, so I would argue that Pearl Harbor plays only a limited role. It’s certainly a site many people want to see and pay homage, but I’d say most people just want to get away and, believe me, there’s no better place to get away if you can afford it.
Here’s another fact I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize: Of the 21 major ships damaged in the bombing, 18 eventually were repaired and rejoined the U.S. fleet, according to www.pearlharbor.org, which calls itself the “official site” of the attack. For example, of the eight battleships, six would be restored to fight another day — the USS West Virginia, California, Nevada, Tennessee, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The same is true of the cruisers, destroyers, minelayers and other ships. Even the destroyer USS Shaw, which was part of one of the most famous pictures of the Japanese attack when her forward magazine exploded, was repaired in a few months and earned 11 battle stars during the rest of the war.
I’m sure in your question you refer to the USS Arizona Memorial, where roughly 2 million tourists now come annually since the visitor center opened in 1980. There, they can see what remains of the ship’s decks sitting at the bottom of the harbor. In fact, the boat continues to leak oil to the surface, which many call the “tears of the Arizona.” Although there is no similar center, you also can see the remnants of the USS Utah, which had to be abandoned when efforts to recover her failed. The only other major ship lost was the USS Oklahoma, which was salvaged in 1943 but too badly damaged to see further service. Four years later, she would sink in a storm as she was towed to a ship-disposal yard in San Francisco.
As for the “Mighty Mo,” the battleship USS Missouri joined the 3rd Fleet and set off from Leyte in the Philippines on July 8, 1945, to help launch a month of raids on the main islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. When Japan finally surrendered after the atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, the Missouri on Aug. 29 entered Tokyo Bay, where the “instrument of surrender” was formally signed on Sept. 2. After taking part in the 1991 Gulf War, the Missouri was decommissioned in 1992 and today is open to tourists on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor (www.ussmissouri.org).
Q. Last week, St. Louis Cardinal pitchers threw 38 scoreless innings. Who holds the record?
— R.B., of O’Fallon
A. Hopefully, they won’t be starting a similar streak this week: It’s those dastardly Pittsburgh Pirates, who from June 1 to June 9, 1903, blanked their foes for 56 straight frames. The American League record is a bit more modern — 54 by Baltimore from Sept. 1 to Sept. 7, 1974. Interestingly, Chicago has cornered the market on most shutouts in a season — 32 by the White Sox in 1906 and 32 by the Cubs in both 1907 and 1909. And, if you’re wondering about the most lopsided shutout in the modern era, it was Cleveland burying New York 22-0 on Aug. 31, 2004, at Yankee Stadium.
What now-famous actor first helped support himself by testing the stunts proposed for the old game show “Beat the Clock”?
Answer to Tuesday’s trivia: When Thomas Jefferson invented his swivel chair, his cynical enemies called it “Jefferson’s whirligig” because they alleged he made it so he could keep a closer eye on his opponents. But Jefferson, who also invented a pedometer, a macaroni maker and an improved plow, reportedly never patented any of his ideas because he thought he would be unfairly profiting from a monopoly. Still, although he largely opposed patents, he served on the first U.S. Patent Board, which was formed after the Patent Act of 1790.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.