Memorializing Pearl Harbor

On the 79th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, our review of the week looks at the complicated memorialization of the USS Arizona.

Memorializing Pearl Harbor : unfinished histories and the work of remembrance

White, Geoffrey. Duke, 2016
340p bibl index afp, 9780822360889 $94.95, 9780822361022 $26.95, 9780822374435

White (emer., anthropology, Univ. of Hawai’i) examines the continuing evolution of the USS Arizona Memorial as an American icon. Originally intended as a sacrosanct monument for the 1,177 sailors and Marines who died there in December 1941, it is now a large complex that attracts about 1.8 million visitors a year. With the progressive passing of the WW II generation and the fading of historical memory of the Pacific War, the role and purpose of the shrine have been in flux. Japanese Americans and Indigenous Hawaiians want to include their historical experience at the monument. Japanese tourists are interested in visiting the site where their nation first embarked upon a tragic disaster. Meanwhile, all stakeholders in the Pearl Harbor project, including the National Park Service, the US Navy, military families, historians, and politicians, seek input into what and whom the monument represents as well as the “lessons” it teaches. Complicating matters, any deviations from original postwar historical interpretations are likely to be labeled as examples of “political correctness” in polarized US society. This well-researched, provocative study, written for specialists rather than general readers, will be of considerable interest to students of ethnography, public history, and museum studies.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
Reviewer: C. J. Weeks, Kennesaw State University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – North America
Choice Issue: Dec 2016