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President Obama, Japan Prime Minister Abe Make Historic Appearance at Pearl Harbor

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe emphasize power of reconciliation.



In a historic visit, President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe jointly paid their respects to the war dead at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, Dec. 27, then came ashore to speak of the close alliance that has grown between the former sworn-enemy nations.


 “I hope that, together, we send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war; that reconciliation carries more rewards than retribution,” Obama said.


Prime Minister Abe said he was moved to silence by the memorial where so many Americans died during the Japanese attack and remain entombed. “When I contemplate that solemn reality, I am rendered entirely speechless,” Abe said, adding “Rest in peace, precious souls of the fallen.” 


USS Arizona Memorial with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

President barack obama and prime minister shinzo abe lay wreaths at the uss arizona memorial.
Photo: White House Press Pool 


While other Japan heads of state have paid respects to the war dead in Honolulu and at Pearl Harbor, Abe is credited as the first to visit the USS Arizona Memorial.


“I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here” Abe said, “as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place, and also to the souls of the countless innocent people who became the victims of the war.”


Similarly, Obama in May was the first U.S. leader to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial which marks the spot where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb in 1945.


President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.



The president, who was born and raised primarily in Honolulu, spoke of his personal links to Pearl Harbor: “To Americans—especially to those of us who call Hawai‘i home—this harbor is a sacred place.” And he talked of the people most deeply affected by the Dec. 7 attack by Japan 75 years ago: “A generation of Americans—including my grandparents—the Greatest Generation—they did not seek war, but they refused to shrink from it. “


Abe said leaders must remain vigilant: “Even today, the horrors of war have not been eradicated from the surface of the world.  There is no end to the spiral where hatred creates hatred.  The world needs the spirit of tolerance and the power of reconciliation now, and especially now.


President Barack Obama greets Pearl Harbor survivors.

President Barack Obama and Japan Prime minister shinzo abe greet Pearl Harbor survivors. 
Photo: White House Press Pool 


Obama asked the Pearl Harbor survivors attending to stand or wave to be recognized. Among them was 95-year-old Sterling Cale, who was working in the shipyard dispensary when the bombs started falling.


Cale said he was pleased to witness the historic meeting of the Japanese and U.S. leaders. “I’m happy that the United States is more friendly with Japan than 75 years ago,” he said.


Cale, who lives just a short distance away from Pearl Harbor, said his message is always the same: “Remember Pearl Harbor; never forget; it could happen again.”


Obama and the first family will be on O‘ahu through Monday, Jan. 2 for their final vacation while he is president.


Read More Stories by Robbie Dingeman 


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Honolulu Magazine May 2018
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