Honoring Pearl Harbor with a drawing

On December 7th, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Among the 2,390 military and civilians killed, ranging from 3 months to 66 years old, nearly twelve-hundred servicemen died on the battleship USS ARIZONA. Pearl at Moku’ume’ume honors those men who remain buried in the ARIZONA.

Within minutes of the start of the aerial attack, one of the bombs detonated 50 tons of gunpowder stored inside the ship. The resulting explosion shot one-thousand feet high. It’s estimated that over a thousand ARIZONA crewmen died in that single explosion. The blast was by far the loudest and most destructive of the entire two-hour raid.

The men of the ARIZONA burned, drowned and suffocated, not knowing the cause nor recognizing a state of war. Deep below decks, they were not even aware of an attack. Some of these men were sleeping; most were going through their early morning routines of supporting a docked warship in peace time: Cooking, maintaining machinery, cleaning fittings and handling laundry.

Today, over eight-hundred men remain in the ship; it is a recognized military gravesite. “The disaster, in human terms, was more than we had feared,” said Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, upon visiting Pearl Harbor four days after the attack.

The pen-and-ink drawing Pearl at Moku’ume’ume, which appears at the bottom of this article, was drawn in a three-week span. The word Moku’ume’ume is the traditional Hawaiian name for what’s now called Ford Island, off which the ARIZONA remains.

The drawing is whole and beautiful, in memory of those who died under conditions of just the opposite. Blue shades sequence in a darkening progression of sea colors.

The drawing depicts the body of an ARIZONA crewman, lying unclaimed underwater, encased in a pear shape that evokes—but does not literally depict—the keel of the ship. In the center of the man is a circle of white, pure at its core because purity is where humanity starts and ends.

The green scalloping at the right of the drawing represents the mass of sea life that existed before the ARIZONA sank, while the sea grass at the left represents the life that’s come afterward. Seven separate blades signify each decade that’s passed since the attack. The tiny ribbon of sea grass rising to the surface represents the oil that continues to emerge from the wreck.

In one horrific minute in December 1941, one thousand young Navy men perished. They died not knowing the state of their fleet, their nation, or their families. They were not given a chance to fight, but they inspired those who would fight, and enlist to fight.


ABOUT— Ara Hagopian’s second book THE FIERY WINDS is out now: http://www.FieryWindsTheBook.com

Pearl at Moku’ume’ume, by Ara Hagopian

Pearl at Moku’ume’ume, by Ara Hagopian


About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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One Response to Honoring Pearl Harbor with a drawing

  1. Beautiful yet symbolic representation of a horrific event in the history of our humanity and inhumanity.

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