The USS Arizona Memorial off Honolulu's coast is closed for repairs. Jay Blount, a spokesman for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, told Hawaii News Now that the edge where the visitor ramp meets the memorial has fissures on its exterior and the loading ramp is not being properly supported.
On Friday, an update on the National Park Service Facebook page for the monument said the memorial would remain closed to visitors "for an undetermined period of time while repairs are made." During the repair process, free programs at the USS Arizona Memorial will continue: Visitors can still view a documentary film at the site and receive a harbor tour of Battleship Row, the area where eight U.S. battleships, including the USS Arizona, were moored when the attack on Pearl Harbor began. Other parts of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center will stay open as well.
"As Memorial Day approaches, across the nation the National Park Service strives to honor our fallen veterans as well as those who continue to serve," the statement says. "We understand the unfortunate nature of the USS Arizona Memorial closure during this period and ask visitors to understand that their safety is our primary concern."
The USS Arizona Memorial is an extremely popular site: It receives an average of 4,000 to 5,000 visitors a day. Concerns about its condition began earlier this month: Hawaii News Now reports that on May 6, boat transportation to the memorial was suspended after a vessel operator noticed a crack on its exterior. At that time, engineers began what they thought would be short-term repairs. The memorial was temporarily reopened, but closed within hours because additional cracks appeared. At that point, officials realized there were more extensive structural issues to handle.
The memorial, designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis and built in 1962, honors the 1,177 sailors and Marines who died aboard the battleship during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The memorial was constructed above the site where the USS Arizona sank, along with the remains of more than 900 of those who perished.
In total, 2,341 sailors, soldiers and Marines were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is still working to identify many of them. The Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice reported that last fall, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency identified the remains of U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class Edward F. Slapikas, who was one of 429 men killed when the USS Oklahoma was struck by Japanese torpedoes.
According to The Associated Press, the remains of the crewmen who died on the USS Oklahoma were buried in Hawaii cemeteries after the attack and then disinterred in 1947. At that time, many remained unidentified and were reburied. In 2015, the still-unidentified remains were reanalyzed, and Slapikas' positive identification came about from that process. On June 2, he will be buried with full military honors in his hometown of Wanamie, Pa. According to the National Park Service, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency had identified 100 of the USS Oklahoma's casualties by December 2017.
Spapikas' niece, Leona Hotko, is 88 now. "It's unbelievable, but I'm very happy to hear it," she told the Citizens' Voice. "He was my favorite uncle."