PEARL HARBOR – Members of the Association of Chinese from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as well as other groups including neighborhood boards and community leaders participated in a special tour of Pearl Harbor Sept. 24.
The tour started at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and included historic sites such as the inactive amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1), USS Utah Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, and USS Arizona Memorial.
USS Tarawa, currently moored in Middle Loch, was a special point of interest for many members of the tour, especially the members of the Association of Chinese from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, because the ship was used to evacuate more than 400 refugees during a search and rescue mission in the South China Sea in 1979. Many of the men and women on the harbor tour were refugees during this evacuation effort or family members of people who were.
“That was the ship used to evacuate the Vietnamese during the fall of Vietnam and some of the people here were on that ship or they had relatives and one of them had a niece who was born on the ship,” said tour guide, Stanford Yuen. “So the ship is very special to them and that is why we spent time around the ship; so they could see what it looks like today.”
Near the end of the tour, the boat stopped at the USS Arizona Memorial and the members were able to pay their respects. The memorial sits above the remains of Arizona where more than 1,000 Sailors and Marines died during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Before leaving the guests gathered in the shrine at the far end of the memorial, a marble wall that bears the names of those killed on the Arizona, to honor those heroes with a series of three bows.
“These groups were the original refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia,” said Chulan Shubert-Kwock, Chinatown Business and Community Association Representative. “These are our guests from other countries and other states and I really think they got to understand how important this is as a memorial and it becomes a sort of peace center. It has really touched everyone, this memorial.”
This recent tour was part of the bi-annual, world-wide meeting of the Association of Chinese from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.