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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, May 23, 2001

TV special to offer first look into sunken USS Arizona

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By Susan Roth
Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — A National Geographic television program produced in conjunction with the "Pearl Harbor" film and Memorial Day remembrances will offer viewers a first look inside the sunken USS Arizona.

The program, "Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack," narrated by NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, will be shown Sunday on the National Geographic cable channel at 8 p.m. and on NBC at 9 p.m.

The program, a centerpiece of a series of shows airing Sunday, will present a historical underwater survey of Pearl Harbor with undersea explorer Bob Ballard, including views of the famous battleship that exploded and sank with 1,177 on board the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

Ballard led an expedition of the harbor in search of a Japanese midget submarine that was sunk by a U.S. destroyer before the infamous attack began. Historian Stephen Ambrose places the battle in context as the event that brought the United States into World War II.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, the cable channel will broadcast an introduction to "Legacy of Attack," with Brokaw, Ballard and Ambrose discussing the war's effects on U.S. society and the significance of the Pearl Harbor attack as a galvanizing force that changed the nation's isolationist outlook.

Sunday's programming concludes with "National Geographic Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor," a look at the events that inspired the Disney film, at 10 p.m.

Yesterday, Brokaw, Ballard and Ambrose gathered at National Geographic's downtown Washington studio to tape the introductory show, "Reflections on War."

Although the United States' entry into World War II was inevitable, the Pearl Harbor attack hastened that entry because the assault on U.S. soil and the U.S. Navy "brought us together instantly," Ambrose said. He was a child at the time, but remembers that Pearl Harbor "blasted my father out of his Midwestern isolationism," like so many other Americans.

After the taping, Ambrose acknowledged that in 1941 most residents of the Mainland did not know much about Hawai'i, then a territory. "The attack definitely sent people flying to their maps, asking, 'Where is Hawai'i?' And then, 'Where is Pearl Harbor?"'

Ballard talked about the emotions stirred by his survey of the harbor — a combination of scientific excitement and human grief. He said he never found the mysterious Japanese submarine, which he believes has disintegrated in deep water.

"The whole strategy on these particular kinds of films ... is to bring the survivor out there to do the talking," Ballard said.

Seeing the hull and interiors of the Arizona for the first time in 60 years was a cathartic experience for normally taciturn survivors of the attack, Ballard said.

They repeatedly will say they don't want to talk about it beforehand, "but you get them out there and it comes out of them like an exorcism," he said. "And every time I do this, I think I cry as much as they do."