Navy Veteran on a Mission to Fix Pearl Harbor Memorial’s Numerous Errors

by Matthew Memrick
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One Navy veteran is on a years-long quest to fix the numerous errors at the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

Former Navy aviator and retired Captain Charlie Gillman told Military.com about his fight to fix inaccuracies captured in time for years.

“I’ve been tilting at this windmill since 2013,” Gillman told the website. “How many thousands of people have to see these things, and they’re wrong?” 

Gillman has pointed out mistakes in photo dating, mislabeled ships, and even death dates. He has done his research and has identified five USS Arizona names that do not have ranks or rates.

In an interview with Military.com, the veteran asked what it would take to “fix these things?” He added, “if they asked for money, perhaps they think they’re putting themselves on report for screwing this up in the first place at taxpayer expense.”

Pearl Harbor Memorial Has Many Mistakes

The Pearl Harbor memorial opened in 1962, with its visitors center coming 20 years later. But between 2008 and 2010, Gillman and historians said errors came with renovations.  

Author Mike Wenger said mistakes could happen for many reasons, with the main one being an extremely complex subject matter. 

Wegner said many archival documents and photos don’t have the proper context and need adequate historical interpretation. Other instances include too much information making verification difficult.

For example, Cook 3rd Class Doris Miller was the first Black sailor to earn the Navy Cross. Miller operated a machine gun to fire at attacking Japanese aircraft during the Pearl Harbor disaster in the chaos. An incorrect sign at the visitor’s center said Miller died in 1944, but Miller died the year before at the Battle of Makin Island on the USS Liscombe Bay.

Other photo mistakes include a 1941 photo of an aircraft from 1943, and a Japanese carrier labeled Shokaku from 1942 that was the Akagi on Dec. 7, 1941. 

Wegner also mentioned that there are no military historians on staff, and committees make many material decisions.

Memorial Staff Working To Make Fixes

According to public affairs officer Emily Pruett, the National Park Service operates the memorial, and new superintendent Tom Leatherman intends to “address the errors,” public affairs officer Emily Pruett.

Leatherman met with Gillman last month, and the man said he would research those problems and make necessary corrections. But the next issue may be a final timeline and cost estimate. 

Since 2020, Leatherman and three other superintendents have worked at the memorial. In 2018, the park service went through a significant renovation to stabilize the monument’s dock system and improve the infrastructure. That took a year and cost $2.1 million.

Gillman acknowledges those issues and has written Congress and the secretary of the Interior to get the errors fixed. He hopes that Leatherman will find the success his predecessors could not. But the veteran is also working on getting more money apportioned for the park. He’s also working on getting a warehouse of artifacts and materials out into the public view.

Outsider.com