Pearl Harbor Memorial USS Arizona: Things to do on Oahu, Hawaii
December 7, 1941: A Day that will Live in Infamy
When we visited Oahu, Hawaii in January 2013, I finally got to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. This has been on my "bucket list" for years.
Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. My mother's father served in the South Pacific, and my father's dad flew planes on the European front. My husband's grandfather was stationed in Pearl Harbor, but not until after the December 7, 1941 attack that brought the United States into WWII. His grandmother grew up on Oahu on the plantation that became the famous Dole Pineapple Plantation. She was a secretary to a Navy Admiral, and had been scheduled to go on a date with a naval officer the evening of December 6, 1941. When she canceled the date, the officer stayed on base. Unfortunately, he was one of the thousands of casualties on the Day that will live in Infamy.
This article is not about the Pearl Harbor attack itself. But some background is necessary to put the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the USS Arizona into perspective. Over 70 years ago, the event was the "September 11" of the day. Japanese air forces decimated military bases across the island of Oahu on a Sunday morning - totally by surprise. The aim was to debilitate American military so that they would be unable to arrest Japanese advancement into territories across the South Pacific. And, it occurred during peace negotiations in Washington, D.C. between U.S. and Japanese diplomats.
As most people know, the events at Pearl Harbor were the tipping point that brought the United States into WWII. If you visit Hawaii, you should definitely set aside a day to see Pearl Harbor. The site is of major historical significance.
Pearl Harbor Memorial USS Arizona Information
Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Road, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Honolulu, HI 96818
Hours: Open every day of the year for tours, except Pearl Harbor Day (December 7), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. The park is open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets for the boat shuttle to the USS Arizona are on a first come, first served basis.* Timed programs to the memorial begin at 8:00 a.m. and run through 3:00 p.m.
*TIP: Crowds get larger throughout the day. We arrived at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday in January and had to wait until 10:15 for an open boat shuttle. Many people arrive at 6:30 a.m. to obtain shuttle tickets.
Cost: Admission to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (the USS Arizona Memorial) is free. However, if you chose to make a reservation in advance at www.Recreation.gov (recommended during busy seasons - see above), there is a $1.50 per ticket convenience fee
Attractions: There are several museums that include photographs, displays and instructions regarding the build-up to the Pacific War and attack on Pearl Harbor. A self-guided tour with headphones is available for a fee. For those visiting the USS Arizona, there is a 15-minute pre-boarding movie. In addition, visit the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island.
Amenities: Gift shop, snacks, drinking fountains, restrooms
Travel Time: Approximately 20-30 minutes from Honolulu
Parking: Available and free
USS Arizona Memorial
Learn More About the Pearl Harbor Attack
A Brief History of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial
Many ships were damaged or destroyed on the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941 when Japanese air fighters surprised the Pearl Harbor base. The United States was unable to bring the USS Oklahoma, USS Utah and the USS Arizona back into commission after the attack. Other ships were repaired and recommissioned.
All of the 2,390 military and civilian deaths that day were tragic. However, the USS Arizona sustained the greatest damage and loss of life. In all, 1,177 crew members died due to the missiles that hit the ship and its sinking thereafter. These heroes are buried within the remains of the sunken vessel and remain there to this day. The USS Arizona remains where it fell: off Ford Island on the "Battleship Row" of Pearl Harbor.
Amazingly, the ship continues to slowly leak oil from its watery grave. The so-called "black tears" continuously and slowly bubble up from the sunken remains.
In 1950, the USS Arizona Memorial was originally a flagpole attached to the broken mainmast of the ship (pictured below). The present iconic structure was completed in 1961, built over the wreckage of the battleship. When you arrive at the memorial via shuttle boat, you are asked to quietly and directly enter the structure, without stopping to take photographs outdoors. The memorial is comprised by three primary sections: an entry and assembly room, a central area for ceremonies and observation, and the shrine room. There, the names of all deceased heroes that were on the USS Arizona are engraved in marble. It is truly overwhelming to witness the scope of the tragedy. In addition, on either side of the marble wall are additional memorials dedicated to those that have passed away since Pearl Harbor Day, up to the present.
I can speak from personal experience when I say that, as moving as the memory of December 7, 1941 is, there is nothing like visiting the actual site where sailors and other brave heroes met their demise on that tragic Sunday morning. Anyone with loved ones that fought in the war will be moved by the Pear Harbor Memorial. It is definitely worth the visit!
No matter your nationality, age or heredity, visiting the USS Arizona is a serious, sad experience. The contemplation of the innocent loss of so many lives on that day, will give pause to anyone.
Before your Visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial
There are several, very important considerations to keep in mind before you visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Having just visited, I highly recommend that you review these tips to minimize potential frustration and help plan in advance:
- Plan ahead during busy months. Even in January, the tours to the USS Arizona Memorial fill up quickly. Many visitors line up as early as 6:30 a.m. for the first 8:00 a.m. boat departure. The later in the day you arrive, the longer you will wait.
- Leave all bags behind at the hotel. Put a credit card and perhaps a bit of cash in your pocket. You can bring a camera (but not a camera bag) and a cell phone. Nothing else. Because Pearl Harbor is still an active military base, security measures prohibit any carry-in items. You will be asked to pay $3 per bag for storage during your visit, available at the USS Bowfin Submarine Park.
- Wheelchair Accessible. The facilities and amenities are fully wheelchair accessible. However, note that there are not wheelchairs for rent at the site.
- Strollers. Traveling with young children? Note that strollers are only allowed in the visitor's center. You cannot bring them on the navy boats, to the USS Arizona Memorial, or into the theater. Storage is available.
- Dress code. There is no prescribed dress code at the Memorial, however, keep in mind that, out of honor and respect, modest clothing and shoes are recommended. Bathing suits and other inappropriate attire are discouraged.
- Military. Navy regulations relating to military dress are enforced. Battle dress uniform is not allowed on the USS Arizona Memorial. Visitors should wear dress whites or better. Battle dress uniform is allowed throughout the visitor center and at sites on Ford Island.
- Pets. Not permitted. Service animals, however, are allowed.
Pearl Harbor 70 Years after the Attack
Have you Visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu, Hawaii
Underwater Tour of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor
USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu Hawaii
More Information on Pearl Harbor Memorial
- Pearl Harbor Memorial Tours Official Site ~ Hawaii Tours, Visiting Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor Tours and World War II Memorial's at the site of the attacks. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial and more on an official Pearl Harbour tour.
- World War II Valor in the Pacific - World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor is comprised of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and five different historic sites. In addition to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, and USS Utah Memoria
- Pearl Harbor; History.com Articles, Video, Pictures and Facts
On December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt declared war on Japan.
- Pearl Harbor - Oahu, Hawaii | GoHawaii.com
Five Pearl Harbor Historic Sites honor this National Historic Landmark where World War II both began and ended.