While visiting Oahu we also went to see Pearl Harbor, the home of the museums and memorials honoring World War II heroes and of course, remembering the attack on the US Navy in December 1941.
Pearl Harbor is a large harbor, a few minutes away from Waikiki Beach and when we arrived, the first thing we did is to go to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and ask for tickets to see the USS Arizona Memorial. It’s free of charge, but there are only a number of tickets everyday (I believe around 4,500 tickets per day), so you have to come a little earlier and then wait for the time that you are allocated to see it. Once it’s your turn, you are being shown a short film to explain what has happened in 1941 and what the memorial is about. Then you board a little boat and it takes you to the USS Arizona Memorial within 5 minutes.
The USS Arizona Memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by Japanese imperial forces and commemorates the events of that day. The memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it.
The national memorial was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis and he was asked to create a memorial in the form of a bridge floating above the ship and accommodating 200 people. The 56 metres-long structure has two peaks at each end connected by a sag in the center of the structure. It is said to represent the height of American pride before the war, the sudden depression of a nation after the attack and the rise of American power to new heights after the war.
There are three main parts to the national memorial: entry, assembly room, and shrine. The central assembly room features seven large open windows on either wall and ceiling, to commemorate the date of the attack. The memorial also contains an opening in the floor overlooking the sunken decks. It is from this opening that visitors come to pay their respects by tossing flowers in honor of the fallen sailors.
The shrine at the far end is a marble wall that bears the names of all those killed on the Arizona, protected behind velvet ropes. To the left of the main wall is a small plaque which bears the names of a few crew members who survived the 1941 sinking and chose to have a canister containing their ashes interred within the wreck.
Oil leaking from the sunken battleship can still be seen rising from the wreckage to the surface of the water. This oil is sometimes referred to as the tears of the dead and we were told by one of the guides that the leakage is very small and not a threat to the sea and wildlife.
After we returned back to the Visitor Centre, we went on another self-guided tour to explore the battleship USS Missouri, which lies next to the USS Arizona Memorial.
In 1999, the battleship USS Missouri was moved to Pearl Harbor from the United States west coast. Upon the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese surrendered to United States General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz, ending World War II. The pairing of the two ships became an evocative symbol of the beginning and end of the United States’ participation in the war.
The decision to have Missouri’s bow face the Arizona Memorial was intended to convey that Missouri now watches over the remains of the battleship Arizona so that those interred within Arizona’s hull may rest in peace.
We did not have time to visit the other memorial sites, but there are also:
- USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. The USS Bowfin is one of the 288 U.S. submarines that carried out the war in the Pacific during World War II
- Pacific Aviation Museum. Located within former WWII airplane hangars on Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island, the Pacific Aviation Museum is an immersive aviation museum complete with interactive simulators and exhibits showcasing the stories behind authentic WWII fighter planes and bombers
- USS Oklahoma Memorial. Dedicated on December 7th, 2007, the USS Oklahoma Memorial honors the 429 crewmen who lost their lives in the Pearl Harbor attack. Approximately nine torpedoes hit “The Okie,” capsizing this 35,000-ton battleship in only twelve minutes