On Sunday, December 7, 1941, almost 2,400 Americans lost their lives when the Japanese made a surprise attack on the United States’ naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was this catastrophic event that initiated American participation in World War II.
While every December 7th we take time to remember those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor, these memorials and museums in Hawaii help visitors honor them year round.
Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial
You’ll find tickets for most of the Pearl Harbor attractions at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. According to Pacific Historic Parks, each day the “National Park Services hands out more than 2,000 free walk up tickets on a first come, first served basis.” Along with tickets, the visitor center also hosts a bookstore, museum, and a structure known as the “Tree of Life,” which symbolizes peace. Start your tour at the visitor center, where you’ll watch a 23-minute video about Pearl Harbor before boarding a navy-operated boat that will take you to the USS Arizona Memorial, arguably the most famous of Pearl Harbor memorials.
Built over the sunken USS Arizona, the famous memorial is the number one visitor destination in Hawaii, according to the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites. The ship sank that fateful day with many of the 1,177 crewmen – the majority of the ship’s crew – who died that day. The memorial features an opening in the floor that allows you to look down into the sunken decks of the ship. There is also a velvet rope-guarded shrine that displays the names of those killed aboard the USS Arizona.
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor
Located inside two WWII hangars, the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor shows its scars from the attack, including bullet holes that are still in the windows. Inside the museum, you’ll watch historic footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor, view real historic aircrafts, and even dog fight with the enemy. The Combat Flight Simulators put you in the cockpit as you takeoff, land on an aircraft carrier, and battle the rivals.
USS Oklahoma Memorial
When Japanese torpedoes capsized the USS Oklahoma in the 1941 attack, 429 men lost their lives – a loss that was only second to the USS Arizona that day. Lying next to the former dock of the Oklahoma is a memorial that honors the ship’s crew members that were lost that day. Black granite walls bear the names of those who perished, while white marble standards stand in straight lines to “man the rails.”
Called the “Pearl Harbor Avenger,” the Bowfin Submarine launched exactly one year after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The Bowfin successfully finished nine patrols and, during its career in WWII, sank 44 enemy ships. Today, the submarine serves as a National Historic Landmark located near the USS Arizona Memorial and features such artifacts as recruiting posters, missiles, and battle flags among its collection of more than 4,000 submarine-related items.
Battleship Missouri Memorial
While the Battleship Missouri, or “Mighty Mo,” didn’t launch until 1944, the battleship played a significant role in World War II serving as the place where Japanese representatives signed the Instrument of Surrender, which ended the war. Today, the 900-foot, 58,000-ton battleship stands guard over Pearl Harbor. Climb aboard and take a guided tour, get up close and personal with the ships guns, and take in the view from the Captain’s Chair.