It was a quiet Sunday morning as a beautiful dawn broke over the territory of O`ahu on December 7, 1941. It would not end that way.
Coming in two waves from all sides of the island, 353 Japanese fighter planes and dive bombers launched the largest surprise attack in history, bombing and strafing the military installations across the island. The primary target was Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy’s main base in the Pacific Ocean, and it was dealt a devastating blow. When the smoke cleared, thousands had been injured or killed and the fleet was in smoldering ruins. Those who were there still recall the confusion and panic that gripped the island as it shook with thunderous explosions. The events of that day propelled the United States in World War II, and the rest is history, history that lives on through the memorials to those who lost their lives.
Pearl Harbor: Memorial to Valor
Located next to Honolulu International Airport, Pearl Harbor and Hickam Airfield on Ford Island remain important strategic military bases today. Visitors can pay their respects and experience history when they visit the Pearl Harbor Historic sites, part of the larger World War II Valor in the Pacific Monument. Entrance to the visitor center is free, and the award-winning memorial features artifacts, films, and witness accounts of that infamous day. See history through their eyes, on the very spot where it happened.
Her Final Resting Place
In the center of the harbor lies the glistening white monument that sits atop the sunken battleship USS Arizona and her crew. The Arizona was the only ship that was unable to be salvaged after the attack, due to catastrophic damage inflicted when a bomb hit her main gunpowder magazine. Only 75 of her crew of 1,177 survived. The ship was left, as is, a monument to their sacrifice, and they lie interred here in a place of honor. You may visit the memorial as part of a moving 75-minute program that is free to all.
Beginnings and Endings
For the U.S., World War II began at Pearl Harbor. Today, the site of the war’s ending also calls the harbor home. After visiting the museum center – or while waiting for your ferry to the Arizona Memorial –take a guided tour of the USS Missouri, the last battleship in service for the U.S. Navy and the site of the peace treaty signing (in Tokyo Harbor, September 1945) that officially ended the war. Tours of the combat submarine USS Bowfin are also an exciting excursion for history buffs and naval enthusiasts.
Pearl Harbor is a haunting reminder of what mankind is capable of – the good and the bad. It might be a departure from the typical tropical beach day, but there is beauty here to behold. We highly recommend taking the time to visit this thought-provoking memorial and experience the living museum that celebrates the lives given to keep us all free.
Advance reservations are available and highly recommend as the tours are popular and have limited availability.