An iconic and endearing tribute to the sailors and marines who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona Memorial stands solemn and proud in the middle of the harbor. More than one million visitors pay their respects each year, leaving flower leis in honor of the fallen who gave their lives that fateful day. The ship, now a tomb for most of her crew, still “weeps.”
Remembering the Past
The Arizona was one of 8 battleships in the harbor the morning of the attack. The Japanese planes targeted these warships, and sank 4 of them. The Arizona suffered 4 direct hits, the last of which exploded her main powder magazine. Over 1,100 men were killed in moments as the ship erupted in flames and sank into the shallow bay. It is the only ship the Navy was unable to salvage, opting instead to leave it as a permanent memorial.
The USS Arizona Memorial Itself
For 20 years, only the ghostly outline of the ship marked the site, sunk just beneath the waves in 40 feet of water. In 1962, with the help of an Elvis Presley benefit concert, the current iconic memorial was built. Measuring 184-feet long, the platform straddles the hull of the ship, but does not touch it out of respect. Its sweeping shape, high on the ends and dipping in the middle, symbolizes the fortunes of the United States; prospering before the war, thrown into chaos and national depression, and then rising stronger than ever. The USS Arizona Memorial is an open breezeway and shrine, naturally lit by 21 windows, 7 each in the ceiling and two main walls to commemorate the date of the attack.
A National Tragedy
Almost half of the casualties of the attack on Pearl Harbor were men aboard the Arizona. Their names – all 1,107 – adorn the interior walls of the shrine, and viewing ports in the floor look upon their final resting place. Survivors of the sinking often choose to be buried at sea aboard their former ship with their fallen comrades.
A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial is a must for anyone who appreciates history. The tour is part of a 75-minute program at the neighboring museum, and is free of charge to all guests. For tour hours and advanced tickets, visit here.
Ferries operated by the U.S. Navy transport 100 guests at a time to the memorial, and you have time to examine the names and reflect on the sacrifice they made. As you wait in the warm sun for the launch to return and ferry you back to shower, remember those who died. You might even catch a glimpse of the rainbow slicks of oil that still seep out of the ship’s fuel tanks, the Arizona offering up her own tears to this very day as she too remembers.