The USS Arizona Memorial
This Friday marks the 57th Veterans Day holiday, a day set aside to honor our county’s military veterans, but for many of us it is also an excuse to take advantage of the government holiday and enjoy some vacation time. While I most certainly encourage travelers to embrace the vacation day and get out of town (I most certainly will!), I also think it is important to remember the reason for the holiday, the men and women who fought and sacrificed to defend our country, and incorporate some time to honor our veterans into their vacation plans. If your plans entail flights to Hawaii (lucky you!), consider visiting Pearl Harbor to show your respect for those who served and gain a perspective on history that is much more impactful than anything you could read or watch on the History Channel.
On December 7, 1941 the course of US history changed. Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Navy, killing 2,403 American military personal and civilians. That day also signified the beginning of the US involvement in World War II, and luckily, the last battle to be fought on US soil. Today, Pearl Harbor is home to five different historic sites that serve as both memorials and museums of this chapter in American story.
The most well known memorial in Hawaii is the USS Arizona Memorial, visited by over 1.5 million people every year. The USS Arizona was hit by a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb at 8:06 in the morning that fateful day, sinking the ship in only nine minutes and ending the lives of 1,177 crewmen. Many of those who lost their life onboard the USS Arizona are still entombed in the sunken hull and oil still slowly leaks creating a luminescent sheen on the water. Visitors can watch a film in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater and explore the galleries in the Visitor Center before taking a boat shuttle out to the memorial and stand in quiet retrospect.
The newest addition to the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites is the USS Oklahoma Memorial. The memorial was dedicated in 2007 to honor the 429 crewman who lost their lives after nine torpedoes hit and sunk the massive battleship. The memorial’s black granite walls represent the hull of “The Okie” while the white marble standards represent the Marines and sailors killed that day.
Submarines played an integral part during the war in the Pacific, one of them being the USS Bowfin. The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park gives visitors an opportunity to explore the 10,000 square foot submarine museum and learn about the war that took place under the sea. Visitors can head down below the “Pearl Harbor Avenger” to explore the engine room, torpedo room, and those tiny sleeping quarters, an experience that is not for those prone to claustrophobia.
Those interested in the war that took place in the sky should be sure to check out the Pacific Aviation Museum on Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island. Authentic World War II planes such as B-25B Bombers are on display in a 42,000 square foot hangar that actually survived the Pearl Harbor attack. Combat flight simulators are available and give visitors the opportunity to get a glimpse at what it must have been like to fly these planes in battle.
On September 2, 1945 General Macarthur accepted the unconditional surrender of the Japanese on board the USS Battleship Missouri, ending World War II. Today, the battleship is a living museum and visitors can take a variety of guided tours of “Mighty Mo” which are lead by extremely knowledgeable military veterans.