Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things to Do: Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial

Depending on when you last toured the Arizona Memorial, you'll notice things have changed.  It's not just the Arizona Memorial, it's the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.  This new monument has the Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Exhibit and Museum, the USS Missouri Exhibit and Museum, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the USS Utah Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.  For first-timers, the new monument will educate and impress with it's collection of artifacts, stories, and memories.

The new World War II Valor in the Pacific national monument was made possible by Presidential Proclamation of President George H. Bush on December 5, 2008.  The completion and official dedication of the new Visitors Center was on December 7, 2010 honoring the soldiers, sailors, and airmen that gave their life on Dec 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  This new center starts with events leading to the Pearl Harbor attack and ends with the signing of the peace treaty at Tokyo Bay.  


View Larger Map The Monuments are at 1 Arizonal Memorial Road, Honolulu, HI

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is located in Pearl Harbor just off of Kamehameha Highway.  Parking is limited due to ongoing construction, so you want to go early or take a tour bus.  Also, this is one of the most toured sites in Honolulu with over 1.5 million visitors annually.  This place gets crowded, especially during the summer, spring break, and winter break so just FYI when you're planning your trip.  There is no charge for parking and admission to the Arizona Memorial is free, however you do have to pay for the other exhibits or additional tours.

A word of warning: security measures are strict.  Cameras are allowed, but no purses, handbags, fanny packs, backpacks, camera bags, diaper bags, luggage, or anything that offers concealment are not allowed.  If you do bring bags, you need to check them in at the storage facility by the USS Bowfin museum.  The Bag Storage building is off to the right before the main entrance.  Charge is $3 per item and they are open from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm.  

Monument guide outside the Memorial
You can plan on taking a few hours or all day.  A few websites say touring all the museums and memorials will take about 5 hours, but there's so much here it will easily take 6 hours.  Add time for lunch and restroom breaks and this can be an all day event.  The Pearl Harbor Visitors Center is open from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm seven days a week except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.  Each exhibit will take approximately 2 hours, but if you sign up for the guided tours expect it to take longer.  

One of the big differences from the "old" memorial is there's more space.  Once you past the main gate you can go straight to the centralized ticket booths for the different tours.  Timed tours to the USS Arizona Memorial are from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm daily and are given on a first-come, first-serve basis.  You need to get tickets for the Memorial from the Visitors Center and wait times can exceed 2 hours.  The program consists of a movie and a ferry to the Memorial.  There's also an audio tour for rent narrated by Academy Award winner and Navy veteran Ernest Bourgnine.  For an additional charge, you can rent iPods to use the Memorial's Guide2Go App as a visual tour as you walk through the exhibits.  


While you wait for the program to start, there's two galleries you can check out:  "Road to War" and "Attack and Aftermath".  The galleries are small and somewhat controversial.  The National Park Service brought together several World War II historians and decided to paint a bigger picture of the attack.  The broad brush meant the exhibits include the Japanese viewpoint of events and film crews went to Japan to interview several Japanese sailors, soldiers, and airmen.  The decision to include the Japanese viewpoint ruffled feathers of a few Arizona survivors.        

The "Road to War" gallery details the events and key people that lead to Pearl Harbor.  Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was an interesting character in the war.  He was the architect of the bold and successful attack on Pearl Harbor, though at the same time was at odds with his contemporaries in the Japanese Kwantung Army and General, later Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo.

Admiral Yamamoto had a unique view of the US military having been assigned to Washington D.C. as naval attache and attended Harvard University; he saw first-hand the industrial capacity of the US.  He warned that should war occur, the tide would turn against Japan within a year.  His prophetic warning was right almost to the day.  

The other gallery focuses on the attack and aftermath.  There's an 11-minute video "Battlefield Oahu" that focuses on the attack, relics recovered from Pearl Harbor, and details the internment of Japanese Americans and other events in the aftermath.

Over the entrance hangs a replica of a Japanese Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bomber used in the attack on Pearl Harbor.  

One of the relics from the USS Arizona was this 9-foot section of the superstructure taken near the galley.  It shows the scorch marks from the explosion and flames, as well as the oil along the sinking ship's waterline.

Old Japanese Type 91 Model 2 aerial torpedo recovered from Pearl Harbor
One of the displays that caught my eye was an old Japanese torpedo from the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This was dredged up near Battleship Row in 1991.  The torpedo was relatively intact with its warhead armed.  What you see are the remnants after Navy Explosive Ordanance Disposal technicians took it out to sea and safely detonated the warhead.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater and start of the Arizona Memorial tour
While you're in the galleries, don't forget to arrive 5 minutes before the movie's listed start time.  The whole program takes about 75 minutes.  It consists consist of a 23 minute film on the history of Pearl Harbor attack.  The movie covers the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, the anatomy of the attack, and the aftermath.     
After the movie, you board a ferry for the Memorial.  The National Park Service asks that you remember the Arizona Memorial is the resting place for many of the 1177 crewmen and act accordingly.  

And here is the Memorial: it floats on the water straddling the sunken hulk of the USS Arizona, but doesn't touch the ship itself.  The sag in the middle represents the low point of the attack, with high ends symbolizes final victory.  The windows at the right end form a silhouette of the "Tree of Life" symbolizing renewal and rebirth.

If you haven't seen it before, it is a solemn and impressive monument designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis.  After Preis passed away his ashes were scattered from the very monument he designed.  

Inside the central area of the Memorial.  The architect removed any impression of sadness and to give a sense of serenity.  He wanted each individual to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings while walking the white floors.  

At the far end of the Memorial is the Shrine Room.  Here the names of the those killed on the USS Arizona are forever remembered on the marble wall.  

The only thing from the Arizona that's above the water is what's left of the turret. The white buoy past the turret marks the stern of the battleship.  Gives you an idea of the length of the Arizona.  

There are more things to see back on shore after the Arizona Memorial program.  Here at the Overlook Memorial, you get a good view of the monuments that mark the beginning and the end of war.  The Arizona Memorial marked the start of the war and the USS Missouri, on its deck the peace treaty was signed, marked the end of the war.    

As you walk the grounds, you'll comes across additional monuments paying tribute to those that lost their lives during the war.  Another tribute on the grounds is Remembrance Circle.  This exhibit honors the men, women, children, and military personnel who were not on the USS Arizona, but who died on the day of the attack.  Also, in the background is a tribute to those on eternal patrol: the USS Bowfin Submarine museum and park.  That memorial honors the 52 submarines and about 4000 men that were lost at sea.  That is another great exhibit, which you can read about here or you can catch the shuttle bus to the USS Missouri.  

Whether you're the casual observer or the avid historian, there's enough to see and do to make this trip worthwhile.  Just make sure you charged your camera batteries and clear your memory cards because there's a lot to photograph.  

1 comment:

  1. Aloha! Just FYI, the NPS unit, WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (VALR, for short)does not include the Bowfin, Missouri, or Pacific Aviation Museum. Those are historic partners operated by private non-profit organizations that have centralized ticketing at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

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