On December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. Nearly 2500 men died and another 1100 were wounded that day and nearly 20 ships and 200 planes in the Pacific fleet were crippled or destroyed. On December 8, the U.S. declared war on Japan and entered World War 2.
Today in this tropical paradise, it’s hard to imagine the chaos and carnage of that long-ago day. Displays at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center help to set the historical stage, then present and interpret the events.
Each day the National Park Service issues 1300 free tickets on a first come, first served basis. The national monument opens at 7 am and visitors are encouraged to arrive early to secure a ticket. To plan ahead and ensure our access, we reserved our tickets in advance at www.recreation.gov for a convenience fee of $1.50 each. You must arrive one hour early to pick up your ticket or it will be re-issued to another visitor. The extra hour ensured time to tour the visitor center before our tour began. We scheduled our visit for 2:30 pm and took the city bus from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor for $2.50 one way. There are shuttles from Waikiki for $15 roundtrip or tour companies that charge considerably more but this plan worked well for us. While traveling, I often take the local bus to have an authentic experience.
Just before our appointed tour time, we lined up outside the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater for a brief presentation by a park ranger, then we watched a short film about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the film, we filed out to the boat dock and boarded the shuttle boat that took us to the USS Arizona Memorial.
The battleship USS Arizona was completely destroyed early in the attack and sank where it lies to this day. The memorial was built over the hull which entombs over 900 sailors whose bodies remain within it.
The memorial is a solemn and sacred place. Visitors are invited to contemplate here in silence or speak in a whisper. Men should remove their hats as a show of respect unless it’s part of their uniform.
An opening in the floor of the memorial offers a view of the sunken ship below.
This was a moving experience and a sobering one. The USS Arizona Memorial conveyed the catastrophic loss of life in a personal and emotional way. Two facts brought tears to my eyes. First, there were 38 sets of brothers on the USS Arizona and 23 sets perished. Second, any survivor of the USS Arizona is entitled to have his ashes interred on the ship should he desire it. To date, 39 crew members have done so.
Based on events in November 2015.