By A.R. Royo
Pearl Harbor, west of Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, is a U.S. Navy deep-water naval base and headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also Hawaii’s most popular tourist destination. Commercial tour operators offer a variety of Pearl Harbor naval tours around the numerous military memorials and museums commemorating the attack by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941, which brought the U.S. into World War II.
Pearl Harbor began as a large, shallow bay teeming with oysters. It was named Wai Momi or Pu’uloa by the original Hawaiians, who considered it the home of the shark goddess Ka’ahupahau and her brother Kahi’uka. To allow easy access for canoes and larger vessels, the Ewa chief Keaunui widened and deepened the Pearl River estuary. After the annexation of Hawaii in the 19th century, the U.S. took ownership of Pearl Harbor in 1887, designating it “Naval Station, Hawaii”.
The Attack’s Aftermath
The American flotilla lost 9 ships, and had 21 severely damaged ships. The death toll reached 2,350, including 68 civilians. In addition, 1,178 non-casualties were injured. Out of the military personnel lost at Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were crew of the USS Arizona.
The Attack: How it Happened
The Japanese Navy used Aircraft and midget submarines on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at 6:05am on Dec 7, 1941. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto launched the first assault at 7:51am, with a volley of 183 airplanes from 6 Japanese carriers striking the outlying ships, military installations, and airfields controlled by the military on Ford Island.
The battleship Arizona was sunk in a matter of seconds after it was gouged with an armor-piercing bomb that detonated the forward ammunition magazine. The navy anchored in Pearl Harbor was attacked at 8:30am by a second volley of 170 Japanese planes , mostly torpedo bombers.
USS Arizona Battleship Memorial Tours
1,500,000 visitors per year are invited to the Arizona Memorial, just off Ford Island on Pearl Harbor’s “Battleship Row”. The 184-foot-long white structure, Operated by the National Parks Service, was built to honor and remember the 2,350 people who passed away during the attack, including the 1,177 crew still entombed in the battleship.
Completed in 1961, the Memorial was dedicated a year later, and contained three main sections: the entry and assembly room; a central area designed for ceremonies and general observation; and the shrine room containing a marble wall where the names of those who passed away on the Arizona are engraved. A brief documentary film regarding the Pearl Harbor surprise attack and a boat shuttle ride to the Arizona are both included in the tour.
USS Missouri Battleship Memorial
The USS Missouri was the last of four battleships that were named after Missouri, and is the Iowa-class battleship known as “Mighty Mo”. 2,700-pound shells were fired up to 20 miles from its towering 16-inch guns. The Missouri was commissioned on June 11, 1944, and weighed 45,000 tons and was more than 885 feet in length.
When the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945, officially marking the end of the second World War, the signing took place aboard the Missouri. The Battleship was decommissioned for the last time on March 31, 1992, after serving in both the Korean and Gulf Wars. On Jan 29, 1999, The USS Battleship Missouri Memorial was publicly opened.
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
More than 3,500 submariners and 52 American submarines were lost in World War II, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park was made as a tribute to those lost. In its nine successful war patrols, the Bowfin sank 44 Japanese ships after its launch on December 7, 1942. In 1980, the submarine was brought to Pearl Harbor and docked next to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center. On April 1, 1981, guests were allowed to visit the “museum ship”. In 1986, the Bowfin was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Pacific Aviation Museum
Located within former WWII airplane hangars on Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island, the Pacific Aviation Museum is an immersive aviation museum equipped with interactive simulators and exhibits revealing the stories behind authentic WWII fighter planes and bombers. Hangar 37 is a 42,000 square foot airplane hangar that survived the Pearl Harbor attack, and it displays authentic an Japanese Zero and a B-25B Bomber, similar to the one used in the famous “Doolittle Raid” on Japan in 1942.
USS Oklahoma Memorial
Dedicated on December 7th, 2007, the USS Oklahoma Memorial honors the 429 crewmen who passed away in the Pearl Harbor attack. Approximately 9 torpedoes hit “The Okie,” capsizing this 35,000-ton battleship in only 12 minutes. Some crewmen, trapped in compartments below deck after the ship capsized, used hammers and wrenches to signal rescue crews on the surface. Only 32 men were rescued from its overturned hull, after the attack two days later.