December 7, 1941 was a day that changed history – the Japanese fleet attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, propelling the U.S. into a conflict that would last nearly four years and cost countless lives.
Pearl Harbor has been a popular destination for decades, but in the past few years a number of changes have been made to make the historic site – now known as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument – more user friendly and historically relevant. The new Visitor Center provides a fascinating overview of the events leading up to the fateful attack through interactive exhibits, models and photographs. But the center’s mission has expanded to provide an overview of the U.S. war in the Pacific, from the aftermath of the attack and the daunting march of the U.S. forces across the Pacific as they cleared island after island of Japanese soldiers to the final end of hostilities.
A visit to the memorial begins in the Visitor Center while you await your assigned time to take the short water taxi ride over to the USS Arizona Memorial across the channel. A twenty-three minute film about the attack precedes boarding the boat and the entire visit will take about an hour. The ride is quick and over calm waters. You’ll pass near the USS Missouri, which was commissioned in 1940 and where the signing of Japan’s surrender took place.
The Arizona Memorial was built above the sunken battleship, which is nearly completely covered by water except for a small portion. The rest is visible through the building’s glass floor. The visit is short but informative and there is a National Parks ranger on hand to answer questions.
Tours: Visits to the Arizona Memorial are reserved by time, including the film and boat ride to the site of the Arizona. Waits can be a few hours during peak times so arrive early.
Hours: Open daily 7am – 5pm; Tours run from 7:45am – 3pm; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and January 1st.
Fees: Entrance and tours are free, reservations are not accepted and tickets available on a first come first served basis
Security: Backpacks and large bags are not allowed
Attire: The memorial is located on a Navy base and appropriate attire (no swimwear, offensive T-shirts) is permitted.