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Hawaii Travel Guide

Best Places to Visit in Oahu

     World War II Memorials

 

Map of the USS Arizona Memorial (Courtesy of the National Park Service)

 

 

 

 

 

Overview                      World War II Memorials in Oahu    
 

 

The United States Pacific Fleet operated from the west coast of the United States until 1940.  It was re-established in Oahu's Pearl Harbor in February of 1941 to blunt the growing threat of Japan's military in the South Pacific.  Unfortunately, the forces of war were not daunted by this repositioning  and Japanese forces mounted a "Sneak Attack" on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, before Japan officially declared war on the United States.  The day after the attack, the United States responded by declaring war on Japan and eventually prevailed in 1945 after four-years of battle that raged across the Pacific.

Pearl Harbor was the center of the U.S. activities related to the "War in the Pacific" and it was from here that most U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen deployed for battle.  Oahu has a number of monuments and sites that commemorate the sacrifices necessary to win and preserve an elusive peace.  The history of the War in the Pacific comes alive in Hawai'i and visit to one or more of the memorials listed below should be on your itinerary.

Clicking on the map symbols in the text will show you the location of the memorials  on a detailed map of Oahu.

                      

 

 

 

 

 




 




Best Places to Visit in Oahu  Top of Page

 

 

The majority of visitors to Oahu include the World War II memorials on their itineraries.  For some, visiting these monuments is a heartbreaking experience.  Most visitors leave the memorials feeling a profound sense of humility.  Regardless of your feelings or beliefs, the memorials represent a significant event in the history of the United States.

The most visited World War II landmark in Oahu is the USS Arizona Memorial. In the same area (using common parking), you will find two other vessels with World War II roots. One is the famed battleship, the USS Missouri and the other is the USS Bowfin (submarine). The Missouri tour is excellent, especially if you have an interest in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and even more so if you have never seen a battleship up close. The Bowfin is a memorial to the submariners who lost their lives in World War II.  In 2007, The Pacific Aviation Museum opened in the same area.

 

USS Arizona Memorial 

The Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is a thought provoking and elegant monument to the members of the U.S. military who lost their lives in the Japanese “Sneak Attack” on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, an action that pulled the United States into World War II. On that day, seven of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s nine battleships were docked at Battleship Row on the edge of Ford Island, a naval air station. As was common practice at the time, the battleships were docked in pairs, parallel to the waterfront. The pairing was designed to provide protection for the “inner ships” from air-dropped torpedoes, but in the end, armor piercing bombs were the most damaging armament used by the Japanese. In addition to the 7 battleships, over 130 ships in the U.S. Pacific Fleet were docked at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

The Japanese had sailed over 30 warships, including 6 aircraft carriers, to a point approximately 200 miles north of Oahu. The Japanese attack, launched from the six carriers and consisting of repeated waves of fighters and bombers, surprised the American military and the results were deadly. Over 2300 members of the U.S. military were killed, 12 ships were sunk, 9 were damaged and more than 160 airplanes were destroyed.

The USS Arizona, docked landside of the USS Vestal (a ship used to salvage submarines), had just been refueled with diesel and was targeted with more ordinance than any other ship in Battleship Row. It exploded after being hit by a 1,760 pound armor-piercing bomb that slammed into her forward ammunition magazine. In less than nine minutes, the USS Arizona was a total loss and sank with 1,177 of her crew. The USS West Virginia and USS California sank at their moorings, although the California was later raised. The crews of the remaining battleships experienced significant numbers of dead and wounded. Several of the surviving  battleships were heavily damaged, but most were refitted and rejoined the fleet.

The USS Arizona viewed from the memorial

The USS Arizona is the final resting place for many of the ship's crew who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. The 184-foot-long Memorial, which does not directly touch the sunken Arizona, is a simple yet beautiful structure spanning the mid-portion of the sunken battleship. The Memorial consists of three main sections: the entry and assembly rooms; a central area designed for ceremonies and general observation; and the shrine room, where the names of those killed on the Arizona are engraved in marble.  As you look through the water surrounding the Memorial you may be able to see portions of the wrecked vessel just below the surface. The remainder of the Arizona’s top (the hamper) was removed following the attack, but the ship was not salvaged. The dead sailors from the Arizona have rested in their underwater tomb since December 7, 1941. Today, oil continues to seep from the hull, giving the water surrounding the Arizona a rainbow like shimmer when struck by the sun.

Even though their numbers are decreasing, you may see a Pearl Harbor survivor among the visitors (they are provided dignitary status),  Seeing them is an experience that, for many, produces a feeling of awe and sadness, as these brave men once again relive that “…Day of Infamy”.

Although the National Park Service is in charge of the Memorial, the USS Arizona Memorial is an official military cemetery and proper decorum is expected. Visitors may wear shirts, shorts, and footwear. Swimwear is not allowed.


A visit to the Arizona Memorial consists of several staged segments and is not free-form.

The entrance to the Memorial is at the Visitor Center   across the channel from the actual monument. When you arrive at the Visitor Center, get in line for a ticket, which provides free admission to the tour of the Memorial.  The Visitor Center was renovated between 2008 and 2010 and has been expanded to include more museum galleries and space.  If you have not seen the new center, we highly recommend doing so on your next visit to Honolulu.

The Arizona Memorial is popular and usually you will have to wait a while before your tour starts. The Visitor Center is equipped with a bookstore, snack bar and museum quality exhibits, so you will  find several things to do while waiting for your ticket number to be called.

During the first stage of the tour, you will enter a theater to see a twenty-three minute film detailing the Pearl Harbor Attack and the history of memorial. From there you will proceed to a dock for a boat trip that will take you across the channel for a self-guided tour of the memorial.

Strict security measures prohibit purses, handbags, fanny packs, backpacks, camera bags, diaper bags, luggage and/or other items that offer concealment. Visitors may bring a camera and cam-recorder. A storage facility, operated by a private vendor, is available for visitors coming to the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and the Battleship Missouri. The facility can be found in the visitor center parking lot. There is a nominal storage fee. The storage facility is in operation daily 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Visitors may use the same bag storage and parking stall for all three attractions.

             

Details on Visiting

For more information on the USS Arizona Memorial visit the National Park Service
The Park Address is: 1 Arizona Memorial Place Honolulu, Hawai'i 96818-3145.  Admission is free. The park is open seven days a week 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1.


The USS Missouri  

Note:  On January 7, 2010  the USS Missouri returned from several months in dry dock, where repairs, refitting and refurbishment projects were undertaken.  Berthed again at its historic spot in Pearl Harbor, the Missouri and its staff were welcoming visitors on January 15, 2010.

Launched in January of 1944, the battleship USS Missouri, also known as ‘The Mighty Mo” supported the Iwo Jima invasion and other battles in World War II.  The USS Missouri  was the vessel that hosted the official Japanese surrender to the United States at the end of World War II, on September 2, 1945.  "The Surrender Deck" is one of the most poignant areas on the ship.

The Missouri continued duty in the Korean, Vietnam before she was retired in 1955. The Missouri was reactivated in 1986, participated in the "Gulf War" and decommissioned again in 1992.

Although the “age of battleships” has passed, a tour of the heavily armed Missouri is extremely interesting. Each of the ship's 16-inch guns (three to a turret) could fire a 2700 pound armor piercing artillery shell up to 23 miles in less than a minute with a high degree of accuracy (it took six 110 pound powder bags to fire the shell that far).  It is said that the noise of the Missouri's guns firing was the sound most feared by the Iraqi Army during Desert Storm.

The Missouri was retired before it suffered battle damage and rescued before the ravages of time took a significant toll. The Battleship Missouri memorial is presented by the USS Missouri Memorial Association, a group of concerned citizens who hope to preserve this historically important ship for the public. 

The best way to see the USS Missouri is to take a guided tour and there are several tours featuring different aspects of the ship. A general admission price of $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12 gets you aboard the Missouri and provides access to your choice of several tours.  The new Battle Stations tour, which lasts 90 minutes, is an additional $25 for adults and $12 for children.

Details on Visiting

Visit the Official USS Missouri site for more information. The USS Missouri is located in Battleship Row and uses the same parking facility as the USS Arizona. It is open daily 9 -5.   The facility is closed Christmas, Thanksgiving New Year’s Day.


The USS Bowfin  


Adjacent to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center is the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park.

A tour of this facility will take about 90 minutes. Touring will provide an in-depth look at a World War II submarine (the Bowfin), a museum on submarines and a waterfront memorial honoring the 52 American submarines and their crews that were lost in action during the war.

Twenty years after the end of World War II, the Bowfin’s crew learned that one of the ships it sunk in 1944, the Tsushima Maru, carried over eight hundred Japanese school children who were being sent to Okinawa to keep them safe ahead of the potential invasion of mainland Japan by the United States. The Tsushima Maru bore no visible markings and was running without lights at night. The loss of the Tsushima Maru tragedy was kept a state secret by the Japanese government long after the end of the war. Ironically, the Bowfin was commissioned December 7, 1942, a year to the day after the Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor initiated the “War in the Pacific”.

Details on Visiting

For more information see http://www.bowfin.org/ .

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

In 2008 the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument was created to include nine historic sites in the United States that were involved with the war in the Pacific.  In total 9 sites are included from the States of Hawai'i, Alaska and California.  The site in Hawai'i include the USS Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center, the USS Utah Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, Chief Petty Officers Bungalows on Ford Island and several of the berths on Battleship Row.  For more details on the sites not described here, please see the website of the official website of the National Park Service..

A Japanese Zero on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum (photograph courtesy of the Pacific Aviation Museum)

Pacific Aviation Museum  

On December 7, 2006, The Pacific Aviation Museum opened in an 1930's era aircraft hangar on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.  The museum eventually plans to tell the history of aviation in the Pacific from World War II (focused on the Pearl Harbor Attack), through the Korean War, the Vietnam War and a bit beyond.

Hangar 37's exhibits are focused on the Pearl Harbor attack and feature films, dioramas and several  aircraft from the period, including: a Japanese Zero, a B-25, a P-40, a Stearman that was flown by George Herbert Walker Bush and other planes that were involved in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  For an extra fee you can take part an a re-enactment of the Battle for Guadalcanal, piloting your choice of a Wildcat or Zero using state-of-the-art flight simulators.

You can purchase tickets for the Pacific Aviation Museum at the USS Bowfin ticket office where you can also catch a  trolley to the Museum.  The Pacific Aviation Museum is open daily from 9:00 to 5:00, except for Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Years Day.  The Museum is wheelchair accessible and guided tours are available.  More information can be found at the museum's official web site.

 

The Punchbowl –  The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific 

Our final recommendation for World War II related sites in Oahu is the Punchbowl, a United States National Cemetery. The Punchbowl is located in the crater of a dormant volcano that overlooks Honolulu and Pearl Harbor. The area’s Hawai'ian name of “Puowaina” means the “Hill of Sacrifice”.  At the very top of the crater, there is a beautiful view across Honolulu, but the majority of visitors come to pay homage to their countrymen who made the ultimate sacrifice during the War in the Pacific.

Until the Cemetery opened in 1949, thousands of U.S. dead from the War were interred on a temporary basis in Guam, Wake Island and various Japanese Prisoner of War camps. Eventually, the remains of over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died during World War II were buried at the Punchbowl. In addition, the cemetery is the final resting place for servicemen from the Korean and Vietnam Wars whose families requested that they be buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Those who have studied World War II may be interested to known that Ernie Pyle, a journalist/cartoonist whose published work memorialized the War in the Pacific, was one of the first group of war dead buried at the Punchbowl, although he was a civilian.

The grounds feature a number of poignant memorials focused on World War II but also includes tributes to the members of the military involved in the conflict in Korea and in the War in Vietnam. The Courts of the Missing, on the sides of the stairs to the Honolulu Memorial are in honor of soldiers missing in action from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

In one way or another, many American have been touched by these wars. On an annual basis, over 5 million visitors explore the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The Punchbowl is the second most visited United States National Cemetery and one of the most visited places in Oahu.

Details on Visiting

For more information, visit the official website.for the cemetery. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located at

2177 Puowaina Drive
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: 808 532 3720

The cemetery is open daily. September 30 thru March 1, from 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. March 2 thru September 29, from 8:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. On Memorial Day, the cemetery is open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.


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