Pearl Harbor

The attack caught America by surprise. Two waves of military planes struck, the first hitting it's projected targets just before 8am and the second hitting an hour later. A little before 10am it was over and Japanese planes headed home in the early afternoon. It was hoped by the Japanese that the attacks would extinguish any ability the Americans had to propel sea and air power in the Pacific for at least half a year. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 remains an American tragedy that acted as a catalyst for WWII. It created massive outrage when it was discovered that the Roosevelt administration knew about the planned attacks ahead of time and failed to give adequate warning resulting in a tragic loss of life.

The USS Arizona Memorial pays tribute to those moored at Battleship Row. They were the initial targets of the first wave of attacks on the Americans. The first stop on a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial is the Visitor Center where the Pearl Harbor Museum, dual theaters, restrooms, a snack bar and Pearl Harbor Memorial exhibits are located. Those driving from Waikiki Beach or Honolulu can expect an hour's trip before arriving at the Pearl Harbor tribute. The memorial is also easily reached from the North Shore.

The USS Arizona Memorial presents the ship's deck six feet below the water line. The184-foot memorial was completed in 1961 and a flag is flown from the destroyed mast. Visitors can see a historic short film recapping the events and explore the Pearl Harbor Museum, complete with wartime memorabilia. The Pearl Harbor Memorial is one of the top Oahu attractions attracting more then a million tourists each year. Numerous Pearl Harbor tours arrive in the afternoon making the morning hours the best time to go. The USS Arizona Memorial can be toured from 7:30am to 5:00pm daily and is closed on all major holidays.

At Pearl Harbor visitors can also see the USS Missouri as well as the USS Bowfin submarine Visitors can walk through the narrow passageways the crew once occupied. The Visitor Center and the Pearl Harbor Museum provide a significant educational resource for those hoping to learn more about the Pearl Harbor attacks. There are hundreds of historic documents and important artifacts along with a complete history and science research relating to Pearl Harbor and the earlier stages of the WWII in the Pacific.

Visitors should allow at least an hour and a half to walk through and explore the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Oahu tours of Pearl Harbor cover the significant aspects of the memorial leaving other parts for visitors to tour themselves. New regulations set forth after September 11 prohibit anyone from entering the Visitor Center or the Pearl Harbor Museum and Memorial with handbags, diaper bags, purses or any other type of bags though cameras are permitted. There are no lockers or storage available so bags must be kept in cars or not brought along.

The harbor is large and takes a lot of time to tour. Those opting to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial on a tour can choose from packages that take tourists to a number of other attractions in a full day island excursion. Some visitors prefer to allot all their time to the memorial and enjoy tours elsewhere on another day. The tour is a sobering and emotional journey and exhibits submarines and ships which essentially became the graves of those who perished.

A guided tour of Pearl Harbor isn't necessary to truly appreciate all the site has to offer but it does provide solid background information and history for tourists. Admission to the Visitor Center and the USS Arizona is free while the Pearl Harbor Museum requires a small charge. If visiting Pearl Harbor is high on your list of things to do in Oahu, consider a trip to the Punchbowl Memorial located in Honolulu. Pearl Harbor casualties were the first to be buried at the Punchbowl, otherwise known as the National Memorial Cemetery. Both sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are considered the most important of all sites in Hawaii.

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