Travel: Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Review – Impressive, Not to be Missed

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Oahu is also the home to Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, and some substantial historical relevance. For many any trip to this island paradise must include a visit to Pearl Harbor National Monument and the USS Arizona Memorial.

Recently listed as one of the top ten attractions every American must see, Pearl Harbor National Monument houses a collection of artifacts and museums historically significant to the Battle of the Pacific Theater.

In addition to The USS Arizona Memorial, tours of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Pacific Aviation Museum as well as the USS Missouri, moored on Ford Island, are also available. Tour packages to include all can be purchased.


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I must admit in my pre-vacation prep, I didn't read the fine print for the USS Arizona Memorial ticket distribution. The majority of tickets are booked three months in advance. For those, such as myself, who didn't think access would be an issue, the military came up with a daily online distribution, first come first serve next day only.

At 7:00am, hopefuls log into the Recreation.gov website and choose a time, much like booking a concert or any other online quick selling ticket option, and secure the free ticket. It took about three days to finally score a ticket, especially during the Christmas holiday, the Aloha Bowl and other holiday travelers make those daily tickets a commodity.

USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor National Memorial

As the actual Pearl Harbor Naval Station has been repurposed into a National Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base many may think is only a place of fiction, it is however, a working base, with some adjustments made. The base joined with Hickam Air Force base to become Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Photo Credit: Janet Walker ©

For tourist's, a visit to the USS Arizona is on the top ten list and draws more than 1.7million visitors annually. Even for those who are not historians, or feel drawn in any way to the psychology of war, the visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial can set a new course as the park lays out the global war that brought the United States to this decisive day, and visitors are given the opportunity to relive this moment.


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From the moment visitors pass through the gates, and there are restrictions and limits on bags, backpacks, with storage available for a nominal fee, each detail is dedicated to World War II and before, during and after the surprise attack brought the United States into the War.

Tickets for the USS Arizona are distributed in time slots. Visitors usually arrive early to look around. Lush and landscaped, the base itself, is a tropical paradise.

Photo Credit: Janet Walker ©

The trip to the memorial begins with a short film which sets the tone and introduces the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the monument, and a guide explains it is hallowed ground, no talking is allowed.

An imposing anchor from the USS Arizona sits harbor side, in front of the memorial circle of those, in all branches, who bravely fought and died in the ultimate sacrifice.


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Of course, a gift shop with every imaginable souvenir, remembrance, and memorial dedicated to that day, the war, the USS Arizona and those who led, fought, served and helped turn America from the shocking, horrific attack into a unified war producing victorious nation, is available.

Photo Credit: Janet Walker ©

The ferry to the monument waits on the water side of the theater and passengers receive a military escort. Arriving at the monument, passengers are given a few last-minute instructions explaining the Hall of Remembrance is to the rear.

Battleship row has moor platforms with the names of each of the ships in the harbor that day. Battleship row, which hasn't changed since December 7, 1941. The ships line up vertically along the platforms, the monument rests horizontally across the top of the sunken vessel.

With more than 1,102 sailors still entombed in the wreckage looking over the edge of the memorial the remnants of the battleship remain visible, oil still leaks from the wreckage.

Photo Credit: Janet Walker ©

Disembarking from the short ferry ride from Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona, marble white, gleams in the distance, the magnitude of sacrifice increases as the ferry moves closer. Even the teens fell silent. Members of the Navy stand watch throughout the hollowed hallway leading to the Wall of Remembrance.

Many aspects of the memorial's design are symbolic. Twenty-one windows represent a 21 Gun Salute to the fallen, the bridge structure sitting atop the sunken vessel is symbolic of the always guarding. The design itself, with two high walls and a lower middle, is representative of the height of American Power and the lower middle the times when we were bowed by hardship.


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There are three distinctive areas in the memorial, the entry way, the mid-section, where many linger, pausing, and the marble Wall of Remembrance. The names of each of the 1,102 sailors who were killed in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor are etched into permanence, their sacrifice never to be forgotten.

Photo Credit: Janet Walker ©

Visitors who want to pay tribute are welcome to place flowers at the base of the wall. In the past flower petals where released into the sea. That tradition has been stopped due to environmental concerns.

Few words are spoken as visitors are respectful and understand the gravity of this moment. Seeing the USS Missouri in the distance, its scale, and looking out from the windows of the memorial the huge steam stacks are visible, directly below, rusted, weathered, and worn at the surface edge.

The knowledge that there are more than a thousand sailors entombed, buried at sea, many still in the berths they fell asleep in on December 6, 1941, is sobering. History becomes real and has an image, a face, a feeling.

Photo Credit: Janet Walker ©

World War II, and the significance it holds for the United States is almost lost in the distractions of the contemporary world. History has taken a back seat to technological advancements and securing interest in the past to ensure it is not repeated in the future is lost in ear buds and headphones.

The entire collection of military tours and museums can take up to five hours, and there are additional restrictions to consider. The USS Missouri, is known as the official point of Japanese surrender, formally ending World War II also sits on Battleship Row accessible from Ford Island. A shuttle bus leaves from Pearl Harbor frequently.

Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona is a top ten Oahu destination and not to be missed. Impressive, reflective, and inspiring. The visit is time well spent.

Photo Credit: Janet Walker ©

Pearl Harbor National Memorial is currently closed due to the Coronavirus. The 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II scheduled for September 2020 has not been moved or canceled. Information can be found here.

More information on Pearl Harbor National Monument can be found here. Ticket information for The USS Arizona can be found here.

Photo Credit: Janet Walker ©

 

All images courtesy of Janet Walker.

 

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