USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl HarborUSS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Honolulu may be known for its sun and sandy beaches, but it is also home to one of  the most sobering military history sites that I’ve ever visited — the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.  The Memorial, dedicated in 1962, honors the site where World War II began for the United States, with the bombing that entombed 1,102 crew members on December 7th, 1941.


The memorial was designed to span the hull of the sunken battleship, yet never touch it. The structure is 184 feet long, with two peaks at each end, and a deliberate sag in the middle.  Alfred Preis, the memorial designer, sums it up like this:

“Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory… The overall effect is one of serenity.   Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses… his innermost feelings.”

The ship’s huge anchor is displayed at the entrance to the visitor center, and it is here that you begin your journey through the exhibits and memorial.  At the visitor center are a variety of historical exhibits and artifacts, and visitors watch a documentary film about the Pearl Harbor attack.  As I looked around the theater area, I saw visitors representative of countries from around the world, including many elderly Japanese tourists.  I couldn’t help but wonder how they felt after viewing the documentary.  What stories had they been told, or experiences that they lived through, and how did they feel visiting the Memorial.  I wondered how their view of history compared and contrasted with mine.

Open air of Arizona Memorial in HonoluluFollowing the film, visitors are transported by boat to the memorial.  At the entry to the memorial, you pass by two bells that were on the USS Arizona, and then enter the central assembly room.  This area features seven open windows on the walls and ceiling that commemorate the date of the attack.  An opening in the floor overlooks the sunken decks of the Arizona, and it is from this location that visitors can pay their respects by tossing flowers and leis into the water. The oil that still seeps from the wreckage is sometimes referred to as “black tears” or “the tears of the Arizona.”

At the far end of the memorial is a marble wall shrine, behind velvet ropes, that lists the names of all those killed on the Arizona. It stands as a reminder to the very human cost of the attack, and that the beauty of the memorial is overshadowed by the solemnity and respect due those buried in the water below.

During peak tourist times it can get quite crowded and it is a stop on many organized tours.  My recommendation is to visit during off-peak travel periods or first thing in the morning before the tour buses arrive.  Allow about an hour and a half to see everything.

Post 9/11 security regulations are in effect, and no purses, backpacks, camera bags, diaper bags, etc., are allowed in the visitor center or on the Memorial tour.  Personal cameras are allowed.  There is baggage storage operated by a third party vendor that can store items for a fee.  I’d recommend leaving your items at home, in your hotel room, or you car trunk.

Location:  About 45 minutes outside of Waikiki, the site is best reached by car or tour bus.  It is accessible by #20 and #42 bus, which drops off at the Visitor Center. (map)

Hours:  The USS Arizona Memorial is open daily, from 7:00 am – 5 pm.

Admission:  Tickets are free, and issued on a first come, first served basis.

Special Visiting Notes:  This is a memorial and appropriate dress is required.  No bathing suits, short shorts, or inappropriate t-shirts.  Members of the military should wear dress uniforms.  Cell phones must be turned off.

Photo credit:  top photo from The Girls NY @flickr; bottom photo from adamr.stone @flickr

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Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Her most recent travels were to Stockholm, a Baltic cruise, and Universal Orlando Resort.

4 Responses to “USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor”

  1. March 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    Remember Pearl Harbor — Keep America Alert!

    America’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, living his 101st year is former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Ordnanceman (ACOM), later wartime commissioned Lieutenant John W. Finn, U. S. Navy (Ret.). He is also the last surviving Medal of Honor, “The Day of Infamy”, Japanese Attack on the Hawaiian Islands, Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941.

    (Now deceased) ‘Navy Centenarian Sailor’, 103 year old, former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Radioman (ACRM, Combat Aircrewman), later wartime commissioned Chief Warrant Officer Julio ‘Jay’ Ereneta, U. S. Navy (Ret.), is a thirty year career veteran of World War One and World War Two. He first flew aircrewman in August 1922; flew rearseat Radioman/Gunner (1920s/1930s) in the tactical air squadrons of the Navy’s first aircraft carriers, USS LANGLEY (CV-1) and USS LEXINGTON (CV-2).

    Visit my photo album tribute to these centenarian veteran shipmates and other Pearl Harbor Survivors:

    http://news.webshots.com/album/123286873BFAAiq

    http://news.webshots.com/album/141695570BONFYl

    San Diego, California

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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mary Jo Manzanares, The Office Files. The Office Files said: RT @flyawaycafe: If you're taking the kids to Hawaii for spring break, put this on your to-do list. It's a learning moment: http://is.gd/b1mjS […]

  2. Honolulu Pride: Military History in the Islands | Traveling with MJ - August 15, 2010

    […] prefer a tour, it’s a stop on many of them.  The tour includes a brief video, followed by a boat ride to the Arizona Memorial. Like most visitors to the site, I was profoundly touched and moved by the experience.   […]

  3. Travel Makes Me Smile - May 27, 2011

    […] Warm ocean breezes, sunsets and sunrises in Hawaii […]

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