Updated September 8, 2018
On the island of Oahu, there’s a bit of history that takes us back to the time of World War II. On December 7th, 1941, Japanese bombers had attacked the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. Bullets rained downed. Bombs were released. Torpedoes flew through the sky. Within two hours, all of the battleships at Pearl Harbor were significantly damaged. More than 300 aircraft were destroyed. And over two thousand Americans were killed.
This act drove the United States to declare war on Japan the next day. But then Japan’s allies Germany and Italy each declared war on the US. This was now the start of World War II.
Visiting the Harbor
If you’re coming to Hawaii for the first time and you want to experience some of its history, then definitely take a trip over to Pearl Harbor. It’s not the most exciting place and can be very solemn due to the number of lives that were lost. But you will gain a better understanding of what took place just by being in the midst of these historical events.
There’s no charge to gain access to Pearl Harbor. The hours are
7am-5pm [7am-4pm] seven days a week. There’s two museums you can explore which tell the story of the Japanese attack. There’s also exhibits just outside the visitor center that continue the story.
Most people who come to Pearl Harbor want to visit the Arizona Memorial. The Arizona Battleship is one of the ships that was bombed and sunk, trapping a thousand servicemen inside. The ship was never recovered and the men are still trapped inside even to this day. A war memorial was built on the surface of the water just above where the ship lays. The memorial lists the names of those who died on the ship.
To visit the memorial, you must come during the morning hours to claim your tickets. The tickets are free, but they only allow 1,300 to be released each day. So come early so you can be sure you get a ticket. [Or you can go to recreation.gov to make an advance reservation. The tickets are still free but you’ll pay an online convenience fee of $1.50. And you’ll need to pick up the ticket one hour before the ticket time.]
Once you have your ticket, you’ll be led into a room where you’ll watch a 20-minute video that tells you the story of what took place on that historic day. After the video, you’ll board a ferry-boat that will take you out to the memorial. Once you’re on the memorial you can read the names of all those who died. You can even look down at the water and see parts of the ship and the oil that’s still leaking from the ship.
If you want to continue exploring the harbor grounds, there are other exhibits in which you can pay to gain access to. You can climb into the USS Bowfin and experience what life was like in a submarine that was used during World War II. You can also take the shuttle bus and be dropped off at Ford Island where you can explore the USS Missouri Battleship. [And don’t forget to explore the vintage aircraft at the Pacific Aviation Museum.] These are the only exhibits at Pearl Harbor that require payment. Most everything else is free.
So be sure to visit Pearl Harbor if you can. Pay your respects to those who lost their lives. And take in a better understanding of these historical events which led to World War II.