If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii this year, you shouldn’t miss a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. This monument honors the brave men who were killed when the ship sank during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, and it’s the most popular memorial at Pearl Harbor today.
But how much do you really know about this memorial? Here are five things you may not have known about the USS Arizona Memorial. Read them and get excited about visiting this iconic monument.
A memorial has been in place since 1950
Just two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, talk began about building a memorial to honor those who lost their lives on the USS Arizona. The idea was tossed back and forth for some time, but it wasn’t until 1949 that it was given serious consideration.
That year, the Territory of Hawaii (remember, Hawaii wasn’t a state until 1959) created the Pacific War Memorial Commission. It would be the commission’s job to design and create memorials. In 1950, Admiral Arthur Radford, who was commander-in-chief of the Pacific forces at the time, ordered a flag pole to be placed directly above the USS Arizona as a temporary memorial.
Nine years after the attack, a commemorative plaque was placed at the base of the flag pole. Every day, a flag was raised and lowered. This would be the first USS Arizona Memorial, but it was not the last.
A war hero approved the current memorial
In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved funding for a new memorial to be built honoring the USS Arizona.
Eisenhower fought courageously in Europe during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, General George C. Marshall summoned Eisenhower to Washington, D.C., where Eisenhower participated in the war plans assessment. He later led Allied Forces into North Africa in 1942, and on D-Day, June 6, 1944, he led the troops into France as the Supreme Commander.
The architect fled Nazi persecution
The brilliant designer of the USS Arizona Memorial fled Austria to avoid persecution from the Nazis. That man was Alfred Preis, and thanks to his design, over a million tourists can now see the USS Arizona and pay their respects to the men who died there.
Preis was born in Austria and fled his homeland in 1939, just as World War II broke out. He came to Hawaii in search of peace. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Preis was detained at Sand Island with other immigrants from Germany and its annexed countries. Though he was kept at the camp for three months, Preis never felt any animosity towards his adopted home. When he designed his memorial years later, he evoked themes of peace and freedom.
According to the National Park Service, Preis described the memorial as such:
“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.”
Today, the memorial stands directly above the sunken ship
Though the beautiful white memorial straddles the USS Arizona below, it doesn’t actually touch the ship.
As a visitor, you can still see the wreckage of the great ship. Once you arrive at the USS Arizona Memorial, head over the the Assembly Room. This room is often used for large ceremonies, but it also offers visitors a great way to see the ship below. The windows in the room will help you see what the ship looks like now.
The USS Arizona is also a gravesite
The USS Arizona isn’t just a sunken ship. It’s also the final resting place for the crewmen who lost their lives when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
According to the National Park Service, 1,177 crewmen died that fateful day. Not all of their bodies could be recovered and buried properly, so the memorial honors their sacrifice. It also honors the survivors. In recent years, a number of survivors from the attack have been interred on the ship.
When you visit the USS Arizona Memorial, be sure to pay your respects in the Shrine Room, where the names of all the crewmen are listed.
Now that you know a little more about this memorial, which part of it are you most excited to see? Share with us!