The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred over 75 years ago, and most of the survivors who once gathered together to retell their stories have passed away. That leaves most of us with books and online resources to consult in order to satisfy our curiosity about the December 7th, 1941 attack. Some people get the opportunity to go on a Pearl Harbor tour and see the various memorials and exhibits, each one telling its own story about the attack and the war that followed.

USS Arizona Memorial

Some sites, like the USS Arizona Memorial, can only represent a broad dedication to the men who died when she exploded and sank. There’s still a need for the personal stories—like the ones that survivors once passed along—to add a human element that everyone can relate to. To help with that, Pacific Historic Parks, on behalf of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, has sought donations from family members of Pearl Harbor veterans and those lost during the attack.

To preserve the memories of Pearl Harbor, Pacific Historic Parks has collected many donations over the years and built a vital resource of information for visitors to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. According to Pacific Historic Parks, nearly 60,000 artifacts are housed at Pearl Harbor, and 95% of them were donated by private citizens.

Among the many donated relics that are on display are movie footage from Ensign Eppes of the USS Arizona, dozens of letters from Alban Varnado chronicling his experiences in the Pacific Theater, a  coffee pot salvaged from the USS Arizona, a USS West Virginia name plate, and a pin commemorating the heroics of the men who joined the New Zealand Tonga Defense Force in 1943.

Inspecting artifacts from the USS Arizona

Visitors to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument on the island of Oahu can see these and many of the other donated pieces. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center contains a wealth of information and is host to the “Road to War” and “Attack” exhibits. Kept behind protective glass, these relics have survived over 75 years and help tell the stories of the men who served in the United States military before, during, and after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor.

Journals, notebooks, personal effects, and diaries help bring these sailors and Marines to life, even if they perished on December 7th, 1941. They are the legacy of the brave men of the US Armed Forces, and sometimes are all a family may have of their loved one. These families are sacrificing a connection to their uncles, grandfathers, and sometimes even fathers and brothers, for the greater good of American history.

Each donated artifact is an important part of history and the generosity of the families who willingly donate them is unforgettable.

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