Over 75 years ago, the United States mainland was waking up to news that Japan had attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Panic set in and speculation spread throughout the nation; most importantly, a sense of patriotism erupted across the country. Back at Pearl Harbor, over 2,400 American sailors had died and multiple battleships had either sunk to the bottom of the harbor or been beached nearby. As the years passed, the attack became a memory, most of the damaged battleships resurfaced and repaired to join World War II.
While the events of December 7th, 1941 are mostly reserved to stories retold by survivors and veteran family members, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument contains one of the most notable relics and ruins of Japan’s attack – the USS Arizona.
Lost during the attack, the battleship Arizona rests at the bottom of the harbor, directly beneath a memorial to the 1,177 sailors who perished aboard the vessel. Seventy-five years have gone by, but the Arizona is still a flagship of Pearl Harbor, providing the influx of guests who visit the National Monument a look into the history of the surprise attack.
Tours traverse the grounds of the base, accessible by the Passport to Pearl Harbor. Anyone looking for a historical journey into the United States’ place in World War II will enjoy exploring the attractions and the tales told through exhibits and memorials.
A Stamp in the Passport
A trip to the national monument at Pearl Harbor starts at the Visitor Center. Acting as an introduction to the attack, the center features two exhibits – “Road to War” and “Attack!” Where “Road to War” follows the world events leading up to the moment the Japanese dropped the first bombs, “Attack” chronicles the terrible moments of the morning of December 7, 1941 with a collection of artifacts and relics, .
Both exhibits are fascinating looks into the time period but don’t quite prepare you for the 23-minute documentary that precedes the US Navy shuttle boat ride to the US Arizona Memorial. Please note: the Passport to Pearl Harbor package does not include tickets for the timed Arizona Memorial program. A white structure stands out in the middle of the harbor and is the site of the memorial to the men lost aboard the doomed USS Arizona. The mighty battleship still lies beneath the feet of the memorial’s visitors, dripping oil from its ruptured hull like black tears.
Not to end your visit on a low note, the package includes admissions to both the Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park and the Battleship Missouri, neither of which were actually present at the time of the attack. The Bowfin was a submarine of the US Navy that launched exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, earning it the name “Pearl Harbor Avenger.” The Missouri fought in World War II and is most notable for being the ship on whose decks Japanese officials signed the surrender documents. Both of these vessels let curious visitors explore these mighty vessels to experience a taste of what life was like for the men who served on board.
The Passport to Pearl Harbor may not give you a real stamp in your passport, but it’s important in a figurative sense as a passport through history.