More than 75 years have passed since the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. On the morning of December 7th, 1941, the American naval base awoke to the sound of gunfire and explosions, the signs of an attack it didn’t know was coming. Forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy, seeking to destroy or, at the very least, severely damage the US Pacific Fleet, flew into Oahu airspace and began a two-hour assault on American installations across the island.

Much has changed at Pearl Harbor over the years since the attack. Beyond the expected changes that come with the passage of time, the still-active naval base has adapted and grown, and has welcomed new additions that draw in visitors from all over the world.

Though the attack is three-quarters of a century in the past, and Pearl Harbor has seen so many changes, it’s impossible not to look at it and not be reminded of the tragedy of 1941. Some additions over the years encourage the remembrance of those lost, the heroes made, and the feelings of fear and confusion that must have coursed through the naval base as Japan started its deadly attack.

75 Years of Change

Aerial view of Ford Island and Memorials

Arizona Memorial at lower right; Battleship Missouri (left) and Pacific Aviation Museum (right) are behind

One of the most notable changes to occur to Pearl Harbor wasn’t even something physical. In 2010, US Navy Naval Station Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base were merged to create Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The change came as part of the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission’s program to increase efficiency throughout the Department of Defense.

Beyond a name change, Pearl Harbor has seen some drastic alterations since the attack in 1941, many of them as a direct result of that tragic event. The most striking new feature on any modern Pearl Harbor map is the USS Arizona Memorial. In 1962, this memorial was built in honor of the 1,177 sailors who perished aboard the USS Arizona (BB-39) when she exploded and sank during the attack.

Additional new permanent fixtures added over the years include the Battleship Missouri, known affectionately as the Mighty Mo, which is moored on Ford Island as a tribute to the Allied victory and a museum ship open to the public. Additionally, there’s the USS Oklahoma Memorial, constructed near the entrance to the Missouri, and the conversion of the hangars of the former Ford Island Naval Air Station into the Pacific Aviation Museum. On the opposite side of Ford Island is the USS Utah Memorial, currently accessible only to military personal and their guests.

Pearl Harbor Today

Ships from 14 nations gather at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for RIMPAC 2010

Though Pearl Harbor is still an active military base, it is also home to public museums and memorials dedicated to the events of December 7th, 1941. These memorials and exhibits—known collectively as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and Pearl Harbor Historic Sites—retell the tragic stories of those lost, as well as the heroic tales of the servicemen who went on to fight the Japanese throughout the Pacific.

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