Before embarking on the US Navy shuttle boat across the waters of Pearl Harbor to the USS Arizona Memorial, visitors to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial are ushered into a small theater across from the main exhibit galleries. In the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater a brief, but intense, film is screened. This documentary tells the story of USS Arizona (BB-39) and her tragic fate, and also offers a glimpse into the the events that led up to the attack that was launched against the United States on December 7, 1941.
Over the course of 23 minutes, viewers watch historical footage depicting events that led up to the Japanese decision to bomb Pearl Harbor, as well as the attack itself and its aftermath. The film explores Japanese expansion throughout China and Southeast Asia, and the American response.
The relationship between the United States and Japan at the time was very complicated, but the documentary presses forward, introducing the mastermind behind the attack: Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. The film does an excellent job explaining how the Japanese ultimately came to believe they had no other option than to try to destroy the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
The documentary is all the more fascinating in that it doesn’t attempt to recreate the events of December 7, 1941. It utilizes real, mostly black-and-white footage to portray the history of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Viewers see images of the the ill-conceived defense measures implemented at the various military bases on Oahu, and the Japanese planes preparing to launch the surprise assault.
In its most dramatic and moving scenes, the USS Arizona Memorial documentary provides viewers with an immersive look at the actual attack. Using both footage taken from the attacking planes and that taken at ground level, the devastation wrought that morning comes to life.
There is a lot of information delivered in the 23-minute running time of the documentary. From the first Japanese incursions into northern China in the early 1930s to the peaceful USS Arizona Memorial of today, viewers get a first-hand look at the history of the War in the Pacific, its causes, and its aftermath.
Is the USS Arizona Memorial Documentary Suitable for Kids?
Yes. There is a lot of talk of military powers and diplomatic history, and powerful imagery like burning aircraft and smoking battleships, but most people find the documentary to be an experience suitable for viewers of all ages. Younger children may not completely understand every detail of what they’re watching, but the story is told in simple enough language that most will come away with at least a basic understanding of the events of December 7, 1941.
The documentary is a crucial element of the USS Arizona Memorial program, and is part of every Pearl Harbor tour.