Annual Pearl Harbor Day On Oahu
80TH ANNIVERSARY – 2021
Remember Pearl Harbor is something we repeat and is on our tag-line because there are so many important lessons to be learned from the events of that infamous day back in 1941. Many of us today have never experienced total war and the commitment to bringing freedom to other nations oppressed by bullies and aggressors. On this day, December 7th, each year, we remember those who sacrificed their lives for the great cause of freedom that our country stands for.
Throughout the day at Pearl Harbor, there are events that honor the survivors of the attack, sharing with them the respect these veterans deserve. Speeches from top Navy brass, the Secretary Of The Interior and the park superintendent, among many others, help commemorate the anniversary. Tents are set up at the Visitor Center and the proceedings are broadcast so those who can not attend personally can take part. Be sure to arrive very early if you want a seat to watch the entire event. The park opens at 6 AM.
The events at Pearl Harbor include; wreath-laying, military band music, rifle salutes, various aircraft fly-overs, the ringing of ship bells, the national anthem and moments of silence.
There are ceremonies and events that take place at the Utah and Oklahoma memorials on Ford Island. These are more personal, smaller affairs that take place either the day before at Sunset (for Utah) and mid-afternoon on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day at the Oklahoma Memorial.
We donʻt want to discount the importance of these two ships and the sacrifice that the men made at the beginning of the Untied States entry into WWII and the Pacific war effort.
In 2019, a survivor from the ship was interned in the ship with his shipmates and his name placed on the wall at the Memorial. Just before sunset, Navy divers along with divers from the Wounded Warriors program and park service personnel, placed the remains of the sailor into the sunken hull of Arizona. Other remaining survivors have indicated that they wish to be buried in their family plots.
Only a few who were there that day can still attend the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremonies.
The dayʻs events for the general public end with a wonderful parade down King Kalakaua Blvd. in Waikiki. Each service branch is represented, with light-filled balloons, music, veterans and more.
Marching bands from across the United States and dancers liven things up while Harleys, vintage cars and veteran-led car clubs show off their rides.
Sit along the streets and experience the festivities of national pride while waving flags and cheering the participating groups, including our young leaders like the Girl Scouts, military cadets, and school groups.
There are no commercial tours offered at the park this day but you are still welcome to visit using your Passport To Pearl Harbor. Getting into the park Visitor Center first thing in the morning involves waiting in line for up to an hour. (Arriving after the main ceremonies, closer to 10:00 am will allow you quicker access and better parking too.) All attractions are open and filled with Navy personnel in dress uniforms, veteran survivors and their friends and family. Itʻs a wonderful opportunity to listen to their personal stories, hear about events that never made it into the news or books and to be able to personally thank those of the “Greatest Generation” before these aging warriors are gone.
A lot of the dayʻs activities are centered around the memorial where over 1177 sailors and marines are forever interned. Their lives are honored by having their names on the wall within the memorial that straddles the sunken battleship. Wreaths are placed throughout, provided by organizations, cities and states from all over the country and world, such as the Northern Territory in Australia.
Visiting the memorial when itʻs full of Navy personnel is a sight to behold. Their stark white uniforms, like the memorial itself, is a strong reminder of the bravery and sacrifice made by men like themselves over 70 years before.
In 2019, on the 78th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, there was much to celebrate. 2018 had been a tough year for the aging monument with the closing of the memorial due to the dock having broken away from the structure in May of 2018. Repairs took 16 months and the Memorial reopened September 1st 2019. In that time volunteers repainted and repaired the interior of the structure as well. That is why it was with wondrous surprise that visitors observed a Hawaiian green sea turtle which appeared for a brief moment over the sunken hull directly below the viewing window. All this as Navy personnel hosted flags within the memorial, making for a meaningful event for everyone involved.
The other historic sites at Pearl Harbor are open as usual on this day. The views from the battleship USS Missouri that stands in-watch over Arizona are incredible. This is a must-do on this day as you can clearly see from the mighty battleship all the activity that goes on throughout the harbor.
At the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, events are set up in hanger 79 so visits are limited. However, most of the vintage planes are moved out of the hanger onto the tarmac, offering a unique viewing opportunity unlike any other day. Check out the bullet holes in the building from the 1941 attack that are still clearly visible today, almost 80 years later.
The Bowfin Submarine is a great boat to visit on this day because it was launched exactly 1 year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Dubbed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”, this boat went on to distinguish itself in wartime service with 11 battle flags. The sub definitely avenged the lives lost and the fear caused in 1941.
For those who can not attend any of the events here in Oahu, we encourage you to visit Pearl Harbor on another day or learn more about the tragic events of World War 2 and beyond.
Check out our other blog posts to learn more about Hawaii’s history and other important Oahu sites such as Punchbowl Crater, home to The National Cemetery Of The Pacific, or Iolani Palace and the King Kamehameha Statue, located in and around Honolulu.