USS Arizona Memorial
Learn About The Pearl Harbor National Memorial On Oahu In Hawaii
Every year over 1 million people visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial and take part in the Arizona Memorial program making this one of the most popular national monuments and activities in the nation. The memorial is built over sunken Battleship Arizona, built and launched in 1916 and was destroyed on Dec. 7th, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. It is the final resting place for over 1100 sailors and marines.
Other highly-visited historic sites include the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C., along with Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine Florida.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is operated by the National Park Service and is free to the public. It includes a museum with exhibits about World War II, an outdoor walkway with numerous historical plaques and signage explaining the attack, and a theater that shows a video of actual footage and events from the attack which is viewed before boarding the boat which takes visitors out to the memorial.
The Arizona Memorial Program is free but does require a ticket to be reserved online if you are not taking a tour. The number of boat departures is limited and you must book ahead. The National Park Service website provides more information including hours of operation and ticketing advisories.
Other areas at Pearl Harbor include the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and a shuttle ride across the bridge to Ford Island brings visitors to the Battleship Missouri Memorial, a floating museum, Oklahoma Memorial, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. It is located in the original hangers where bullet holes from the Japanese attack can be seen in the broken windows. A snack shop and cafeteria round out the on-site amenities. You can visit all of those on a Complete Pearl Harbor Experience or on your own with a Passport to Pearl Harbor.
There are set times to take part in the Arizona Memorial Program. We like to arrive to the visitor center in plenty of time to clear security, and store personal bags if needed. You must check in at the theater 10 minutes before the tour starts.
The remains of the USS Arizona still lie at the bottom of Pearl Harbor with 1,107 entombed within her. Though this is hallowed ground it took many years to fund and complete the building of the memorial.
Admiral Arthur W. Radford, who commanded carrier task forces throughout the second world war to become Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, instituted the daily raising of the colors over the remains of the USS Arizona in 1950. In that same year, a temporary memorial was built over the remaining portion of the deckhouse. Redford requested funds for a memorial but was denied because of budget constraints during the Korean War.
Legislation passed in the ’50s which designated the wreck as a national shrine, including American President Dwight D Eisenhower’s creation of a National Memorial at Pearl Harbor in 1958. Fundraising began and came from some unlikely sources including $95,000 privately raised from a 1958 episode of the “This Is Your Life” TV show featuring retired Admiral Samuel G Fuqua, Medal of Honor recipient, and a senior surviving officer from the USS Arizona. Another $64,000 came from a 1961 Arizona Memorial benefit concert by Elvis Presley and $40,000 from the sale of plastic models of Arizona from the Revell Model Company.
The remainder of the $500,000 dollar memorial came from the then Territory of Hawai’i (Hawaii was not a state until 1959) and federal funds of an initial $200,000 and an additional $150,000 proposed and legislated by the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye.
Inouye was a volunteer officer at an Army aid station on Oahu (he was studying to become a doctor) when Pearl Harbor was attacked. His aid station received a large portion of the wounded that day.
Inouye volunteered and fought in the Army’s infamous “442nd Regiment” in Europe and would become a Medal of Honor recipient for a battle in Italy where he was shot multiple times and lost his right forearm but continued to fight to knock out the last of three German machine gun nests to take and important ridgeline. After the war, he was elected to congress in 1953 and would be elected as Hawaii’s first Senator in 1962. He never lost an election in 58 years and was a U.S. Senator to Hawaii until his death in 2012.
The USS Arizona Memorial was completed in 1962. It is accessible only by boat and straddles the hull of the sunken wreck without touching it. It was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis who was detained at Sand Island Oahu during the war because of his Austrian birth. The Navy specified that the memorial is in the form of a bridge floating above the ship and accommodating 200 people. Preis explained his design this way;
“Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory … The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted, to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses … his innermost feelings.
Notable parts from the ship reside in the state of Arizona today including the original bell which hangs in the University of Arizona bell tower and is rung after every home football victory.
A gun, mast, and anchor from the USS Arizona reside near the state capitol in Phoenix along with other ship artifacts at the state capitol museum. At the edge of the city is the Arizona Memorial Garden with a lighted walkway of the ship outline to actual size and a section of the boathouse as well as a memorial.
Every two years the Navy awards the “USS Arizona Memorial Trophy” to the ship deemed to have achieved the highest combat readiness. The trophy was designed and presented to the Navy by the State of Arizona in 1987. In 2021, USS Winston S. Churchill was awarded the honor.
Paying Their Respects
The service personal aboard every Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine ship entering Pearl Harbor stands at attention and salutes the USS Arizona as they pass by the Memorial. This solemn tribute is a tradition known as “manning the rails”. As an active U.S. military cemetery, honors are often rendered at the memorial by our highest government leaders and allies, including U.S. presidents and prime ministers.
There are said to be only 3 surviving members of the attack on the USS Arizona as of 2021 with the oldest over 100 years old. Many survivors have chosen and can choose to be interred at the memorial either by having their ashes scattered over the water or having their urns placed within the well of Turret #4. None of the remaining survivors will be interred there.
Since the dedication of the memorial in 1962, every U.S. President has made a pilgrimage to the memorial to honor and pay respects to the servicemen who served and perished here. Former President Barak Obama visited with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the memorial in 2016, 75 years after the World War Two (WWII) attack on Pearl Harbor.