USS Arizona Memorial

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On December 7, 1941 the history of the United States was forever changed as the Imperial Japanese Navy unleashed an aerial attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In the throes of that attack some 1,177 men stationed on the USS Arizona anchored off of Ford Island in Pearl Harbor lost their lives. Today, the memorial built over the sunken battleship is a somber reminder of the tragedy of war and a major tourist attraction for all visitors to the islands that make up the 50th U.S. state.

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USS Arizona Memorial History

At 7:48 am Hawaiian time on December 7, 1941 the first bombs from what would be a total of 353 Japanese planes began to hit their target: the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The main anchor point for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the Japanese planned and executed the multi-faceted, two-wave air strike as a means to prevent U.S. intervention in the Pacific during World War II. Up to that point declaring itself neutral and uninvolved, the unsolicited attack by Japanese forces, member of the Axis of Power which included Germany, prompted President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt to declare war on Japan immediately and plunge the United Stated head-on into one of history’s most deadly conflicts.

Throughout the 5+ hour-long attack, two waves of Japanese planes which included bombers, torpedo planes, and fighter jets assaulted the shores of Oahu. Their main target was the members of the Pacific fleet, the ships and planes that called Pearl Harbor home.

At the commencement of the attack, the battleship Arizona was docked right off Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor. The men aboard were awakened to the sound of fire, bombs and the now-famous message: “Air Raid Pearl Harbor. This is not a drill.” Largely unprepared for an attack, many ships lacked officers aboard, guns and ammunition were locked up, and planes lines up wingtip to wingtip; the Japanese had a distinct upper hand. They targeted battleships first, the Arizona among them. Less than a half hour after the commencement of the attack, the ignition of forward magazines on the ship caused an explosive fireball which sunk Arizona along with 1,177 men aboard her.

Amidst the devastations of war, Arizona and the men who were lost in her demise were continually remembered and evoked. The United States, unaccustomed to the devastation of domestic attacks, mourned the loss of these men and this great ship as they prepared for what would be four long years of war. It only seemed fitting that once peace was restored a memorial to these brave and innocent souls would be erected to remind visitors of their sacrifice. The USS Arizona Memorial was thus constructed overtop of the sunken battleship off the shores of Ford Island. Officially dedicated in 1962, it, along with the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, is the most attended attraction in Hawaii, welcoming some 1.6 million tourists each year.

USS Arizona Memorial: the Main Attraction

Visiting the wreckage of Arizona begins at the Visitor Center on Oahu proper. From there, tourists are able to view a documentary about the attacks and read through the history of Pearl Harbor in general. They then board a boat which takes them across the water to where Arizona rests. The memorial itself contains three main parts: the entrance, the assembly room, and the shrine. It is from the assembly room that visitors are able to look through the memorial’s open floors into the wreckage of the sunken ship and are offered the opportunity to toss flowers in honor of the sailors whose final resting place is directly below them. From there, the shrine lists all of the 1,177 men who lost their lives in the Pearl attacks. There is also a list of 41 or so survivors of the Arizona who, upon their death had their ashes scattered with their brothers at arms in the waves of the Pacific.

Visitors are taken on a guided tour through the memorial which lasts approximately 75 minutes including the 23-minute film back at the Visitor Center. At peak tourist season, the wait for this tour can stretch up to two hours, making it essential to arrive early to secure a spot.

Why the USS Arizona Memorial is a Must-See

One of the worst disasters in American naval history, the sinking of the USS Arizona is an indelible tragedy that continues to move each visitor who comes to the site and learns about this somber moment that changed the history of the world forever. When travelling to Hawaii, amidst the sun and the fun, taking time to honor these men and their lives as well as the important role that the military and Hawaii itself has played in U.S. history is truly a moving and life-affirming experience.

Where to Buy Tickets

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from USS Arizona Memorial either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The USS Arizona Memorial is available on the Go Oahu Card and Honolulu Power Pass.