I was not prepared to find the USS Arizona Memorial so moving, an emotional experience to visit the watery graveyard of 1177 soldiers snatched from life in the wee hours of the morning of Dec 7, 1941. It did not matter that I was a Canadian. Based on the silence that befell my fellow passengers on board the ferry as we landed at the memorial, I was not alone.
Touted as a "must see" in guide books, the reality was that after 6 hours, I could barely tear myself away and was left with a haunting melancholy long after our ship returned to the Visitor's Centre.
On December 7, 1941, a few minutes after 8:00 am, Japanese carrier aircraft dropped bombs on the
USS Arizona stationed in Pearl Harbor. This triggered an explosion and engulfed the entire battleship in
flames. The battleship's burning bridge
and its listing mast and superstructure was featured in photographs on the front pages of every national newspaper. It launched the United States into World War II. The USS Arizona Memorial was the resting place for 1,177 sailors killed in the attack, with the sunken hull of the battleship declared a National Historic Landmark.
Admission is free on a first come, first serve basis. We arrived at the Visitor's Centre at 7:00 am; our boat time was 9:00 am. We checked out some of the exhibits first. At precisely 9:00, we were ushered onto the boat for the ten-minute journey to the Memorial in the centre of the harbour. A hush fell over the group of 150 of us on board. The quiet calm surrounded us as we disembarked. It is humbling to step onto the Memorial and realize what happened so many years ago and difficult to fathom that this is the resting place for 1177 people.
From the edge of the monument, we see the remains of the ship itself, one turret visible. Oil leaks daily from the hull, often referred to as "Black Tears." Survivors believe that this will continue until the last survivor remains alive. Survivors are the only ones permitted to have their remains cremated to be placed with their comrades within the recesses of the ship.
A 23-minute video details what happened on that fateful morning - done in a way that states the facts without blame. There are a large number of interesting artifacts, countless missiles, as well as rescue pods and various other items salvaged from the ships.
The USS Arizona Memorial commemorates the lives lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor with a unique architectural structure. It floats over the hull of the massive ship that lies below without touching or disturbing the remains of the ship that was sunk. It is one of America's most important landmarks with 21 windows, symbolically representing a 21-gun salute or 21 Marines standing over the fallen structure. The battleship weighed 31,400 tons and was 608 feet long and stood more than 97 feet high.
Daily boatloads of tourists visit those who gave up their lives with the U.S. flag raised and lowered. All American ships passing the USS Arizona Memorial salute it. Many foreign ships have adopted this practice as well.
Thirty minutes later, we start our return journey to the mainland. For every tourist on the beautiful island of Oahu, visiting the USS Arizona Memorial is highly recommend.
By car (east):
a 45-minute drive from Waikiki. Take Ala Moana Blvd. / Nimitz Highway or (H-1) West heading east. While on H-1; look for the USS Arizona/Stadium exit, #15A. Turn left at the 4th traffic light onto Arizona Memorial Place. (west): Take Interstate Highway 1 East (H-1) to begin. Take Exit #13A toward Aiea onto Moanalua Road; stay in the far right lane and take the Stadium/Aiea Exit. Continue on Moanalua Road and turn left at first stoplight onto HI-99 East (Kamehameha Highway). Continue on HI-99 (Kamehameha Highway) and turn right onto Arizona Memorial Place.
For those without cars, several alternatives by bus are available: Honolulu public transit buses stop regularly at the Visitor Centre and can be boarded in Waikiki. The #20 and #42 bus will take you to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Centre. For more information regarding the Oahu transit system visit:
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Centre is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Timed programs to the USS Arizona Memorial begin at 8:00 a.m. and run through 3:00 p.m. daily. The USS Oklahoma Memorial and USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island are open from dawn to dusk. A small gift shop is available for purchase of water, coffee snacks etc.
*Note: you will not be permitted to carry on bags, purses, fanny packs, camera bags etc. to the memorial site. Lockers are available on site. Bags should be left in lockers or locked in trunk of car.
Beth Poad is a graduate of McMaster University and a retired English Teacher. She has written curriculum documents for public and private schools and travelled as a volunteer to Europe, China, Tanzania and South Africa. When not travelling, she reads, writes and plans her next travel experience.