Get the most out of your visit to Pearl Harbor memorial
HONOLULU, Hawaii - When vacationing in Hawaii and planning a visit to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument one should allow a full day to get the most from the experience, and even then there is not enough time to see all the attractions.
Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, being closed Thanksgiving Day, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, and timed programs to the USS Arizona Memorial begin at 8 a.m. and continue through 3 p.m. daily. Strict security measures prohibit purses, handbags, fanny packs, backpacks, camera bags, diaper bags, luggage and/or other items that offer concealment.
Visitors may bring cameras, cellphones and wallets, although since no bags are allowed, are encouraged to pack lightly.
Information about planning the day at Pearl Harbor is available upon entering the visitors center. Tickets and information are available in Aloha Court, and before departing on the tour to the USS Arizona it is advised to spend time in the "Road to War" and "Attack" exhibit galleries for a better understanding of the events that occurred Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.
Before departing by shuttle boat to the USS Arizona Memorial, the tour begins with the showing of a documentary about the attack in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater across from the two exhibit galleries. Under normal conditions the entire program lasts approximately 75 minutes, with the tour of the memorial itself conducted at a steady, but unrushed, pace.
There is a well-stocked bookstore with more than 120 books relating to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the War in the Pacific. Also available are DVDs, posters, audio recordings and other mementos relating to the USS Arizona, the attack on Oahu and War in the Pacific.
Tickets and shuttle buses are available at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center to the Battleship Missouri Memorial on historic Ford Island within Naval Station Pearl Harbor. Due to Navy security restrictions, private vehicles without an appropriate Navy base pass are not allowed on Ford Island.
Dubbed the "Mighty Mo," a visit to the mighty battleship ties the Pearl Harbor experience together - as the Japanese attack brought the United States into World War II and the documents of surrender were signed aboard the battleship. Tours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily September through May; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. June through August; it is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
It is wise to secure tickets online for the attractions at Pearl Harbor or arriving when the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument opens. Bookings can also be done at hotels with private tours, but those groups have no guarantee of seeing all the attractions on days when the wait can be as long as three hours.
As the USS Arizona Memorial is the primary attraction at Pearl Harbor, becoming familiar with some of the facts about the battleship prior to the tour is advisable and adds to the overall experience. Some of those facts are:
- Of the 37 confirmed pairs or trios of brothers totalling 77 men assigned to the USS Arizona, 62 were killed and 23 sets of brothers died. Only one full set of brothers, Kenneth and Russell Warriner, survived the attack; Kenneth was away at flight school in San Diego on the day of the attack; Russell was badly wounded, but recovered.
- Both members of the ship's only father-and-son pair, Thomas Augusta Free and his son, William Thomas Free, were killed in action.
- All 21 members of the Arizona's band, known as U.S. Navy Band Unit 22, were killed in the attack. Most of its members were up on deck preparing to play music for the daily flag-raising ceremony when the attack began. Just hours before, on the night of Saturday, Dec. 6, the latest round of the annual "Battle of Music" competition between military bands from U.S. ships based at Pearl Harbor had been held.
Contrary to some accounts, the Arizona's band had previously qualified for the finals to be held Dec. 20 and had not performed. Following the assault, the unit was unanimously declared the winner of that year's contest, and the award was permanently renamed the USS Arizona Band Trophy.
Information about touring the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and nearby attractions is available online at www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm.