Pearl Harbor, Honolulu: A Visitor's Guide
Pearl Harbor is one of the best harbors in the Pacific and is the center of operation for the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet. Since the area is flat, those traveling on the freeway which skirts the base can see the ships towering over the forests of palms and other tropical plants. One of the best ways of gaining a perspective on Pearl Harbor is by sitting in a window on the right side of an airliner while approaching Honolulu International.
Attractions open to the public in the harbor include the Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri, and the Submarine Bowfin.
USS Arizona Memorial
The USS Arizona Memorial is Hawaii's most visited attraction, with more than 1.5 million visitors a year. The memorial was opened in 1962, and stands in memory of those killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. The Visitor Center, built in 1980, can accommodate up to 3000 visitors daily. The memorial was erected above the sunken battleship, parts of which still project above the water. The gleaming white floating building, about 197 ft long, contains a large semi open-air room in which visitors gather. At the end of the memorial there is a shrine with the names of the 1177 victims, including the commander and his deputy, engraved on a wall of Vermont marble.
The memorial is reached via the Visitor Center. A purpose-built cinema shows a 20-minute film about Pearl Harbor and the Japanese attack. A naval cutter then ferries visitors to and from the memorial at regular intervals.
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park
A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial can be combined with one to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. The USS "Bowfin" was a submarine built during the Second World War and later restored by a private organization, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association. This association also maintains the park as a memorial to the 52 U.S. submarines sunk during the war and their 3505 dead sailors and officers.
The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum actually covers all aspects of submarine history. This is one of the most sophisticated submarines produced by the USA during World War II. Volunteers stationed in the various compartments help visitors understand what all the equipment and polished brass was for. The "Bowfin" is known for having sunk a total of 44 Japanese ships. Visitors can wander around the ship at will or climb the command tower and gain an all-round view of Pearl Harbor through a periscope. Many photographs and other memorabilia illustrate life aboard a submarine both on friendly patrols and in wartime situations.
Also in the collection is the Kaiton, a World War II Japanese suicide manned torpedo. A variety of torpedos and the conning tower of another historic submarine complete the exterior collection. In the USS Bowfin Museum building, there are artifacts and models which trace the history of U.S. Navy submarines and submarines in general.
The USS Missouri was where the Japanese officially surrendered, ending WWII. The ship decks can now be visited at Pearl Harbor, where she arrived in 1998. From its decks there is a good view of the Arizona Memorial.