Pearl Harbor National Memorial


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When I first visited Pearl Harbor in the eighties, it was called the Arizona Memorial. In 2008, President George Bush made it part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument which included sites in California and Alaska as well as Pearl Harbor.


Now it is a separate unit again. Legislation in March 2019 designated it The Pearl Harbor National Memorial. It is run by the National Park Service in cooperation with the US Navy. Since we were visiting only a month after the law passed, they hadn’t yet changed the sign.


The Memorial commemorates the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the United States’ subsequent entry into WWII. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and other areas on Oahu in a two-wave surprise attack. They sank or damaged nearly every vessel in the Harbor, killing over 2400 people.


Though devastating, the attack did not cripple the US fleet as our aircraft carriers (Japan’s intended target) were out at sea. And most of the damaged vessels were raised, repaired and sent back into action. Only the USS Arizona, Utah and Oklahoma could not be recovered.


The Arizona still rests where she fell and serves as a burial ground for the thousand crewmen whose bodies could not be recovered. The US Navy has given the survivors the option to be buried there when they pass to be reunited with their brothers-at-arms.


In 1962, a concrete memorial was erected over the Arizona’s remains so that visitors could pay their respects. The boat ramp to the memorial was damaged last year, closing it to the public. Our Navy-run boat tour took us along Battleship Row near the memorial but did not dock there.


This closure prevented the survivors from coming to Hawaii to observe the anniversary in December 2018. The park hopes to complete repairs in time for the 2019 anniversary. There are only a few survivors left and they are quite elderly.


The USS Missouri is positioned so that it faces the Arizona Memorial. Together, they represent the beginning and the end of the United State’s war with Japan. The Missouri was the site of the Japanese Empire’s surrender.


Do not be discouraged from visiting while the Arizona Memorial is still closed. Visiting Pearl Harbor is a moving experience even without boarding the actual structure over the Arizona. Military personnel are on hand to talk about the events of the day and they, along with the  museum and film presentation, do an excellent job of humanizing the story.


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Location: 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI, 96818

Designation: National Memorial

Date established/designated: March 12, 2019

Date of my visit: April 20, 2019

This Tree of Life design is incorporated into the Arizona Memorial. It is a symbol of renewal meant to evoke contemplation.