When we think of Pearl Harbor we normally think of the 1941 Japanese Raid on Pearl Harbor attacking the US Pacific Fleet (and maybe we think of the tropical Hawaiian islands). Today Pearl Harbor remains the site of an American fleet but also the site of some of America's most interesting naval memorials and museums. These include the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri museum, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, all of which are centered around WW2 history. While you should visit all of these museums, don't skip out on the USS Missouri she is among the largest and most advanced battleships ever built.
Background to the Raid On Pearl Harbor
The Japanese invasion of China, together with the ripple effects from the war in Europe, raised tensions between the Japanese and Americans. The Japanese planned to expand southwards and take much of Southeast Asia, but if they did that, they could have been exposed to flanking attacks by the Americans by bombers stationed out of the then-American Philippines and the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. To neutralize these threats, they decided to simultaneously strike the American airbases in the Philippines and destroy the Pacific Fleet.
The main target at Pearl Harbor was the American battleships stationed there. They damaged or stunk all of the battleships. But all of them were eventually raised and most were returned to service. That is except for the USS Arizona that suffered a catastrophic explosion and loss of life. The USS Arizona was left where she lay with most of her upper works and guns stripped off. Today she is a memorial that you can go and see. One of the rims of her gun turrets is still above the water.
- Aircraft Carriers: The USS Enterprise And USS Lexington Were Stationed At Pearl Harbor In 1941 (USS Saratoga On The West Coast, USS Hornet Was Working Up, USS Yorktown At Norfolk, Virginia)
- Pearl Harbor Passport: $79.99 Per Adult (All Four Attractions Included)
The USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship commissioned in 1916. She was struck by aircraft from the Japanese carriers the Kaga and the Hiryu. She was hit amidships to stern as well as the bow. She took four hits and three near misses but one bomb penetrated the armored deck and exploded the ship's magazines. The forward magazines cataclysmically exploded and effectively ripped the ship in half. Trajactially of the 1,512 crewmen aboard her, 1,177 were killed - about half of the 2,335 Americans to lose their lives in the whole raid.
- Memorial Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 5.00 pm
- Number Of Annual Visitors: 1.7 million
The USS Missouri or "Mighty Mo" is a surviving Iowa class battleship - the largest class of battleship ever commissioned by the USA. All of her completed Iowa class battleships survive today and are museums scattered across the nation (the other three being the USS Iowa, the USS Wisconsin, and the USS New Jersey).
- Fun Fact: Contrary To Popular Opinion The Japanese Main Target Were The Battleships Not The Aircraft Carriers
What makes the "Mighty Mo" so significant is that she is the place that hosted the Japanese surrender in World War Two to the Allies. She was one of the many ships that America had already laid down by the time of the Attack on Pearl Harbor and part of the massive fleet that America built up and defeated Japan with. Her 16-inch guns are among the largest naval guns ever to fire in anger and she was one of the most advanced ships of her time. She served all the way up to the early 1990s, although for most of her history she was mothballed as these battleships were so expensive to operate.
- Fun Fact: The USS Missouri Starred In The 2012 Movie Battleship
Today she is one of the main attractions at Pearl Harbor and is a total must-see.
- Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
- General Admission: $29.99 (USS Missouri Only) Adult
- Passport To Pearl Harbour: $79.99
- Guided Tours: Included With The General Admission Ticket
Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
The main attraction at this museum is the USS Bowfin. She is a Balao-class submarine and was first launched on 7 December 1942 - exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She was designed as a fleet attack submarine and was nicknamed the Pearl Harbor Avenger. She served from her first deployment to the end of the war.
During the war, she sunk many cargo vessels and patrol vessels. Tragically she also sunk the unmarked Tsushima Maru - a Japanese cargo ship. It was carrying around 1,484 civilians including some 767 schoolchildren. Only 59 of the children survived.
- Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 5 pm
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is the other must-see attraction here at Pearl Harbor. It houses a collection of World War Two-era aircraft in a WW2 hanger. While the other three attractions are all within walking distance of each other, this museum is a little further out. There is a free shuttle departing every 15 minutes from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
- Opening Hours: 9.00 am - 5.00 pm
- Admission Fee: $25 (Adults)
- Number Of Aircraft: Over 50
In short, Pearl Harbor is the ideal place to learn about American WW2 Pacific military history and is a great experience for adults and children alike.