Oahu is Hawaii’s most populous island, and the location of the state’s capitol. Home to some of the world’s best surfing, stunning beaches and the cosmopolitan metropolis that is Honolulu, Oahu is also the site of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Regardless of whether you’re a World War II buff, Oahu’s military offerings are definitely more than worth your time.
The history of the bombing of Pearl Harbor has played a vital role in 20th century American politics and beyond, making it an important event for any visitor to the island of Oahu. When the Empire of Japan bombed Oahu’s Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the surprise attack was intended as a preventive measure that would cripple the still-neutral United States’ Pacific Fleet. Every battleship stationed at Pearl Harbor was badly damaged and half of them sank. Over 2,400 U.S. servicemen were killed and 1,200 wounded. Today, there are numerous memorials to that attack and to the Americans who fought in it. Here are five of the more notable structures devoted to the event’s memory.
USS Arizona Memorial
Located at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, The USS Arizona Memorial is the burial place of 1,102 of the 1,177 servicemen who lost their lives trying to defend the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Finished and dedicated in 1962, the memorial is visited by over 1 million people every year. The memorial was designed by Austrian architect, Alfred Preis, who — because of his Austrian citizenship — had actually been detained as an enemy of the U.S. during World War II. Preis designed a strikingly white, covered bridge to straddle the hull of the sunken battleship submerged in the lagoon. A shrine at the far end of the structure lists the names of all who died in the ship during the attack.
It was on the Battleship Missouri that, on September 2, 1945, Allied and Axis commanders met to draw up and sign the plans for peace that brought an end to World War II.
Today, the battleship has become a memorial on Ford Island, which is located within the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor.
Featuring extensive guided tours of the Missouri, or Mighty Mo, there is also extensive information about the Instruments of Surrender signed by the Japanese, the Kamikazes, the technology and engineering of the battleship as well as much more.
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
Throughout the course of World War II, more than 3,500 servicemen and 52 submarines were lost. The USS Bowfin was a fleet attack submarine put into active service exactly one year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park seeks to memorialize those who died as well as inform the public of the role of submarines in securing an Allied victory during World War II. Full of fascinating exhibits and artifacts, here are two of its fascinating exhibits:
Kaiten. Japanese kaiten were long lance torpedoes with almost 4,000 pounds of TNT driven at a speed of 40 knots into their targets by a human pilot.
- McCann Rescue Chamber. In 1939, the USS Squalas sank on a test dive. In the only successful rescue of a sunken U.S. submarine ever, submarine rescue vessel divers were able to use the McCann Rescue Chamber to make repeated trips to the sunken vessel saving the lives of all 33 soldiers on board.
Pacific Aviation Museum
One of the newest memorials on Oahu, the Pacific Aviation Museum fills two airport hangars that survived World War II but still show marks of the Pearl Harbor attack. With an extensive airplane collection that includes Japanese aircraft and Allied aircraft used during World War II, the museum also features video exhibits, Korean War artifacts, flight simulators and numerous aviation events throughout the year.
USS Oklahoma Memorial
Exactly 429 men lost their lives aboard the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor, and the USS Oklahoma Memorial stands to commemorate that loss. The Oklahoma was originally commissioned in 1916 for use in World War I, and it was the only ship sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack that was so badly damaged it could not be salvaged and returned to service for the remainder of World War II. For over 60 years, the soldiers who died on the Oklahoma were without a specific memorial until President G. W. Bush commissioned the national memorial — under the care of the National Park Service — in 2006. The memorial opened to the public on Pearl Harbor’s anniversary on December 7, 2007.
A “day of infamy” in the annals of American history, December 7, 1941 remains a major tragedy on American soil. For any visitor staying in Oahu, Hawaii’s World War II memorials will provide a balanced complement to the beaches, sunshine and peace of contemporary Oahu.