With over 2 million visitors per year, Pearl Harbor is the most visited site in all of the Hawaiian Islands. The USS Arizona Memorial is one of the most popular memorials at Pearl Harbor, attracting curious visitors who wish the see the sunken ship. The memorial is built on top of the sunken Battleship USS Arizona located on Battleship Row at Ford Island. The 75-minute tour includes a 25-minute film, a Navy boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, and time to walk through the Memorial and time to give your respects.
Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial starts with a shuttle boat to the USS Arizona Memorial where you will board the memorial followed by an introduction by a National Park Ranger, and an impressive 23-minute documentary film. The only way to access the Arizona Memorial is by this Navy Shuttle boat on this tour.
The first room of the memorial holds flags of the states from which the eight battleships of Battleship Row were named and a state flag from Utah from which the USS Utah was named. The USS Utah was not on battleship row, but still rests in Pearl Harbor and is memorialized on the far side of Ford Island.
The second room of the memorial is the large open area where you can reflect quietly and view the remains of the sunken USS Arizona below. Ceremonies are held in the Assembly Room.
In the back of the memorial is a marble wall with the names of the 1,177 Sailors and Marines who died on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. This room is called The Shrine Room and it also honors the men who served on the USS Arizona and survived, but have chosen to be interred along with their shipmates.
Manning the Rail - If your visit is when a ship is entering Pearl Harbor, you may witness sailors “manning the rail”. This is a beautiful tradition to honor all who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. Sailors stand along the rails of their ship and salute the memorial.
Builders first began working on the USS Arizona back in 1914. Many believed the ship would be named the North Carolina after the home state of Josephus Daniels – Secretary of the Navy at that time – but upon its completion, it was called the Arizona instead.
On June 19, 1915, the USS Arizona officially launched, but its first few years saw a number of mechanical problems. In 1917, the ship finally joined the Atlantic fleet, though she was mainly used as a training ship during World War I. Though a proud ship, she relied on oil, which was more scarce than coal at the time. The other ships fighting in the British Grand Fleet used coal, and the USS Arizona stayed out of heavy combat. After the war ended, the USS Arizona served as one of the escort ships bringing President Woodrow Wilson to Paris for the Paris Peace Conference.
Over the next few decades, the ship mainly carried cargo and passengers, and it was completely modernized. President Hoover used it to travel down to the Caribbean for a vacation. When an earthquake struck San Pedro while the USS Arizona was docked there, the ship provided shelter, first aid, and communications for the people impacted by the earthquake. The ship even starred in a movie titled, Here Comes the Navy.
Dec. 7, 1941
In October 1941, the USS Oklahoma struck the USS Arizona with a torpedo while out doing a routine exercise. No one was seriously injured, but the ship had to be dry-docked in Pearl Harbor while it was repaired.
When the Japanese began their attack on Pearl Harbor just after 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was hit almost immediately. At 8:10 a.m., an 800-kilogram bomb dropped right on the starboard side, and moments later, the forward magazine powder lit up, exploding and destroying that part of the ship. Two turrets fell 20 feet, and the forward superstructure and foremast came falling into the void left by the previous explosion. Fires broke out across the ship.
Many brave men and women fought to defend the ship and rescue those who were trapped as the ship went down, but in the end, most of the crew members – 1,177 total – died on the ship.
In the months that followed Pearl Harbor and for the duration of the war, the USS Arizona became a symbol to the soldiers and citizens. It symbolized what was being fought for – freedom and the lives of the crew members who tragically lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. Efforts were made to recover the bodies of those trapped on board, but over 900 of them were never found. Parts of the ship were also scrapped, but until the 1950s, the USS Arizona stayed at the bottom of the harbor.
It wasn’t until 1958 that legislation came through the Hawaiian government to create a memorial in honor of the great ship. The Navy would not only be allowed to build the memorial, but they would also be able to accept donations. Perhaps the most famous donation came from rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley. His 1961 concert helped raise a great deal of funds to go to the project.
The memorial was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis, whose design was chosen in a contest.This brilliant designer of the USS Arizona Memorial fled Austria to avoid persecution from the Nazis. The memorial was designed to look similar to a milk carton with open walls on both sides. Preis intended the structure to sag in the middle and stand strong and vigorous on both ends, expressing initial defeat and ultimate victory. The memorial does not touch the sunken ship, but visitors can easily see the ship below them.
In 1960, construction on the memorial finally began, and on Memorial Day 1962, the USS Arizona memorial officially opened. Nearly two decades later, a visitor’s center was built on the shore next to the wreck, and the National Park Service took over the management of the memorial from the Navy.
The USS Arizona Memorial was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989. The memorial gives a feeling of serenity and pride.
Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, the Navy may suspend boat operations due to maintenance or weather issues to the USS Arizona Memorial at any time, or impose a capacity restriction on the boat. As a result, you may be placed in the standby line.
With only a 150 person capacity at a time, programs often sell out months in advance. It is highly suggested that you book your tour in advance to avoid the disappointment of missing this important historical site.
As a national park site, the program is designed to accommodate those needing additional accessibility. The restrooms, theater, exhibits, bookstore, information desks, Navy shuttle boats, and Arizona Memorial are all fully-accessible to visitors in wheelchairs.
An audio tour is available in seven languages: English, French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, German, and Spanish. This audio tour is developed with a fascinating narration of the museum, visitors center, and waterfront exhibits, as well as on the shuttle boats and on the Memorial.
You can pick up your headset for the audio tour near the Information Desk at the Visitors Center.
The documentary shown in the theater is fully captioned (in English). There is an induction loop for use with hearing aids. Visually-impaired visitors will find signage in braille in addition to tactile models of various interpretive resources throughout the site.
The USS Arizona isn’t just a sunken ship. It’s also the final resting place for the crew who lost their lives. Be sure to pay your respects in the Shrine Room, where the names of all the crew are listed.
Pearl Harbor Tour
Pearl Harbor Tour