The Monuments of Pearl Harbor


By: Mark Loproto

It’s sometimes difficult to get the full story about a historic event from one place. Artifacts are spread all over, and are often divided among different monuments of the event. One event in American history that those general rules don’t apply to is the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Though you’ll find different memorials and honorary plaques around the globe, there’s only one place where you find such a concentration of museums, memorials, and monuments of Pearl Harbor, and that’s the spot where the attack occurred.

An extensive collection of relics pulled from the remains of the attack, a series of memorials featuring actual vessels that took part in the assault, and a series of museums and exhibits help to bring together everything you need to know about the Japanese surprise attack.

The Exhibits

The first feature visitors encounter at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Acting as an introduction to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Visitor Center is filled with relics from the time, including newspaper clippings about the attack and the war. Two exhibits, “Road to War” and “Attack!” paint a broad picture of the attack and the events leading up to it.

Before heading to the USS Arizona Memorial, guests see a short documentary about the attack, giving further insight into the Japanese assault.

The Memorials of Pearl Harbor

Monuments of Pearl Harbor, Arizona Memorial Shuttle Boat

Arizona Memorial Shuttle Boat

The most striking feature of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument is the series of memorials dedicated to the mighty vessels that once sailed with the United States Navy. The USS Arizona Memorial pays tribute to the over 1,100 men who perished when the Arizona sank to the bottom of the harbor in the early moments of the attack. Constructed above the actual wreckage of the ship, the memorial drives home the tragedy of the attack.

Near the Battleship Missouri stands the moving USS Oklahoma Memorial, dedicated to the 429 men who perished on that ship.

Another memorial, to the men of the USS Utah, is located on the opposite side of Ford Island and is only accessible to military personnel.

The Monuments of Pearl Harbor

Monuments of Pearl Harbor, Walkway to the Bowfin Submarine

Walkway to the Bowfin Submarine

Where the Arizona Memorial spotlights tragedy, the Battleship Missouri and Bowfin submarine highlight the hope and determination that sparked in the US after the attack. Though neither vessel was part in the Pearl Harbor attack, the Bowfin was launched on the one-year anniversary, earning it the name “Pearl Harbor Avenger.”

The Missouri served as the site for the signing of the Japanese surrender documents, officially putting an end to World War II. Aboard both the Pearl Harbor Avenger and the “Mighty Mo,” guests can get a glimpse of what life was like for the men living aboard the vessels.

The Museums of Pearl Harbor

In addition to the exhibits at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Pacific Aviation Museum is an in-depth look into military aircraft used during World War II and other conflicts. Featured is the Mitsubishi Zero, the fighter responsible for strafing Pearl Harbor and the nearby airbases on December 7th, 1941. The museum expands beyond the attack on Pearl Harbor, showing off some more modern aircraft that participated in more recent conflicts.

The Cemetery

Punchbowl National Cemetary

Rounding out your trip through time is a slice of historic land that is historically sacred to the Native Hawaiians, and more broadly to all Americans. The Punchbowl Crater, formed during the Honolulu Volcanic Series, was converted into a national cemetery for men and women who have served the nation. Officially opened for interments in 1949, with the first occurring on January 4th, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific serves as a beautiful and tranquil place to honor the military personnel of the United States,  including those lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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