No trip to Oahu, Hawaii, should be considered complete without a day spent at Pearl Harbor and the WORLD WAR II VALOR IN THE PACIFIC NATIONAL MONUMENT. In fact, while immersed in our day there (we opened AND closed the monument that day), I came to a personal conclusion that the site should be a requisite for all American citizens, at least once in their lifetime - it was that powerful.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is located along the Pearl Harbor shore. From the grounds of the Visitor Center, you can view various massive ships from our present day naval fleet. We were fortunate enough to get a close up view of the famed aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, leaving port after a week of international training exercises. The Visitor Center and it's surrounding grounds, as well as the USS Arizona Memorial are free to the public. There are nominal charges, well worth paying, for visiting some of the other attractions housed within the monument.
The Visitor Center, in addition to a beautiful museum documenting events leading up to and after that day, has a 23 minute film on the history of the politics, the peoples, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. I'm not sure it's possible to stay emotionless or dry-eyed during the film. From there, you board a Navy operated shuttle boat for a ride to the middle of the harbor - the final resting place of the USS Arizona, and many of the 1,177 American crewmen killed on that day of infamy.
A humbling experience, to say the very least, the Memorial straddles the ship's hull, still oozing minute amounts of oil after all these years. Unlike many of the other ships sunk or damaged that day, the Arizona could not be fully salvaged, though the Navy removed parts of the ship for reuse (the anchor from the ship can be viewed on the Visitor Center grounds). Smaller memorials surrounding the Arizona, mark the positions of other American ships in the harbor during the attack that day.
If you've only got limited time, by all means, and in the very least, see the Arizona Memorial. If you'd like the whole experience, plan on spending the day and seeing it all (I LOVE history and museums, and could have probably spent two full days here, comfortably). The BATTLESHIP MISSOURI MEMORIAL, located on Ford Island (along with the airstrip and Pacific Aviation Museum) quite prominent in the harbor, is a huge part of the history of Pearl Harbor. A short, tour bus ride will get you to the island and the Memorial - there is no other access other than with the tour, as it is still an active base.
On September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay (which no American ship had ever entered, to that point), the deck of the USS Missouri was the site of the signing of two copies of the "Instrument of Surrender", by the Japanese Empire, bringing an end to World War II.
A wonderfully informative tour regarding the historical importance of the ship by retired naval personnel will begin your visit, with you being able to roam freely afterwards, if you please.
Pulling out the big guns...
From there, it's a jump back on one of the shuttle buses, for a quick jog over to the PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM.
Set in some of the original hangars that survived the 1941 attack, you'll wander through displays of life on the island prior to the attack, and be able to view a multitude of aircraft, both American and non, instrumental in WWII and the Korean War, as well as more modern conflicts.
The hangar windows have been preserved with the original glass - evidence of the strafing from the Japanese planes that fateful day...same can be seen in various spots on the outer walls.
If you've chosen this portion of the Pearl Harbor experience (and I hope you do), you will be entitled to another highly informative guided tour, but are able to spend as much time walking around on your own as you want, afterwards.
There's a darling little cafe situated in Hangar 37, where you can relax amid some pretty wonderful memorabilia. For those that want the full experience, Combat Flight Simulators are also available for an additional fee.
Back at the Visitor Center, lies the submarine, The USS BOWFIN. Decommissioned in 1947, The Bowfin was acquired and placed in the monument, as a memorial to the U.S. Submarine Force at Pearl Harbor. There is a small charge for entry to this, but the tour is completely self-guided with the assist of a hand-held audio wand.
Food and restrooms are readily available at numerous locations throughout the Visitor Center, and on Ford Island. It was suggested to us that we do the USS Arizona first thing in the morning (tickets are free to the Memorial, but are on a first come, first serve basis during the day); The Might Mo and the Aviation Museum on Ford Island next, and in that order; and then back to the Visitor Center to wander through the various other museums and the submarine. Worked out perfectly and like I said, we were one of the first through the gates when it opened that morning, and found ourselves two of the last to walk back out in the last few minutes of the day. To say I was moved, beyond words, is an understatement!
"December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy..."
Franklin D. Roosevelt