The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Hawaii, established December 5th, 2008, is one of the newer National Park units, though its most famous memorial, the USS Arizona, has been protected as a National Memorial for decades and seen millions of visitors. The larger monument was established to preserve a series of sites which tell the story of the war between the U.S. and Japan in the Pacific. The monument protects nine sites in three states. The Hawaii sites include Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the USS Utah Memorial and six Chief Petty Officer bungalows on Ford Island. There are also three sites in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska including Attu Island where the only North American land battle of WWII took place, the Japanese base on Kiska Island and a B-24 crash site. The final site is the Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark in California where Japanese-Americans were housed after their forced relocation from the West Coast.
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Our Visit I visited the WWII Valor in the Pacific NM in January while on a business trip to Hawaii.
Our Weather Mostly sunny and warm (upper 70s).
Overall Impression This monument is a fitting place to honor the sacrifices and hardships endured by many in the Pacific theater of WWII. While the USS Arizona Memorial is still the centerpiece of the Monument, the numerous exhibits, films and other memorials put the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor into a larger perspective. The National Park Service, in cooperation with the US Navy, has done an excellent job of making this a memorable learning experience and time of reflection and remembrance for millions of visitors each year.
Visiting Plan on spending at least 2-3 hours to see the exhibits at the visitors center and museum and to visit the USS Arizona. If you have not been since December 2010, then you have not seen the greatly expanded museum and visitors center campus at the monument. The boat to the Arizona, operated by the Navy, is free, but you must get tickets at the visitors center first. Depending on the number of visitors, your wait may be anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Because your tickets will have your tour time printed on them, get them first, then tour the exhibits. If you have more time and don’t mind spending a bit of money, consider taking a tour of the USS Missouri (WWII battleship where the Japanese surrendered in 1945), USS Bowfin (WWII submarine) or the Pacific Aviation Museum. While these exhibits are not technically part of the monument, they share the campus with the monument and compliment it well. Tickets for all three can be purchased on the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument campus. Five hours is recommended to see all three tours and the monument.
Visitors Center and Museum Plan on spending at least 30-60 minutes at the visitors center and museum adjacent to Pearl Harbor. This is where you get tickets and board the boat to the USS Arizona. Within the campus are a pair of exhibit halls with displays, artifacts, models and films featuring interviews and historic photos. Other than the USS Arizona, everything is self-paced. Outside, there are numerous displays of equipment and historic photographs and areas for walking and reflection. The monument’s bookstore is worth a visit, and the USS Bowfin Museum located on the campus is home to more exhibits (some free), a snack bar and a gift shop and is where you can buy tickets to the USS Missouri, USS Bowfin and Pacific Aviation Museum. Parking at the visitors center is very limited, so if you can arrange alternate transportation (e.g. tour bus), it is recommended.
USS Arizona Memorial The USS Arizona Memorial commemorates the 1,177 sailors and marines who died on the ship on December 7th, 1941 after a Japanese bomb struck the forward ammunition magazine. This was largest loss of life of any ship hit during the attack. Most of the dead are still entombed in the ship which is still partially visible from the memorial.
Visiting the memorial is free and takes about 75 minutes. Step 1 is to pick up free tickets at the visitors center. Step 2 is to go to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater adjacent to the visitors center at the time shown on the ticket. This video introduces visitors to the circumstances surrounding the attack and the events of December 7th, 1941. Step 3 is to board the boat to the memorial for the brief trip across Pearl Harbor. If you would like to take photos on the way out to the memorial, I recommending sitting on the right side of the boat next to the rail (you are not allowed to stand while the boat is moving). Step 4 is visiting the memorial. The boat waits about 20 minutes to give visitors the chance to explore the three areas of the memorial and gaze down at the ship’s remains. This is a somber place, so please be respectful and keep an eye on your children. Step 5 is to take the boat back to the visitors center.
USS Oklahoma Memorial The 429 sailors and marines who died on the USS Oklahoma represent the second largest loss of life in the Pearl Harbor attack. The memorial was dedicated on December 7th, 2007. Along with the USS Arizona and USS Utah, the Oklahoma was one of only three ships not put back into service by the Navy. While the Arizona and Utah still lie in Pearl Harbor where they sank, the Oklahoma rests in the deep Pacific hundreds of miles from Hawaii. Its hull was salvaged and bought for scrap, but on its way to the scrap dealer in California, the Oklahoma began listing and sank in deep water–a fitting burial for a great ship.
The memorial is made up of black granite slabs and slender white marble columns representing the 429 sailors and soldiers who died. The lines of white were designed to resemble the crew “manning the rails” in their dress whites. The memorial is on Ford Island, an active military installation. To visit the memorial, you can purchase tickets on a shuttle bus from the USS Bowfin museum adjacent to the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Memorial visitors center. The memorial is adjacent to the USS Missouri.
USS Utah Memorial The Utah, a long-time training battleship for the US Navy, was capsized with the loss of 58 sailors on December 7th, 1941. While the Navy eventually righted the ship, attempts to salvage it were abandoned in 1944. The memorial was built alongside the ship’s still visible wreckage and dedicated on May 27th, 1972. The memorial is simple with plaques, a viewing area and a flagpole. Because it is located on the active military installation of Ford Island, only military and guests of military members may visit the memorial day-to-day.
Battleship Row Battleship Row is one of the five historic sites in Hawaii protected by the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Battleship Row consists of a series of white moorings in Pearl Harbor. These moorings, located in the positions of the ships in Battlefield Row during the Japanese attack, are emblazoned with the name and US Navy designation of each of the ships (e.g. USS Arizona BB 39).
A couple of tips: This is Hawaii, and the weather can get rainy at any time. Because most of the visitors center area and memorials are outdoors, be prepared to get rained on. The NPS currently restricts the items allowed into the monument. Any bags (including most purses and camera cases) have to be checked into the bag storage for a small fee. Consider leaving your bags at the hotel or locking them in your vehicle’s trunk. Be aware, though, that Hawaii has a lot of petty theft including vehicle break-ins.
Nearby Towns Pearl City, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official NPS Website WWII Valor in the Pacific NM
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