Pearl Harbor wasn’t always a port. At first, the beautiful harbor was the ultimate fishing and oyster area of the Hawaiian Islands. Pearl Harbor got its name from all the oysters in the harbor that produced their precious pearls. The U.S. Navy eventually realized the potential of Pearl Harbor and made it a port. The location of the harbor of the Hawaiian Islands made it a strategic point for the U.S. Navy, especially during World War II times. In 1941, a surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor sank the USS Arizona and killed 1,177 sailors and marines. This attack led to the involvement of the United States in World War II. USS Arizona Memorial was created at Pearl Harbor to commemorate the sailors that perished, and to honor the memory of the events that took place that day.
Where is Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial?
Pearl Harbor is located on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii. Tours of the memorial are offered, and a Visitor’s center can be found. Here you can learn about the events of that fateful day and have any questions answered that you might have. The visitor’s center receives over 4,000 people a day, so it is a good idea to reserve your tickets for the time and day you would like to visit. From there, you can board a ferry to see the USS Arizona Memorial, which can only be reached by boat or ferry. The memorial is a 184-foot-long structure that lies over the middle area of the sunken ship without actually touching it. The memorial is operated by the National Park Service, and is quite impressive, presenting a well-thought and pristine area to commemorate the USS Arizona, its sailors that passed with the ship, and the events of that day.
The Final Resting Place
What many people do not realize, is that the USS Arizona is the final resting place for over 900 of the sailors and marines that were killed in the attack. The bombs were sudden and devastating, leaving those who were aboard locked forever within the USS Arizona, as the bodies were never removed due to fires that lasted over two days and caused absolute devastation. The names of the fallen can be seen within the memorial, and you can see the sunken ship in the waters below you, still carrying some of her crew. Those that are still aboard are considered to be “buried at sea,” as the Navy had decided that the sunken ship was not blocking the harbor and that the damage to the ship was thorough enough that she could not be salvaged for parts, so they let the sailors rest in peace. The crew was more than just colleagues; they were family too. Thirty-seven sets of brothers were confirmed on the USS Arizona, and there are only seven known survivors that are alive and well today.
The Oil Still Leaks
When the USS Arizona was attacked, the ship contained 1.5 million gallons of Bunker-C oil. This is the leading cause for why the fires started from the bombs were so severe, due to all the oil. After the fires were extinguished, there was still an unknown amount oil onboard. The ship today leaks between 2-9 quarts per day and some of the survivors had called the leaking oil the “black tears.” The USS Arizona was bombed on December 7, 1941, and the oil or “black tears” are still being emitted today. Now, due to environmental concerns, the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center and the USS Arizona Memorial monitor the release of the oil, as well as the deterioration of the ship. There is no for sure way to tell, but researchers have estimated that the USS Arizona still holds approximately 500,000 gallons of Bunker-C fuel in its submerged state.
Other Things Worth Seeing
While the memorial is the main attraction, be sure to check out the other exhibits. There are two exhibits called the “Road to War,” and “Attack,” both showing the aftermath and the events that led up to the attack. Watch the 23-minute documentary in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater, and browse the bookstore with over 100 titles relating to Pearl Harbor. The Remembrance Circle is a structure created to pay tribute to those that perished as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor. A map in the circle shows the event targets, and there is a list of the Medal of Honor recipients as well.
December 7, 1941
No one could have been prepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor on that day in December. The events of that day catapulted the United States into World War II. Many of the Navy sailors and Marines aboard the USS Arizona went with their ship to rest forever in the ocean together. The USS Arizona Memorial is beautiful, yet haunting, for as you read the names on the wall in the memorial, below your feet is where they are forever entombed. The visitor’s center offers guides, tours, exhibits, a short film, and hundreds of books for purchase about Pearl Harbor.
This beautiful harbor had offered food, sustenance, protection, and housed the U.S. Navy for many years, and now houses the submerged ship, an important piece of our history. Come and explore the stunning memorial and the beautiful Pearl Harbor, and see where one of the most shocking events of our time happened, and pay tribute to those who lost their lives for it.