Things To Know About Pearl Harbor
Planning Your Visit
The nearest airport to Pearl Harbor is the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), which is located in Honolulu, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) east of Pearl Harbor. From the airport, visitors can take a taxi, rental car, or public transportation to reach Pearl Harbor.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is also home to a number of exhibits, a bookstore, and a snack shop, which are open during the same hours as the visitor center. However, it's important to note that the hours of operation are subject to change, so visitors are advised to check the official website or call ahead before planning their visit.
If you're interested in exploring the area around Pearl Harbor, you may also want to check out our article about places to stay near Pearl Harbor, which provides more detailed information on the different types of accommodations available in the area, including hotels, vacation rentals, and bed and breakfasts.
Keep in mind that Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, and accommodations can book up quickly, especially during peak travel times. So, it's a good idea to book your accommodations in advance to ensure availability and get the best possible rates.
There are many things to do near Pearl Harbor and in the surrounding areas of Oahu. Here are some popular attractions and activities to consider (list 3 things to do nearby from our article):
- USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park: This museum features the USS Bowfin, a submarine that was launched in 1942 and completed nine patrols during World War II. Visitors can explore the submarine and learn about the experiences of the crew.
- Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor: This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of aviation in the Pacific region. It features exhibits on World War II aircraft, as well as a flight simulator and a restoration shop.
- Waikiki Beach: This famous beach is located in Honolulu and is a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing.
For more ideas on things to do near Pearl Harbor, check out our article about things to do near Pearl Harbor, which provides more detailed information on attractions, activities, and events in the area.
However, there is a fee for the USS Arizona Memorial program, which includes a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor and a boat ride to the memorial itself. You can view prices and reserve your tickets in advance here.
What To Expect
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial site offers several activities and exhibits for visitors to explore. Here are some of the things you can do:
- USS Arizona Memorial program: This program includes a boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the remains of the battleship USS Arizona, where 1,177 crew members lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The program also includes a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor, which provides historical context and background information about the events of December 7, 1941. You do need to purchase a reservation for this program here.
- Exhibits: The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center features several exhibits, including the Road to War and Attack galleries, which provide a comprehensive look at the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath.
- Guided Tours: The National Park Service offers guided tours of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial program. These tours provide additional insight and historical context for the events of December 7, 1941. You can visit our page on guided tours to learn more.
- Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Center: This center offers a virtual reality experience that allows visitors to explore the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri, and other locations at Pearl Harbor in a 360-degree immersive environment.
- Junior Ranger Program: The Junior Ranger program is a fun and educational activity for children, allowing them to learn about the history of Pearl Harbor while earning a Junior Ranger badge.
There are many other activities and exhibits to explore at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial site, and visitors are encouraged to take their time and explore at their own pace.
Guided tours are led by National Park Service rangers or authorized tour operators.
Guided tours may include a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as visits to other significant sites in the area, such as the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Some tours may also include transportation to and from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, as well as other amenities such as lunch or admission to other attractions.
You can view our list of the best guided tours here.
- USS Arizona Memorial program: The program itself takes approximately 75 minutes, including a 23-minute documentary film, a 10-minute boat ride to the memorial, and time to explore the memorial itself.
- Pearl Harbor Visitor Center exhibits: Visitors can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours exploring the exhibits, depending on their level of interest.
- Additional sites: If you plan to visit other sites in the area, such as the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, or the Pacific Aviation Museum, you should plan to spend additional time at each of these sites.
Memorial Site Guidelines
If your camera is a larger camera, the security team may inspect it.
No commercial filming is allowed unless you obtain a permit.
There are restrictions on what types of bags are allowed at Pearl Harbor National Memorial, including the USS Arizona Memorial program and the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. This is in order to ensure the safety and security of all visitors.
The bag policy at Pearl Harbor is as follows:
- Bags are not allowed on the USS Arizona Memorial: Visitors are not allowed to bring any bags, purses, or backpacks into the memorial itself. This includes camera bags, diaper bags, and other types of bags. Visitors may carry their wallets, cameras, and cell phones, but these items must be carried in a clear plastic bag provided by the National Park Service, or left in secure storage at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
- Bags are allowed at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center: Visitors are allowed to bring bags, purses, and backpacks into the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. However, all bags are subject to search by security personnel. Visitors should be prepared to have their bags searched before entering the Visitor Center.
- Prohibited items: There are several items that are not allowed at Pearl Harbor National Memorial, including weapons, explosives, fireworks, and other dangerous items. Visitors should check the National Park Service website for a full list of prohibited items before visiting.
It's recommended that visitors pack light and leave unnecessary items at home or in their car to make the security screening process faster and more efficient.
Pearl Harbor History
December 7, 1941
0342 Hours – A Japanese submarine is spotted off the harbor. The minesweeper USS Condor makes the initial observation. Officers aboard the vessel take note of a periscope and relay the message to the destroyer USS Ward.
0645 Hours – With the information from the Condor, the Ward seeks out what was believed to be a miniature sub. Eventually, the sub is found and sunk by the Ward, under the command of Lt. William W. Outerbridge. This marks the first casualty of Pearl Harbor.
0702 Hours – Incoming Japanese fighters are first observed by the Army’s Opana Mobile Radar Station on Oahu. A call is made to Fort Shafter from the station warning of an unusual reading on the radar but the operator is told to wait for a commanding officer to call back.
0715 Hours – Admiral Husband E. Kimmel is advised of the Japanese mini-sub but is hesitant to act, believing it to be another of many false reports of submarines in the area. Kimmel decides to wait for verification, one of several fatal mistakes made that morning.
0720 Hours – Fort Shafter responds to Opana’s radar report. Believing the large blip to be US B-17 Flying Fortress bombers scheduled to arrive that morning from California, the lieutenant who calls Opana simply tells the operator, “Don’t worry about it.”
0733 Hours – The first sign of Japan’s intent to engage the United States wasn’t the first bomb that was dropped. American code breakers decipher a Japanese code and learn that Japanese negotiators were advised to cease talking with US officials. General George C. Marshall considers this a sign of war and attempts to warn the forces in Hawaii. Forced to communicate via commercial telegraph, the message would come too late.
0753 Hours – Japanese commander Mitsuo Fuchida signals to his ship, “to ra, to ra, to ra,” indicating that total surprise has been achieved.
0755 Hours – The first sighting of Japanese fighters by Commander Logan C. Ramsey on Ford Island. Noticing a low-flying plane, Logan initially believes it to be a US pilot but then notices a bomb being dropped. “AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NOT A DRILL” is transmitted via telegraph from Ford Island. The first bombs strike Wheeler and Hickam.
0810 Hours – The USS Arizona is the first battleship to be hit. An armor-piercing bomb proves to be fatal. Over 1,100 crewmen are killed in the explosion.
0819 Hours – The Arizona begins to sink to the bottom of the harbor.
December 8, 1941
1310 Hours – The United States declares war on Japan. The Senate vote is unanimous, and the House of Representatives counts only one vote against.
1610 Hours – President Roosevelt signs the Declaration of War on the Empire of Japan.
Today, the USS Arizona Memorial is a national monument that honors the memory of those who lost their lives on board the ship. The memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship and is visited by millions of people each year. It serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the sailors and soldiers during the attack on Pearl Harbor and throughout World War II.
The attack led to the immediate entry of the United States into World War II, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring war on Japan the following day, December 8, 1941. Germany and Italy then declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, and the United States became fully engaged in the war effort. The United States' entry into the war greatly increased the resources and manpower available to the Allies, which played a significant role in the eventual defeat of the Axis powers. Thus, the attack on Pearl Harbor is considered to be a major turning point in World War II.
Cordell Hull was an American politician who served as the 43rd United States Secretary of State from 1933 to 1944 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is best known for his role in the establishment of the United Nations and in the development of the Bretton Woods monetary system. Hull also played a pivotal role in promoting progressive legislation, such as the Social Security Act, during his tenure in Congress.
Hull was a vocal advocate of the United States taking a leading role in international affairs of the world, and he had worked hard to create an agreement with Japan in an effort to avoid war. Unfortunately, these efforts failed and the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred.
A "Shakedown Cruise" refers to the initial open water testing phase a new ship undergoes after its construction and before its formal commissioning into service. During this cruise, the ship is subjected to simulations of real-life working conditions to allow the crew to familiarize themselves with the vessel and to ensure it is fully functional.
The term is believed to have originated during the transition from sail to steam power, when early engines would create vibrations causing parts of the ship to come loose or "shake down." Historically, crews were sent with newly built ships on their maiden voyages to handle these issues and make necessary repairs. For example, the USS Arizona underwent a shakedown cruise in 1916, which led to the discovery of a stripped turbine, necessitating repairs.
An "overhaul" in naval terminology refers to the comprehensive maintenance and modernization process a ship undergoes when it returns to port. During an overhaul, a ship may undergo repairs, have fixtures replaced, or be modernized to incorporate new technology or weaponry. For example, in 1919, the USS Arizona had an overhaul where six 5” guns were removed and its fire control system was modernized.
Even during wartime, ships could be ordered back to port for overhauls. An overhaul might focus on enhancements, as seen with the USS Arizona, or repairs, as with the USS Pennsylvania in 1943 after participating in bombardments. Over the course of their service, ships in the Pacific Fleet, including those at Pearl Harbor, typically underwent multiple overhauls.
Yes, before World War II, Japan awarded medals of friendship and peace to several individuals in the United States to symbolize the positive relations between the two nations. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, decided to return these medals to Japan. They were sent to the deck of the USS Hornet and during a ceremony, each medal was strapped to a 500-pound bomb. These bombs, carrying the medals, were then dropped on Tokyo during the air raid led by James H. Doolittle on April 18, 1942.