The Oil Leak at The USS Arizona Memorial: A Moving Yet Controversial Site

Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial is one of the most moving experiences you’ll ever have as a traveler.

It’s a beautiful memorial but one of the things that sticks out when you visit is the oil leak.

It’s a leak that is moving to witness but also controversial with a lot of people worried about the environmental impact from the oil spilling out over the decades.

Below, I’ll give you more information on the oil leak and explain both sides of the debate while also giving you practical advice on how to view the site yourself.

What is the oil leak at the USS Arizona?

On December 7, 1941 the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor in Oahu.

The Japanese destroyed or damaged 19 Navy ships, including 8 battleships, one of which was the USS Arizona which suffered a fireball explosion killing 1,177 men on board. This amounted to nearly half of the total deaths that day at Pearl Harbor.

Unlike other ships that could be salvaged, only parts of the USS Arizona could be salvaged and the majority of the ship remained submerged below the shallow waters of the harbor.

The USS Arizona was topped off with oil the day before the attack and after being sent to the bottom of the harbor with 1.5 million gallons (5.7 million liters) of oil aboard it has constantly leaked oil from its submerged tanks for decades.

The amount of oil that leaks every day varies but estimates are that it leaks up to nine quarts of oil every day. That’s approximately up to 1 gallon per day.

It’s believed between 14,000 and 64,000 gallons of oil have leaked from the USS Arizona since the attack but about 0.5 million gallons (1.9 million liters) remain.

Related: USS Arizona Memorial Review (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii)

Did you know? Oil is also leaking from the USS Utah although it seems that much less is known about that oil leak.

The Oil Leak at The USS Arizona Memorial

Why do they still allow the oil to leak?

There are two main reasons why the oil is allowed to leak.

First, the site is an active military cemetery and stopping the leak could force them to disturb the cemetery and potentially result in an environmental catastrophe.

Second, the leaking oil contains symbolic importance and is part of the experience for many people.

Active military cemetery

The USS Arizona is considered an active military burial site.

More than 900 of the 1,177 servicemen who died aboard the USS Arizona remain entombed in the ship. 

In addition, over 44 survivors of the attack have chosen to have their urns placed within the turret of the ship.

You have to step back and remember this was one of the worst losses of life in American military history that rivaled Normandy on D-Day.

Moreover, the Arizona Memorial is a memorial for all members of the armed services who lost their life in Pearl Harbor. And by extension, it kind of serves as a memorial to all of those who died in World War II in the Pacific Theater.

It’s easily one of the most sacred places in the US.

Therefore, the military and the National Park Service want to interfere with it as little as possible out of respect for all of the fallen sailors and marines.

By taking actions to prevent the oil from leaking, it’s possible they will have to significantly impact the structure of the ship which would disturb the fallen’s final resting place.

“We just don’t know if the oil is creating pressure in the tanks that’s helping the structural integrity of the ship,” said the National Park Service’s Bojakowski according to CivilBeat.

“I wish I had more studies but I do know that there are a lot of really dedicated government employees who are very passionate about the environment and cultural resources and are working hard to kind of answer those (questions).

And in addition to disturbing the cemetery, if the efforts to contain the leak are not successful, it could result in an environmental catastrophe.

It’s a moving and symbolic site

The oil leak, also called the “Arizona tears” or “black tears” is also a visually moving site to witness.

When you see it in person it sort of connects you to the ship and all of the lives lost in a way that closes the gap on the many decades since the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Think of it this way: you are seeing oil that may have been refilled the day before the attack and there is just something surreal about that experience.

It’s also hard not to feel the symbolism from the glistening black tears when standing quietly on the memorial — it’s as if the ship is still mourning from the attack.

I’ve personally never experienced anything quite like it.

I think the Navy and National Park Service are well aware of this effect and it’s just another major reason why they are reluctant to remove the oil.

Environmental impact and Marine life

While the leaking oil is a moving site, it’s also something that is no doubt impacting the environment in a negative way.

The question is: just how much of a negative impact does it have?

It’s reported that the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have all completed studies on the impact of the oil leak although the results of the studies don’t appear to be widely publicized.

The Department of Defense back in 2008 did their own 500+ page report and found:

Arizona’s hull does not appear to be in any danger of imminent collapse, and consequently there is no urgency to remove the oil to preserve the environment or prevent “environmental catastrophe.”

But they also stated more research is “needed to inform management decisions that address the actual environmental impact of the Arizona oil release.”

So it seems there is still a lot of unknown when it comes to the long-term effects of this oil leak and which steps to take to correct it. (Funding seems to have been an issue here.)

We do know that lots of marine animals currently inhabit the USS Arizona.

You can find coral growing on the ship and marine animals like sea turtles, seahorses, sharks, and several types of fish abound in the area. In fact, during our visit we saw a sea turtle swim to the surface over the ship.

There’s debate over what this presence of marine life means for the environmental impact.

On the one hand, the presence of such marine life means that life is still able to survive/thrive in this area. In fact, some forms of algae or bacteria might be thriving too much and could be contributing to the deterioration of the hull.

On the other hand, more marine life means more animals impacted by the oil leak.

Even if there is no danger of an imminent environmental catastrophe (based on the outdated report from 2008), the long-term exposure to the toxins in the oil could be having detrimental effects on different forms of marine life.

Sea turtle at USS Arizona Memorial

How to see the oil leak at the USS Arizona

In order to get a close glimpse of the oil leak at the USS Arizona, you’ll need to make a proper visit to the USS Arizona Memorial.

The memorial is located at Pearl Harbor and you’ll take a short boat shuttle ride from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to the USS Arizona Memorial.

You want to make reservations for the shuttle boat a few weeks before your visit to ensure that you have a spot and it will cost one dollar per person to make the reservation. Otherwise, the experience is free.

They do offer paid audio guides you can purchase to enhance your experience.

Also, at the visitor center you’ll find different ways to immerse yourself in the history of the USS Arizona such as through museum exhibits and even virtual reality.

Once you make it to the memorial, you’ll be walking above the USS Arizona that is mostly sunken.

The oil from the ship can pop up just about anywhere depending on the current and there’s never a guarantee of how much oil you’ll see.

I’ve seen aerial photos showing the oil flowing from either side of the ship/memorial and I’ve even seen photos with no visible oil on the water’s surface.

In our case, there was a steady stream of oil bubbling up the entire time we visited.

By the way, we have a detailed guide on visiting Pearl Harbor and all of the different sites so be sure to check that out if you haven’t already.

How long will the oil leak for?

The National Park Service estimates it could continue to leak oil for 500 years. That’s assuming that there is no intervention until that time and that the ship does not deteriorate before then.

If the environmental concerns continue to mount, I think there’s a good chance that something might be done about the leak before then.

It also sounds like while there may not be imminent danger of a structural collapse we don’t really know how quickly the ship will deteriorate. Things could rapidly change from decade to decade.

It seems that studies are still taking place to learn about the deterioration effects and some people estimate that the ship will only hold its current form for a few more decades.

Final word

Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial is easily one of the most moving experiences you can have in Hawaii.

Catching the black tears from the oil leak adds an element to the experience that almost acts as a time machine making your visit all the more memorable.

But there do appear to be some serious environmental concerns that may need to be dealt with in the near future, so it’s not clear to me how much longer the oil leak will be visible.

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum Review [2022]

When Pearl Harbor was attacked almost all of the damage came from the air and perhaps the best place to get a sense of what those enemy attackers looked like is the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

It’s one of the attractions located on historic Ford Island and it’s definitely worth adding to your itinerary if you can find the time.

Below, I’ll explain more about the museum and give you an idea of what you can expect when you visit including highlighting some of the most interesting things to check out.

What is the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum?

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is home to several aircraft and original artifacts involved in the Pearl Harbor attacks.

You’ll explore two airport hangars, an outdoor aircraft lot, and a control tower, which all allow you to experience the unique history of this place in a different way.

This museum is special in that it is located at ground zero for the Pearl Harbor attacks.

I’ve been to some aviation museums before and always enjoyed my time but this one just feels different. The history is palpable.

Tip: If you want to buy tickets to multiple Pearl Harbor attractions (USS Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri) check out this option online.

How to visit the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is located on historic Ford Island, Hawaii, which is an active military base that can only be accessed by a shuttle bus (unless you have some other type of special permission).

The shuttle bus station is located on the north side of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Visitor Center. It’s basically on the opposite side of the station for the shuttle boat to the USS Arizona Memorial.

If you plan on visiting the USS Missouri and USS Oklahoma Memorial, you should first get dropped off by the bus at that stop and then when you finish up there you can hop back on the shuttle bus and make your way to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

That will make things a lot easier because the shuttle bus only runs one way.

Shuttles depart every 15 minutes from 8am to 5pm daily but the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is only open from 9am to 5pm.

For security purposes, no bags are allowed on the shuttle bus to Ford Island.

A bag storage facility at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park shuttle bus stop can store your belongings for a fee of $5.00 per bag. Credit cards are accepted.

You can buy tickets for the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum online or in-person at the following rates:

  • Adults: $25.99
  • Children: $15.99 (ages 4-12)

Experiencing the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

Hangar 37

Your first stop will be Hangar 37, where the shuttle bus will drop you off.

When the attack happened, this hangar housed nine Grumman J2F “Ducks” and nine Sikorsky JRS-1s.

Soldiers on the ground used the mounted machine guns on the grounded J2Fs to defend the island. Meanwhile, five JRS-1s departed Hangar 37 to find the Japanese fleet (but were unsuccessful).

The hangar also provided shelter to the survivors of the battleship USS California.

So thousands of lives were permanently altered on the grounds you’re stepping on and countless acts of bravery took place on these premises.

Getting started

After showing your tickets to the front desk you will begin your journey to the museum.

You should see the gift shop and the Laniākea Cafe restaurant located right by the entrance and also nearby is a 200-person theater that you can pop into to catch a short film about Pearl Harbor.

That will give you some history and then you’ll be ready to head into the main part of the museum.

Mitsubishi A6M Zero

One of the main attractions at the museum is the Mitsubishi A6M Zero or simply “Zero,” which is the name used for these Japanese planes made by Mitsubishi.

They get their name from the last digit of the year that they were launched which was the year 2600 according to the Japanese Imperial calendar.

These were state of the art planes and the most equipped carrier planes when they were launched in 1940. Japan also produced more of these (10,000+) than any other model of combat aircraft.

Their lightweight design made them extremely fast and maneuverable and gave them a lot of range but also made them vulnerable to gunfire. Nine Zeros were shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Eventually, weaknesses in the Zero were discovered and the US would capitalize on them by altering their strategies of engagement.

As the Allies became more advanced with their aircraft tactics, the Zero became increasingly outdated and eventually was adapted for kamikaze attacks.

Mitsubishi A6M Zero
This specific aircraft was used in combat in the Solomon Islands in 1943.

Zero Nishikaichi (the Niihau incident)

At first glance, the remains of the The Zero Nishikaichi look like in an uninteresting pile of scrap. But these rusted remnants are actually part of a fascinating story related to the Pearl Harbor attacks.

Pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi flew this Zero during the second wave of attacks and was forced to make a crash landing on the island of Niihau, which is just off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

A local Hawaiian, Kaleohano, then discovered him and took his papers and pistol.

Kaleohano did not know about the attack on Pearl Harbor yet but he realized this was a Japanese pilot and knew that relationships were strained between the US and Japan.

The locals provided a hospitable welcome for the pilot but struggled to communicate with him so they brought in two Hawaiians of Japanese descent, the Haradas.

Nishikaichi shared the news of the Pearl Harbor attack in Japanese with the couple but they kept that news a secret.

This married couple had sympathy for the pilot and would end up trying to help Nishikaichi escape the island while also attempting to retrieve his confidential papers and pistol.

But as locals on the island discovered what happened at Pearl Harbor via radio broadcast, they quickly turned on Nishikaichi.

Ultimately, a situation played out overnight where Nishikaichi and Harada, armed with a shotgun and pistol, stormed Kaleohano’s house only for him to get away.

Nishikaichi and Harada then initiated a manhunt for Kaleohano, while putting the island intro a frenzy.

Ben Kanahele, who had been captured along with his wife by the duo, ended up getting into a fight with them. During the scuffle, Kanahele killed Nishikaichi with a hunting knife despite being shot three times by the pilot.

Meanwhile, Harada took his own life with a shotgun.

It was a very crazy situation and unfortunately it was likely a contributing factor to the government setting up Japanese internment camps based on an official Navy report dated January 26, 1942.

Nishikaichi burned his Zero which is partly why the exhibit looks the way it does. Image via creative commons.

Nakajima B5N “Kate”

There’s also a Nakajima B5N or just “Kate,” which was the first all metal monoplane aircraft in the Imperial Japanese arsenal.

Japan’s premier carrier-based torpedo bomber, these were integral to the Pearl Harbor attack and 144 of these planes took part in the attack, arriving in both waves.

They also played a role in battles at the Coral Sea, Midway, and Santa Cruz Islands.

The Kate you’ll see at the museum is an extremely rare find.

In fact, it’s one of only two Kates in existence, even though over 1,000 were produced.

Nakajima B5N “Kate”

Boeing N2S-3 Stearman (Trainer)

The “big yellow plane” hanging in the museum is the Boeing N2S-3 Stearman.

This one is especially noteworthy because it was used by former President George H. W. Bush Bush on December 15, 1942, while participating in flight training at Naval Air Station, Minneapolis, MN.

Another interesting aircraft to check out is the Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, which was used by the US to combat the Zeros and quite a successful US Naval fighter. It was famously used a lot when pilots engaged in the “Thach Weave” (video)

There are some other interesting exhibits to check out in the hangar.

One of the more helpful exhibits was a large diagram that illustrates the first and second waves of the Pearl Harbor attacks.

It does a really good job of giving you an idea of the direction that the attacks came from and also showing you some of the other targets that were hit on Oahu.

Fighter Ace 360 Flight Simulators

If you’re looking for a bit of a thrill ride then consider giving the Fighter Ace 360 Flight Simulators a try.

My biggest regret on visiting the museum is that we did not try this out because in retrospect it looks freaking awesome.

It’s only about $22 for two people and this thing can take you fully inverted for the ultimate flight experience.

You can experience a dog fight with Thunder in the Pacific or get futuristic and partake in some space travel with Quantum Star Fighter.

Outdoor collection

Once you get finished with Hangar 37 you will head outside and make your way to Hangar 79 but on the way you’ll probably want to make a pitstop at the outdoor collection.

Between the two hangers there is an outdoor area where different helicopters and planes are on display.

You’ve probably heard of the Blackhawk but have you heard of the Seahawk?

One helicopter that stuck out to me was the Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk which was sort of the Navy’s version of the Blackhawk.

Equipped with one torpedo on each side, a 30mm gun, and Hellfire missiles, it specialized in anti-submarine warfare, mine clearing, anti-ship warfare, and insertion of Navy SEALS.

If you look on the left side of the helicopter you’ll see 25 tube openings which look a bit peculiar. These are made to send out sonobuoys that allow a crew to detect submarines.

Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk

There’s quite a few aircraft outside so you’ll want to allocate some time to wander around and check these out.

Raytheon Pavilion

The Raytheon pavilion is located between the two hangers and it houses an “ever-changing roster of experiences with traveling exhibits.”

When we visited, there was an exhibition on Bob Hope who was a comedian, actor and entertainer who helped keep the spirits high for service men and women on the front lines of World War II.

Hangar 79

The other major structure that makes up the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is Hangar 79.

Hangar 79 was undergoing a lot of construction when we were there and the vast majority of the hangar was blocked off.

Hangar 79 Pearl harbor

Once inside, we got a glimpse of one of the Blue Angels and the B-17 “Swamp Ghost.”

This B-17 aircraft, which originally arrived in Honolulu 10 days after the Pearl Harbor attack, has a pretty fascinating story as the pilot had to perform an emergency landing in Agaiambo Swamp in Australia.

The aircraft remained there for decades and only recently was restored and brought back to the US in 2014.

We also saw the Shealy Restoration Shop in action, which is a “genuine aircraft restoration shop that maintains and restores authentic aircraft from World War II and beyond.”

If you want to go behind the scenes of the restoration shop, book the guided Legends of Pearl Harbor Tour.

While I enjoyed exploring the hangar, I don’t believe we were able to get the full experience that Hangar 79 typically has to offer since so many things were blocked off.

Still, one thing that we did see were all of the bullet holes in the windows which are from the Pearl Harbor attack.

To me, that is the most moving aspect of the entire museum.

Hangar 79 Pearl harbor windows
Hangar 79 Pearl harbor windows bullet holes

Control Tower

It was at this control tower where the first radio broadcast of the attack on Pearl Harbor was made at 8:05 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941.


At the time of the radio announcement, the structure was being bombed and windows on the lower levels were shattering.

The Control Tower at Pearl Harbor has undergone a lot of recent renovations but unfortunately those were not fully complete when we visited.

But soon the tower will be complete and you’ll be able to take an elevator all the way to the top where you will have 360° views of Ford Island and the surrounding harbor.

Final word

It felt like our experience here was a little bit limited because of some of the ongoing renovations but it was still worth checking out.

You’ll no doubt feel the history as you wander the premises and check out everything from the bullet holes left in the windows to some of the rare aircraft on display.

During my time on the shuttle bus, I overheard people talking about skipping the aviation museum but I would highly recommend you to give it a shot because there’s a lot to take in here.

USS Missouri “Mighty Mo” Review (Pearl Harbor) [2022]

Pearl Harbor in Hawaii is full of interesting and historical sites to see and one of those sites is the USS Missouri aka the Mighty Mo.

It’s one of the most iconic and symbolic attractions at Pearl Harbor and it’s arguably the most famous battleship in the world.

But what exactly is there to see at this ship and what can you expect when you visit?

In this article, I’ll give you a breakdown of the major highlights of the USS Missouri and also give you an idea of what to expect when you walk its historic decks.

What is the USS Missouri?

Launched on January 29, 1944, the USS Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and it’s well known for its “surrender deck” which was the site where the Empire of Japan surrendered, officially ending World War II.

Today, you can explore many rooms and quarters of the ship on a self-guided tour as part of one of the many enriching experiences at Pearl Harbor.

How to visit the USS Missouri

The USS Missouri is located on historic Ford Island, Hawaii, which is an active military base that can only be accessed by a shuttle bus (unless you have some other type of special permission).

The shuttle bus station is located on the north side of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Visitor Center. It’s basically on the opposite side of the USS Arizona Memorial shuttle boat station.

You’ll load into the shuttle bus and be taken over the bridge to Ford Island and during your ride your bus driver might give you some history into Pearl Harbor.

Once you make your way to the military base, you are forbidden to take photos from the bus until you get out so keep that in mind.

USS Missouri shuttle bus

Your first shuttle bus stop will be the USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum will be your second stop.

If you plan on visiting both the USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum then you should first get off at the USS Missouri because the shuttle bus only runs one way.

Shuttles depart every 15 minutes from 8am to 5pm daily and the USS Missouri is open from 8am to 4pm (you must present your ticket before 3pm).

For security purposes, no bags are allowed on the shuttle bus to Ford Island.

A bag storage facility at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park shuttle bus stop can store your belongings for a fee of $5.00 per bag. Credit cards are accepted.

You can buy general admission tickets for the USS Missouri online or in-person at the following rates:

  • Adults: $34.99
  • Children: $17.49 (ages 4-12)

Tip: If you want to buy tickets to multiple Pearl Harbor attractions (USS Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri) check out this option online.

USS Missouri entrance

USS Missouri (brief) history

The USS Missouri was launched on January 29, 1944, as part of the Iowa class battleships ordered in 1939 and 1940 and designed in part to ensure the US could compete against the faster Japanese fleets.

Although plans were made for the next generation class of battleships which would’ve been even bigger, the Iowa class ended up being the last class of battleships and the USS Missouri was the final US battleship created.

The Missouri arrived at the latter end of World War II but just in time to provide support for other vessels and inflict damage at the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

During the war she provided anti-aircraft support for aircraft carriers and helped to bombard the shores of places like Okinawa. In August of 1945 it was decided that the official surrender of Japan would take place on the USS Missouri.

After World War II, she would then go on to fight in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, where during two deployments she inflicted considerable damage to many locations along the Korean coast.

In 1955, she was decommissioned and after about three decades she was reactivated after being modernized in 1984.

She’d go on to provide support in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, where she fired newly installed Tomahawk missiles and also fired her 16-inch guns in anger for the last time.

After being decommissioned on March 31,1992, and after much bidding from other states, it was decided that the perfect docking place for the Missouri’s final chapter would be Pearl Harbor.

In 1998 she was towed across the Pacific to Ford Island and then in 1999 she opened as a ship museum.

USS Missouri with World War II camouflage.
USS Missouri with World War II camouflage.

Experiencing the “Mighty Mo”

There’s a ton to see at the Mighty Mo but when it comes to the things you have to see, make sure you check these out:

  • Main Battery Turret
  • Surrender Deck and plaque
  • Bridge
  • Kamikaze Deck (make sure you see the “dent”)
  • Second Level

When touring the ship, you should be able to wander anywhere that is not restricted, so just be on the lookout for those signs. It’s possible that during the pandemic more things are blocked off.

Getting on the ship

As soon as you get off the shuttle bus, you can proceed to the Missouri but don’t forget that you can also walk across the street and check out the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

It’s a well-done memorial to all of those who lost their life in the USS Oklahoma and it’s also much less crowded than other spots so it’s worth a visit.

Once you head to the entrance area you’ll walk towards the ship where you should see a line or at least someone attending a station and they will scan your tickets.

You’ll then make your way up to the main deck of the ship and begin your tour.

Note: if you think you need to use the bathroom I would recommend going to the bathrooms located just near the shuttle stop.

Your driver should tell you about these bathrooms but they are located in a building just in front of the main entrance (across from the USS Oklahoma Memorial).

There is a bathroom on the ship but there’s only one and it’s easy for you to get stuck in the middle of a maze inside the ship so it is best for you to just go before you head inside the ship.

Main Battery Turret

One of the most impressive things you’ll see on the Missouri is the Main Battery Turret and this should be your first stop on the tour.

This battleship came armed with nine 16-inch guns, 20 five-inch guns, 80 40mm anti-aircraft guns, and 49 20mm anti-aircraft guns.

But it’s the nine 16-inch/50-caliber Mark 7 guns that really stick out.

The size of these 66 foot long guns is hard to fathom until you are standing beneath them. You can only imagine how loud these suckers were when they fired upon the enemy at about two rounds per minute.

USS Missouri Main Battery Turret 16"

To get a sense of what this looked like and probably felt like, take a look at the image below which shows the sound waves blasting through the surface of the ocean.

And just imagine how much force was output when all of the guns were firing broadside. It was truly a spectacle.

USS Missouri firing during the Korean War.

You can see the size of one of the shells just below the barrels of the gun. These guns could fire projectiles weighing up to 2,700-pounds, which is just incredible.

What’s even crazier is that the Japanese built a battleship with even bigger guns which could handle 18 inch shells.

That was known as the Yamato and it was sunk during the battle of Okinawa after being hit with multiple bombs and torpedoes.

USS Missouri Main Battery Turret 16"
Each turret required a crew ranging from 85 to 110 men.

These guns were great for bombarding shorelines prior to amphibious invasions and destroying structures like bunkers.

They could fire up to 24 miles away with good accuracy and were used in the battle of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and also in the Korean and Gulf War.

While these guns were extremely powerful, the Navy realized during World War II that carriers could be utilized better and that is largely why battleships were phased out.

After checking out the turret, you’ll head towards Surrender Deck which will require you to go up a steep ladder.

I believe they have an elevator that can also take you up so if you have mobility issues you can still see Surrender Deck. Read more about the accessibility here.

Surrender Deck

The main attraction of the USS Missouri has to be Surrender Deck, since you really can’t get any more historic than this location.

This is the site where Japanese commanders signed the official instrument of surrender, thus ending World War II in a 23-minute ceremony.

A whole lineup of generals from the US and from other countries were present at the signing and you can stand in the same exact spot where these famed military officials once stood.

USS Missouri surrender deck historical photo
USS Missouri surrender deck

Initially, the surrender ceremony was scheduled to take place on August, 31, 1945.

Sailors were ordered to get the ship ready for the ceremony and performed cleaning and even paint jobs on the ship. However, bad weather delayed the ceremony until September 2, 1945.

On that day, at 9:02am, General MacArthur opened the surrender ceremony with these words:

“It is my earnest hope—indeed the hope of all mankind—that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.”

This moment is memorialized with a plaque that is set into Surender Deck of the USS Missouri.

USS Missouri surrender deck plaque

When you arrive at Surender Deck, there should be a guide there who will tell you some of the story around the surrender.

This is also a great opportunity to ask any questions you might have so it would help if you did a little bit of research before your visit and come with a couple of questions because chances are this guide will know the answers.

In addition to the plaque, there is also an exhibit with duplicates of the surrender papers which were signed at 9:25am to close out the ceremony.

Something that’s a little funny is that U.S. General Richard Sutherland had to fix some signatures because several Allied officers mistakenly signed in the wrong place. Talk about an awkward experience.

This article from Life has a lot of photos from the ceremony that gives you a good idea of what the scene looked like.

USS Missouri surrender deck signature papers

In one of those images you may notice an old (backwards) American flag in the background and you’ll see a duplicate of this flag at surrender deck.

It’s a flag used by Commodore Matthew C. Perry when he arrived at Tokyo Bay in July 1853 to deliver a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan with the hopes of opening diplomatic and trade relations with Japan, which had isolated itself for two centuries.

The flag was one of the demands by Gen. MacArthur and during the surrender ceremony he brought it up in his speech.

“We stand in Tokyo today, reminiscent of our countryman, Commodore Perry, 92 years ago. His purpose was to bring to Japan an era of enlightenment and progress by lifting the veil of isolation to the friendship, trade, and commerce of the world. But alas, the knowledge thereby gained of Western science was forged into an instrument of oppression and human enslavement.”

The final stamp on the surrender ceremony had to be the flyover which included 465 B-29s.

This was nothing short of a force demonstration that would rid Japan of any doubts about changing their minds on the surrender.

It would also send a message to other participants in the audience including those from Russia.

These B-29s would take a special route so that they could loop back around and make it appear as if the US was equipped with 2 to 3 times more of these aircraft than we actually had.

Not every B-29 pilot was thrilled with this request, though.

The Smithsonian notes that “the average B-29 crewman was much more likely to die in an accident or a mechanical failure than from enemy action.”

These pilots were taking on a 15-hour trip over 3,000 miles of ocean in subpar weather.

They’d be forced to fly much lower than originally planned and to do so in an already crowded air space with hundreds of aircraft.

This was not your typical football game fly over.

With many of the B-29 pilots having been through plenty of close calls and emergency landings, I’m sure there was a lot of reservations about the risk versus reward.

Still, other pilots embraced the experience and even went on “sightseeing tours” over Tokyo to view the decimated city in the daytime for the first time since their bombings usually took place at night.

The B-29s ended up arriving shortly after the final signatures were made and they put on an impressive showing.

U.S. Navy carrier aircraft fly over Tokyo Bay

Captain’s cabin & Bridge

After experiencing all of that history, you can then make your way to a few more interesting spots up on the deck including the Captain’s Cabin.

As you make your way up to and around the bridge, you come across a special view of the USS Arizona Memorial.

You’ll notice that the Missouri’s guns point right over the remains of the USS Arizona.

It’s meant to be a symbolic gesture that the Missouri is watching over the Arizona and all of those sailors and marines who were entombed within it.

As you look out to the memorial you realize it’s quite fitting that the Missouri is located at Pearl Harbor since this place marked the beginning of World War II and the Missouri is where it ended.

I thought this view from inside the bridge was one of the most impressive views in Pearl Harbor.

One could only imagine the type of scenes that were viewed from these same windows throughout the decades.

Next, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the conning tower. Take note of how thick the walls are.

I also thought it was interesting that they still had the naval signal lamp which was used to send communications to other ships, usually with Morse code.

They would be able to output no more than 14 words per minute, so sailors either had to be very concise or patient with their messaging.

You can still pull the levers today, so feel free to give it a try.

Kamikaze Deck

As you come back down onto the main deck you have a chance to check out Kamikaze Deck which is another major point of interest on the Missouri.

This marks where, on 11 April 1945, a 19-year-old kamikaze attacker, Setuso Ishino, crashed a Zero into the ship’s hull during the battle of Okinawa.

Thankfully, there were no casualties from this attack and only superficial damage to the ship.

However, kamikaze attackers did do a lot of damage especially during the battle of Okinawa when they essentially went all out.

As of late June of 1945, it’s reported that around 10,000 US sailors and marines had been killed or injured by kamikaze attacks and 30 ships had been sunk with an additional 400 or so damaged.

Kamikaze attackers were so difficult to stop that they forced US forces to bulk up on anti-aircraft fire power including more ships and more personnel.

There’s a few interesting things to note about this kamikaze attack at Okinawa.

You can still see the dent from this attack if you look over the side of the ship between frames 159 and 165.

Photo by Wally Gobetz.

There’s a photograph of the Zero (or Zeke) just before it slams into the ship. It’s such a rare moment that I can’t imagine there being many (if any) other photographs like it.

Equally impressive is that it was taken by Len Schmidt, the cook assigned to the USS Missouri.

Zero kamikaze slamming into USS Missouri.

After the plane hit the Missouri, a machine gun from the plane broke off and impaled one of the turret guns.

There is a picture of that scene and it’s pretty remarkable how that happened.

Finally, the crew recovered the body of the kamikaze attacker and gave him a proper sea burial.

This was ordered by the captain of the ship, William Callaghan and it came at the protest of many sailors, especially when he called for the burial to take place with a Japanese war flag.

Callaghan’s reasoning for the ceremony was that he wanted:

“A tribute to a fellow warrior who had displayed courage and devotion, and who had paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life, fighting for his country.”

It’s kind of unfathomable to me that a crew would be able to show this kind of humanity during such a brutal war but there’s probably something to be said about the perspective it helped to maintain for some sailors.

The second deck tour

Right after you get done exploring everything above, you have the decision on whether or not you want to go down to the second deck.

The entire second deck will probably take you 30 to 40 minutes to explore.

I did not have a map and was able to get through it all without any major issues because the doorways and walls are marked with arrows so you pretty much always know where you need to go.

Personally, I would highly recommend that you head down there to check everything out because it will give you a sense of what life was like on a battleship like this.

It’s also a nice way to get a break from the heat if you are visiting on a warm day.

It’s kind of easy to miss the ladder down to the second deck but it is in the little outhouse looking building located underneath the middle gun in the photo below.

You can check out the second deck photos below.

For the most part, it’s pretty obvious what you’re looking at and a lot of times you’ll see signs describing to you what you see.

Once you finish up your tour you can head back down to the pier and there are quite a few different places to grab food, snacks, and souvenirs.

You’ll probably be spending around $10-$15 depending on if you want a burger or something a little bit more substantial like shrimp, fish and chips, etc. But you can also find refreshments to get you by like Dole Whips.

Related: Dole Plantation Review (Worth it or Tourist Trap?)

Before you leave make sure you check out the iconic statue of a sailor kissing his partner.

USS Missouri kissing statue

As you exit the Missouri area, you’ll head back to a covered pavilion with a lot of benches where you can wait for the shuttle bus.

After the tourists exit the bus they will signal for you to board and you can head to the next stop which is the Aviation Museum.

If you don’t want to visit that museum then just stay on the bus and you will be taken back to the visitor center.

Final word

I think the USS Missouri is a must when you come to Pearl Harbor. The ship itself and all of its armory is a spectacle but it’s hard to beat the history on the ship with Surrender Deck.

Even if you don’t have the time or the energy to tour the entire lower deck it would still be worth it to just come and check out the main deck and perhaps grab a bite to eat.

USS Bowfin Submarine Review (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii) [2022]

One of the must-see attractions when visiting Pearl Harbor in Hawaii is the USS Bowfin submarine.

It’s one of the only places where you can actually go inside the tight quarters of a submarine from World War II and it’s a really cool experience, especially if you’ve never even seen a submarine before.

Below, I’ll give you some tips and guidance so that you will be prepared for your USS Bowfin Submarine visit.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus overview

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus is one part of the Pearl Harbor experience and it’s home to the:

In my personal opinion, the USS Bowfin submarine is the primary attraction here but the museum is also pretty cool, too. This article will just focus on the USS Bowfin Submarine experience.

Tip: If you want to buy tickets to multiple Pearl Harbor attractions (USS Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri) check out this option online.

USS Bowfin

How to visit the USS Bowfin Submarine

The USS Bowfin Submarine is located on the north side of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial area. After you go through the main entrance, you will head to the right to make your way to the submarine.

You should see signs pointing you the right way but basically it’s on the opposite side of where you line up for the USS Arizona shuttle boat.

It’s pretty close to where you hop on the shuttle bus to take you over to Ford Island where you can visit the USS Missouri, USS Oklahoma Memorial, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

Related: Pearl Harbor Ultimate Guide

You will need to buy tickets in order to visit the USS Bowfin and here are the prices for the tickets:

• Adult General: $21.99
• Children General (4-12 years): $12.99

Military members and Kama’aina can get discounts:

• Adult (Military and Kama’aina): $16.99
• Child (Military and Kama’aina): $8.99

You can buy these online or you can buy them whenever you get there but I would advise you to just secure them online.

You’ll have to select the date of your visit but you do not have to lock in a specific time slot.

You can choose to do an audio tour if you’d like (they have a kid’s version and an adult’s version). If you don’t do the audio tour, you should be able to get through the submarine in about 30 to 45 minutes.

Once you have your tickets, you can bring them in printed form or digital form on your mobile device and someone at the entrance of the museum area will scan them and let you in.

The good thing about these tickets is that you can leave and come back.

So let’s say that you had a tour of the USS Arizona coming up and you need to head over there to catch your shuttle, you could always just come back later on and see the rest of the USS Bowfin submarine area that you missed.

USS Bowfin submarine history

The USS Bowfin launched on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which is why she is known as the “Pearl Harbor avenger.”

In World War II, the USS Bowfin conducted nine war patrols between 1943 and 1945 and most of her patrols were in the South China Sea, Celebes Sea, off the East coast of Japan, and into the Sea of Japan.

Each patrol was a couple of months long and you never quite knew what to expect.

Some patrols were almost entirely uneventful with no confirmed hits on vessels while others were insanely busy with many close calls from depth charges.

I’d recommend you check out this history that chronicles all of the different patrols.

You get a sense of the cat and mouse game that the submarines played with other vessels and also an idea of how many torpedoes simply missed or malfunctioned in some type of way.

USS Bowfin – 75 Years, 9 Million Visitors Later - Pearl Harbor
The USS Bowfin. Image via Pear Harbor.

Looking at all of the combined patrols, the USS Bowfin did a lot of damage

The Bowfin’s four commanding officers believed she sank 179,646 tons (including 34 large vessels) but the Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC) credited Bowfin with 67,882 tons sunk (16 vessels of that tonnage plus 22 smaller craft). 

Regardless of the exact figure, the fact that she had so many successful patrols and made it back so many times is significant.

Submarines were one of the most dangerous places you could be during World War II and they had one of the highest fatality rates (1 in 5).

In many ways, because World War II was the most fatal war for submariners in US history, the USS Bowfin is a memorial to all of the submariners who lost their life in “silent service” during World War II.

And that’s fitting considering the USS Bowfin is considered to be the best preserved and most visited submarine that served during World War II.

USS Bowfin Submarine
The USS Bowfin crew. Image via Pear Harbor.

The USS Bowfin Submarine experience

Once you verify your tickets you have the opportunity to choose which submarine attraction you want to visit first and I would personally recommend going to the USS Bowfin submarine first.

You’ll take the walkway to the deck of the submarine and then you’ll see an entry hatch to take a steep stairway ladder down.

Watch your head as you enter and as you make your way through all of the different compartments.

USS Bowfin
USS Bowfin at sunrise.
USS Bowfin entrance

Immediately, we dropped into the forward torpedo room, where bunks were literally on top of torpedoes which was just wild.

USS Bowfin forward torpedo room

Apparently, these bunks became prime real estate because they are so far removed from their busy corridors in the middle of the submarine.

Not only would they be quieter but also cooler since they were farther away from the engine room. To help the sailors sleep, only a red light would remain on in this dark compartment.

I never realized that submarines had both front and aft (back) side torpedoes so they could launch them in either direction.

In total, the sub would carry 24 torpedoes, which doesn’t really sound like a lot when you consider that they would be underway for two months but it just goes to show how selective they had to be with their targets.

At the end of the forward torpedo room, you’ll see the officer’s head (bathroom area) and from there, you’ll head into the forward battery compartment.

USS Bowfin hatch

You’ll see the ward room which is where the officers ate their meals and across from that you’ll also see where they slept (berthing area).

Although the officers had their own eating area, everyone on the submarine apparently ate the same food.

USS Bowfin ward room
USS Bowfin officers beds

Next, you’ll come across the stateroom which is where the captain slept. The lucky captain was the only sailor to have his own personal bedroom.

Considering the magnitude of the decisions he had to make on a daily basis, it’s probably a good thing he got some good rest in a private room.

USS Bowfin stateroom

Next is the “ship’s office” which is basically a closet where someone worked on a typewriter and helped keep track of all of the admin tasks. It’s pretty tight working quarters but what would you expect on a submarine?

USS Bowfin office

After that, it’s time to head through another portal to the control room.

This is where they controlled the steering of the ship and also initiated the dives when it was time for the submarine to submerge.

The goal was for them to submerge in less than one minute. Every second counted.

After reading some of the patrol reports, I realized just how up-and-down the submarines would be during battles at sea.

I can’t imagine the adrenaline and focus flowing through this room during those times as they rode out depth charge explosions for hours.

Prepare to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of controls and valves located all around you.

Keep in mind that all of the different stations were manned by different sailors and when it came to things like surfacing or submerging, there needed to be perfect synchrony to avoid any catastrophic outcomes.

It’s no surprise then that submariners were some of the best sailors as it wasn’t easy to become one.

If you were one of the lucky volunteers who were accepted to serve in submarines, you did receive a nice pay raise, though.

USS Bowfin control room

There’s a ladder in this room that heads up to the conning tower, which housed all of the equipment needed for an attack such as the radar, periscope, torpedo data computer, etc.

It was from this room that all of the damage was done to the enemy.

Unfortunately, this was not open to us on our visit.

I don’t know if access is limited because of coronavirus or because only special guided VIP tours offer access to that but it would’ve been really cool to go up in there and check that room out.

Note: They have a conning tower from the USS Parche in the outdoor part of the museum you can check out.

USS Parche conning tower.

So without going up, we proceeded through another water tight doorway and into the galley which is where most of the crew had their food cooked.

It’s reported that the food was actually quite good which is in line with what I once heard from someone who served on a submarine.

I think it’s partly because they don’t have to mass produce the food like they would on a big battleship or carrier but also largely because they needed to keep the crew in good spirits considering that they could go weeks without surfacing sometimes.

While the submarine was underway, this area remained manned at all times and served up four meals a day.

USS Bowfin galley

Here’s where the crew would eat or just socialize between meals.

USS Bowfin mess

Right past the mess area is where the main bunks were for the crew (berthing area).

USS Bowfin bunks

You then get a look at the crew’s heads (or bathrooms).

On some ships, it wasn’t uncommon for sailors to only shower once every two weeks or so. With an 80 man crew, you can imagine how things probably smelled throughout the ship weeks into a patrol.

USS Bowfin head

Next, you’re headed to the forward engine room, where two of the main diesel engines are located, which I’m assuming was both hot and loud.

USS Bowfin engine room

Right through there is the next compartment which is the aft engine room where the other two diesel engines are located.

Diesel engines only ran whenever the submarine was at surface and when submerged it was all electric. That battery power was finite so submarines had to be careful to not get stuck underwater without power.

And then finally we entered the aft torpedo room.

It’s in that room where you’ll find the exit ladder to make your way back to the deck of the submarine.

Up top on the main deck, you can check out the 5″ deck gun which was used whenever torpedoes were not worth the effort, such as when firing on smaller merchant ships.

This was especially true later on in the war when the Japanese ran out of steel ships and were shipping resources on old wooden ships.

You can also see the radar mast and radar antennas, which were things that gave the US a major advantage during World War II.

USS Bowfin main deck gun

You can also climb up on the bridge where there is another gun and see the exact type of view the sailors would’ve had.

Interestingly, a lot of the fleet submarines had different variations of guns because commanders could choose how they wanted them to be equipped and the types of guns they wanted to use.

Most of the time torpedoes were fired when the submarine was submerged but they would sometimes fire torpedoes when surfaced, especially at night.

When on the surface, there would’ve been two people on lookout on top of the bridge who were tasked with the duty of watching out for all of the crew. There was no room for error and slacking off on your watch could mean the difference between life and death.

USS Bowfin deck bridge

Final word

Overall, the USS Bowfin was a really cool experience.

It probably would have helped to have the audio guide but I still enjoyed being able to explore on our own especially because we had the submarine to ourselves at 7am.

If you don’t choose to do the audio tour, this article should give you enough detail to appreciate what you’re seeing and hopefully you’ll enjoy checking out this submarine as much as I did.

Pearl Harbor Ultimate Guide (Itinerary & Ticket Prices) [2022]

Pearl Harbor is one of the most visited sites in all of Hawaii. But there’s a lot to see here and it can be a little bit confusing as to how to best visit all of the different attractions.

In this guide, I’ll break down all of the different sites to see at Pearl Harbor.

I’ll give you an idea of what to expect at each of the sites and also recommendations for how long to spend at each location. I’ll also provide pricing information so you’ll be able to prepare a proper budget before visiting.

So let’s dive in!

Pearl Harbor Overview

Why is Pearl Harbor significant?

Pearl Harbor is considered one of the most sacred and significant sites in the US for a few reasons.

First, it’s the location where the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack in 1941 which led to the US getting involved in World War II.

Second, the surprise attack resulted in one of the worst military losses in the nation’s history with 2,335 killed — a figure almost equivalent to the lives lost on D-Day.

While much of the Pearl Harbor history is quite heavy due to the loss of life, coming here is not an entirely somber occasion.

Visiting Pearl Harbor is about reflecting upon the lives sacrificed but also taking pride in the bravery and triumphs of the US and Allied forces during World War II.

By spending time at the various sites below, you’ll learn a lot about the events that took place in the Pacific Theater in World War II.

History will come to life and hopefully you’ll walk away with an increased sense of gratitude for the freedoms and luxuries that we enjoy today.

Where is Pearl Harbor located?

When you visit, the exact site you want to go to is the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center (also referred to as the Pearl Harbor National Memorial).

It’s located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in Honolulu, about 20 minutes from Waikiki.

The Google Maps address is: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818.

Make sure that you had to that destination because if you just put Pearl Harbor in your GPS it might route you to the military base.

There are a few different parking lots out in front of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center consists of an outdoor complex with multiple sites, museums, and memorials within it and the complex also connects to a few sites located on nearby Ford Island, which is also an active military base.

Some of the sites are managed by the National Park Service but others like the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are separate and independent sites.

Pearl Harbor list of sites and prices

You can divide the entire Pearl Harbor National Memorial area into four main areas to make it easier to plan your trip.

These four areas include:

  • Submarine sites
  • USS Arizona sites
  • Visitor Center sites
  • Ford Island sites

Below, I’ll give you the list of sites to check out along with recommendations of how long it will take you.

These recommendations are based on you moving fairly efficiently through the attractions.

If you’re someone who typically moves pretty slowly through museums and exhibits, then consider adding more time to each of my recommendations.

Submarine sites [1.5 hours]

  • USS Bowfin [30 minutes] {$16.99}
  • Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum [45 minutes] {included with USS Bowfin}
  • Outdoor exhibits [15 minutes] {included with USS Bowfin}

USS Arizona sites [2.5 hours]

  • Two Galleries (“Road to War” and “Attack) [30 minutes] {Free}
  • Virtual Reality [30 minutes]
  • 23-minute film [30 minutes] {Free}
  • USS Arizona Memorial [60 minutes] {Free}

Visitor Center sites [30 minutes]

  • Remembrance Circle, Lone Sailor, and USS Arizona anchor {Free}
  • Interpretive Wayside Exhibits {Free}
  • Bookstore {Free}
  • Information booths {Free}

Ford Island sites [2.5 hours]

  • USS Missouri Battleship [1.5 hours] {$34.99}
  • USS Oklahoma Memorial [15 minutes] {Free}
  • Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum [45 minutes] {$25.99}

Pearl Harbor places to eat [30 minutes]

There are a handful of places you can grab a bite to eat at when visiting Pearl Harbor.

  • Visitor Center (snacks)
  • Jake’s Food Truck @ USS Bowfin/Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
  • Sliders Grill, Wai Momi Shaved Ice, and Battleshop @ USS Missouri
  • Laniakea Café @ Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (serves alcohol)

Structuring your itinerary: One day or two days?

Pearl Harbor can definitely be done in one day and if you complete it in one day your itinerary might look something like this:

Day 1:

  • Submarine sites
  • Visitor Center sites
  • USS Arizona sites
  • Ford Island sites

But if you really want to see everything Pearl Harbor has to offer, try out some of the newer attractions like the flight simulator and VR experiences, and you want to take your time through it all, you probably need 1.5 days.

If you can allocate 1.5 days for your Pearl Harbor visit my proposed itinerary would be the following in this order.

Day 1:

  • Submarine sites
  • Visitor Center sites
  • USS Arizona sites

Day 2:

  • Ford Island sites
  • Punchbowl Cemetery (not located in Pearl Harbor but closely related)

Now that you have a sense of how to structure your itinerary, let’s get into the individual sites.

Submarine sites

The submarine sites are all lumped together so if you purchase a ticket for one you get entry into all of them.

USS Bowfin

You will need to buy tickets in order to visit the USS Bowfin and here are the prices for the tickets:

• Adult General: $21.99
• Children General (4-12 years): $12.99

Military members and Kama’aina can get discounts:

• Adult (Military and Kama’aina): $16.99
• Child (Military and Kama’aina): $8.99

The USS Bowfin and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum are located on the north side of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial area.

After you go through the main entrance, you will head to the right to make your way to the submarine.

The USS Bowfin is a submarine that was launched one year after the Pearl Harbor attack and earned the nickname of the “Pearl Harbor Avenger.”

In World War II, the USS Bowfin conducted nine war patrols between 1943 and 1945 and most of her patrols were in the South China Sea, Celebes Sea, off the East coast of Japan, and into the Sea of Japan.

She is considered one of the best preserved submarines from World War II.

You can walk her main deck and explore the different compartments while doing a self-guided tour and if you’d like you can also use an audio guide.

The submarine area opens up at 7am so it’s a perfect attraction to head to first when you arrive at Pearl Harbor.

We explored it around 7am and were able to have the entire submarine to ourselves, which was one of the coolest experiences we had in Hawaii.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

Once you exit the submarine, you can check out the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum. This museum consists of two parts with one part focusing on World War II and the other on more modern times including the Cold War.

There’s a lot of interactive exhibits and you’ll learn a ton about what life was like on a submarine.

The museum was also recently renovated so it has a very modern feel to it and I would highly recommend you allocate some time to check it out.

Outdoor artifacts

There are also a number of outdoor artifacts located outside the museum worth checking out like the conning tower from the USS Parche and a Mark 14 torpedo. It’s also pretty fun to try out one of the periscopes.

USS Arizona sites

At Pearl Harbor, there are several sites related to the USS Arizona and it sort of feels like the entire area revolves around the USS Arizona, which is understandable.

So here are a few tips on how to make the most of your USS Arizona visit.

Two Galleries (“Road to War” and “Attack”)

Before you visit the ship, there are a few things you might want to check out to give you a little bit more insight into what was going on at the time of the attack and all of the events leading up to that time.

For that reason, I’d recommend checking out the two galleries that are near the check-in area for the USS Arizona. Both of these galleries “Road to War” and “Attack” are free and can be visited relatively quickly.

They put on some nice exhibits that give you some insight into the history but also provide details that can make your visit to the USS Arizona more impactful.

23 minute film

There’s also a video that you can watch that is highly recommended by a lot of people.

Usually, this video would be played inside the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater but due to the pandemic they currently play it outside.

It’s on a continuous loop so you just need to wait for it to begin and then take a seat but it is recommended to watch this before you head out to the USS Arizona.

Right next to the area where the film is playing, you can also partake in one of the VR sessions.

This is one of the newer attractions and you can choose from several different sessions that will take you back to the time of the attacks.

Finally, you may also prefer to purchase one of the audio guides, which you can use when touring the USS Arizona Memorial and on the boat ride over.

USS Arizona Memorial

For the majority of people, the main attraction at Pearl Harbor is probably the USS Arizona Memorial.

This memorial resides on top of the sunken USS Arizona which was the ship that suffered the most fatalities during the attack. A total of 1,177 Marines and sailors lost their life.

In order to visit the USS Arizona Memorial you must board a shuttle boat.

While the shuttle boat ride itself is free there is a one dollar reservation fee and you definitely want to make reservations as far in advance as possible to ensure that you have a seat. Reservations can be made at

To understand the full scope of what you’ll be seeing and how the logistics work, I’d highly recommend you to check out my full guide on the USS Arizona experience.

Visitor Center

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is not confined to a single building but it essentially makes up the entire outdoor plaza at Pearl Harbor.

There’s a bookstore, bathrooms, information desks, and quite a few different places to explore around the visitor center grounds.

Here are the sites that you do not want to miss.

Waterfront Memorial

Beginning on the side closest to the USS Bowfin, you can check out the Waterfront Memorial — a tribute to all of the lost submariners who are said to be on “eternal patrol.”

If you’re unaware, submarines played a major role in World War II and after a shaky start they became very successful in decimating many Japanese vessels including a lot of merchant ships who were transporting valuable resources for the Japanese military.

This memorial pays tribute to around 4,000 submariners who gave their life with most of those lost lives occurring during World War II.

Lone Sailor Statue

Be sure to also stop by some of the other memorial sites including the Lone Sailor Statue. This is an iconic statue meant to represent the United States Navy Memorial’s mission to:

Honor, Recognize, and Celebrate the men and women of the Sea Services, past, present, and future; and Inform the public about their service.”

These symbolic statues can be found in various places around the US and a few abroad. The one here in Pearl Harbor is special as a plaque reads: “The Base of This Statue Contains Steel from the USS Arizona.”

USS Arizona anchor

Right next to the statue is the anchor from the USS Arizona.

USS Arizona bell

You can also find one of the bells from the USS Arizona near the check-in area for the USS Arizona shuttle boat. It’s also where people wait in line for standby tickets.

The other USS Arizona bell is currently housed in a clock tower at the University of Arizona, where there is also a well done USS Arizona memorial.

Remembrance Circle

You’ll definitely want to check out the Remembrance Circle which pays tribute to all of the 2,403 Americans who were lost during the Pearl Harbor attacks, including some civilians.

Inside the circular memorial you’ll find a pedestal with a topographical map of Oahu marking various locations around the island that were struck on the morning of the attack. It’s a good reminder that it wasn’t just Pearl Harbor that took hits on December 7, 1941.

There’s another circular structure that is known as Contemplation Circle and it’s just meant for you to reflect on all of the events of Pearl Harbor.

You’ll also find interpretive panels located along the pathway that will shed some light into the events that took place during the attacks. These will help you really get a sense of what Battleship Row looked like on the day of the attacks.

Ford Island sites

You’ll need to board a shuttle bus and take the ride over to Ford Island in order to visit the USS Missouri, USS Oklahoma Memorial, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

There is also a special memorial for the USS Nevada but it is not open to the public.

The shuttle bus is free and it only takes about 10 minutes to get over to that area.

The shuttle bus runs in a one-way loop and first stops at the USS Missouri/USS Oklahoma and then makes another stop at the Aviation Museum before heading back to the visitor center.

For this reason, if you plan on visiting both the USS Missouri and the Aviation Museum then you need to first to get off at the USS Missouri.

USS Missouri

You can buy general admission tickets for the USS Missouri online or in-person at the following rates:

  • Adults: $34.99
  • Children: $17.49 (ages 4-12)

The USS Missouri (aka Mighty Mo) is the last battleship commissioned by the US and it is where the Japanese officially surrendered during World War II.

It’s definitely one of the top attractions at Pearl Harbor and you can read about our full experience here.

You can walk up to the exact spot where the Japanese surrender happened and also learn about some of the history and the events that took place that day.

Other interesting sites include kamikaze deck and just exploring all of the different corridors of the ship. It’s amazing how these ships were essentially floating cities.

If you’ve never been on a battleship before, you’ll likely be in awe at the size of the 16″ gun barrels which are the largest the US ever created on a battleship.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

Before (or after) you head to the USS Missouri, I would recommend you to check out the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

It’s a small memorial but does a great job of paying tribute to all of the lost Sailors and Marines from the Oklahoma which was the ship that had the second highest amount of deaths from the attack.

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

After that, you can head back to the shuttle bus and then make your way over to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

You can buy tickets for the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum online or in-person at the following rates:

  • Adults: $25.99
  • Children: $15.99 (ages 4-12)

Some people skip out on the Aviation Museum but I think that’s a major mistake.

It has some very interesting exhibits and it’s one of the only places in the world where you’ll see a Japanese Kate bomber plane.

In addition to that, you can see a Japanese Zero which was the main type of fighter plane used by the Japanese.

They also have the remnants from the Zero plane that crashed on the island of Niihau which is one of the most fascinating and under-told stories from World War II.

Another must see at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is all of the bullet holes that you can still find in the windows from the attacks.

Soon the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum will be finished with the renovations of the control tower and you’ll be able to head up to where the first radio broadcast was made signaling the attack.

Punch Bowl cemetery

The final site that you may want to add is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery.

This site is not located at Pearl Harbor but is about 18 minutes away and is found in the famous Punchbowl Crater.

It has a close connection to Pearl Harbor as many of those who died in Pearl Harbor (and survived) were buried in the cemetery. It also pays special tribute to thousands of military members whose remains were never recovered. You can read about our experience visiting here.

Final word

Visiting Pearl Harbor is definitely a memorable experience. But there is a lot to see here so it really helps to do some research before you arrive. Hopefully, this guide will help you figure out all of the sites you’ll want to visit.

Honolulu Punchbowl Cemetery | National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Guide

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (aka the Punchbowl Cemetery) is one of the most popular attractions in Oahu, Hawaii.

You can check out the beautiful scenery while paying respects to tens of thousands of US veterans but before you visit, it helps to have a sense of what you’ll find here.

Below, I’ll give you a guide on what to expect when you visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

What is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific?

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a special cemetery located in the Honolulu Punchbowl that honors men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces, especially those who have given their lives in doing so.

Where is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific?

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located at: 2177 Puowaina Dr, Honolulu, HI 96813.

The cemetery is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

As you approach the cemetery you’ll first come across the visitor center and administration building but if you don’t have any reason to visit that building, just keep going and you’ll eventually see the entrance gates to the cemetery. Once you are on Puowaina Dr, it’s impossible to miss.

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Guide entrance

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (brief) history

Efforts to place a cemetery here first began in the 1890s but locals were not big on the idea of having a city of the dead hovering above a city of the living.

However, later on in the 1940s deaths of US soldiers were adding up and there needed to be a place to properly lay the fallen to rest.

It wouldn’t be until two years after the end of WWII in 1947 that pressure mounted for the military to find a permanent burial site for the remains of thousands of servicemen from World War II, mostly from the island of Guam.

Then, in February of 1948 construction of the cemetery began and the first internment took place on January 4, 1949.

At the time, the cemetery was marked with white wooden crosses and the Stars of David just like other cemeteries located abroad.

But those were only temporary markers and in 1951, after a lot of public outcry and controversy, they were replaced with permanent flat granite grave markers.

Quartermaster General to Senator Paul Douglas in December 1952, explained that religious emblems are not customary for markers in national cemeteries:

Crosses do not mark the graves of the dead of our country in other national cemeteries. No cross marks the burial of our revered Unknown Soldier. From Arlington to Golden Gate, from Puerto Rico to Hawaii, the Government’s markers in national cemeteries for all our hero—dead are of the traditional designs…[s]ome are upright and some are flat. None is in the form of a religious emblem

Eventually, over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died during World War II were laid to rest here at the Punch Bowl. And it’s estimated that in total approximately 53,000 World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War soldiers are interred here.

With very limited plot space, the vast majority of remains that now enter the cemetery are cremated remains.

As for eligibility who can be buried here, it’s not as strict as Arlington National Cemetery and is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Guide entrance
Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific entrance

Punchbowl Cemetery

There are a handful of different areas you’ll probably want to check out when you arrive, including:

  • Mall Drive
  • Honolulu Memorial
  • Chapel
  • Memorial Walkway
  • Two overlooks

I recommend taking a look at this map to give you an overview of what there is and where it’s located.

Punchbowl Cemetery map
Map source

There are different ways to explore the Punch Bowl cemetery.

We decided to drive in and park near the main entrance, near Columbaria Court 13.

It’s a small parking lot so it might fill up but we were able to find a spot and then make the walk along the main mall on Mail Dr N.

There’s a sidewalk and it’s pretty well shaded as you walk through the mall.

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

It’s a beautiful and peaceful setting and it reminded me a lot of our visit to Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC.

If you’re looking for specific graves you can use this tool to help you locate where they are. It will also give you some information about certain individuals including their background and the war they served in.

Related: USS Arizona Memorial Review

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific graves

One of the most moving sites you’ll see will be the gravestones for the unknown.

Thankfully, these are becoming less common to see.

Recent advancements in DNA technology have allowed the military to identify many of the remains that previously were unknown.

In August 2001, many of the grave markers that previously said unknown were replaced with markers that included “USS Arizona” after it was determined they perished on the USS Arizona.

Also, remains of nearly 400 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma who were killed at Pearl Harbor were dug up and most of them have been identified.

One can only imagine the amount of closure that families feel when unknown remains like that are identified.

Related: USS Oklahoma Memorial Guide (Pearl Harbor)

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific unknown

Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery 

In 1964, the American Battle Monuments Commission erected the Honolulu Memorial, which is the large structure that stands at the end of the mall. As you approach the monument be prepared for goosebumps.

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Honolulu Memorial

Initially, the monument was designed to honor the sacrifices of those in the Pacific during World War II and in the Korean War but it was eventually expanded to include the Vietnam war.

It reads:







In this memorial, within the marble slabs of the Courts of the Missing which flank the side of the memorial, you can find 28,788 military personal names who are missing in action or who were lost or buried at sea during these different wars.

Honolulu Memorial missing in action names

If the remains of a missing service man or woman are eventually identified, a rosette is placed by their name.

Honolulu Memorial missing in action names

Each court is organized by the war and branch of service involved in the war.

Honolulu Memorial missing in action names
Honolulu Memorial missing in action names

Once you approach the top of the memorial, you’ll see the 30-foot Lady Columbia, also known as Lady Liberty, standing on top of a Navy carrier’s prow holding a laurel branch.

Honolulu Memorial

She’s meant to represent all of the grieving mothers who have lost a loved one during these wars.

Quite fittingly, below her is a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s letter of condolence delivered to Lydia Bixby on November 25, 1864.

Bixby lost five sons in the Civil War.

The quote reads:


There are different mosaics on the walls that give you very detailed operations maps which tell the story of different wars and battles where America triumphed.

You’ll also find detailed descriptions of the battles that highlight the achievements of the American armed forces in the central and south Pacific regions and in Korea.

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific


Inside the memorial you find a small devotional chapel where you can leave your own remarks about the memorial. Chapels like this are also found in other World War II memorials in Europe and in the Philippines.

If you need to find a restroom, you can find them in the area behind the chapel.

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific chapel

Punchbowl Scenic Lookout

One of the highlights of your trip will be to the Punchbowl Scenic Lookout.

You’ll take a paved walkway that takes you up to a beautiful overlook area with multiple views looking out to Honolulu.

On your way up, you’ll walk up memorial walkway that consists of a series of different memorials.

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific memorial walkway

As you make your way to the rim, it really is a pretty breathtaking view of Honolulu.

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Scenic Lookout
Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Scenic Lookout

The view of the interior of the crater is beautiful as well.

It’s estimated that the crater was formed between 75,000 and 100,000 years ago during the Honolulu period of secondary volcanic activity.

History indicates that the crater was once used as an altar where “Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to pagan gods and the killed violators of the many taboos.”

In more recent history, during the reign of Kamehameha the Great, two cannons were mounted at the rim of the crater to “salute distinguished arrivals and signify important occasions.” 

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Scenic Lookout

Before you leave, be sure to check out the small memorial at the overlook dedicated to the POWs who were forced to work on the Siam-Burma death railway.

Final word

For the longest time I avoided cemeteries.

They always made me feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Perhaps because I always felt just a little bit too close to death.

But after visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC I started to change my view on cemetery visits.

I realized that they actually can be quite beautiful and peaceful settings.

The National Cemetery of the Pacific only reinforced this view and I would strongly recommend to take a visit here.

I thought it was perfect that this visit came at the end of our Hawaii trip after we had already seen all of the Pearl Harbor sites.

It sort of provided a bit of closure to that experience of paying respects for all of those who lost their life to preserve our freedom and left me with a sense of gratitude as we made our way back to the mainland.

USS Arizona Memorial Review (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii)


That’s the number of lives lost on the USS Arizona on the day that would forever live in infamy.

Today, the USS Arizona Memorial pays tribute to these lives lost and to all of the lives lost on December 7, 1941, during the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor.

Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial and making the most of your visit isn’t the easiest process because there are a few things you need to get in order before you arrive.

Below, I’ll give you all the information you need to know about the USS Arizona Memorial so that you’ll not only appreciate the magnitude of the site but also have the ability to make the most of your experience.

What is the USS Arizona Memorial?

The USS Arizona Memorial is a memorial dedicated to members of the US Armed Forces who gave their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It’s built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place for 1,102 of the 1,177 crewmen killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

How to visit the USS Arizona Memorial

The USS Arizona Memorial is located in the waters of Pearl Harbor, which means that you will have to take a shuttle boat to access the memorial.

The shuttle boat trip is free but you must make a reservation online through (When you make a reservation you will have to pay a $1 reservation fee per person.)

You want to make this reservation as far in advance as you can because the time slots do fill up.

Time slots become available eight weeks in advance and a second batch of slots become available 24 hours prior to your visit.

So for example on January 1, tickets are released for January 2 and February 26.

The tickets will become available at 3:00 pm Hawaii Standard Time daily.

If you are unable to make a reservation there is a standby list that you can join (near the USS Arizona Bell Court) but during peak times that may not be available.

The tours at the USS Arizona Memorial start at 8:00am and go through 3:30pm daily. Each tour takes approximately 45 minutes from the time you step on the boat.

USS Arizona (brief) history

The USS Arizona (BB-39) came out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and was christened on June 19, 1915 in odd fashion.

The newly added desert state had passed prohibition (five years before it became Federal law) and so many objected to christening the ship with a bottle of alcohol.

Sailors did not want to use a bottle of water since it was considered a bad omen and eventually a compromise was made so that both a bottle of sparkling wine and a bottle with water from Theodore Roosevelt Dam in Arizona would be used.

You can still see the bottles used for the christening at the University of Arizona.

The Arizona remained stateside during World War I.

This was due in part to early issues the ship experienced and also to the fact that it ran on oil while other US ships headed to the European theater relied on coal which was more readily available.

But she did eventually make her way around the globe for various causes.

She participated in the escort when President Woodrow Wilson made his way to the Paris Peace Conference and in 1919 she spent time in Turkey at the beginning of the Greco-Turkish War before being transferred to the Pacific Fleet where she remained for the rest of her career.

The Arizona never fired any of her guns at any enemies and never participated in a battle until December 7, 1941.

Did you know? The Arizona achieved Hollywood fame in 1934 when she was featured in the movie, “Here Comes the Navy,” a romance starring James Cagney.

USS Arizona near the Brooklyn Bridge in 1916.

Leading up to the attack

The USS Arizona was not supposed to be in Pearl Harbor when the attacks occurred.

But on October 22, 1941, during a training exercise the battleship USS Oklahoma botched a turn and hit (some say torpedoed) the USS Arizona, creating a massive hole in its side.

The Arizona was forced into drydock for repairs and its trip to the West Coast was delayed which is why it was in Pearl Harbor on December 7.

Another eerie fact is that just one week prior to the attacks, the Arizona was featured in the annual Army versus Navy football game program.

There’s a caption that seems to foreshadow events to occur and states:

“A bow on view of the U.S.S. Arizona as she plows into a huge swell.  It is significant that despite the claims of air enthusiasts no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs.”


The attack

On December 7, 1941, at about 7:55am, the Arizona’s air raid alarm went off as the attack on Pearl Harbor began.

Soon, 10 bombs were dropped by Nakajima B5N2 “Kates” and the Arizona sustained damage in different areas of the ship.

But it was at 8:06am near turret two when a bomb likely penetrated the armor deck near the magazines in the front section of the ship. About seven seconds after the bomb hit the forward magazines detonated and a catastrophic explosion followed.

Fierce fires that would last for two days were set off and debris from the explosion showered down on Ford Island. The bombs and the great explosion killed 1,177 of the 1,512 crewmen who were on board at the time.

Salvage efforts over the next year would allow parts of the ship to be recovered and some of them were even used for battle later on like the guns from Turret II that were installed on the USS Nevada and used in the battle of Okinawa.

As for the men inside, after much deliberation, it was decided the men would be considered buried at sea because it would be too problematic to remove their bodies in a respectful manner.

Robert Ripley, of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! fame initially made efforts with the Navy to build a permanent memorial but his ambitions were a little bit too lofty.

Still, the Navy was committed to creating a memorial and The Pacific War Memorial Commission was created in 1949 to build a permanent memorial here.

In the late 1950s, after plans were slightly derailed due to the Korean War, fundraising took place to help create the memorial and money came in from all different sources, including a benefit concert from Elvis Presley.

Eventually, the memorial was designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis and was formally dedicated on May 30, 1962 (Memorial Day). Today, it attracts more than 1 million visitors each year.

Here’s footage from the dedication ceremony:

Making the most of your USS Arizona experience

If you want to bring out more from your experience and get familiar with a lot of the history behind the USS Arizona, there are four things you can check-out which would all be best to do before you depart on your boat to the memorial.

These four things are:

  • Two Galleries
  • Audio Tour
  • Virtual Reality
  • 23-minute film

Two Galleries (“Road to War” and “Attack”)

The two small galleries found outside the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater take you through what happened during the attack and also provide you with some context leading up to the attacks.

There are quite a few interesting exhibits to check out that will help broaden your understanding of why the war started and also give you a better sense of who these sailors were.

For example, in the “Road to War” gallery, one of the most moving stories is of the USS Arizona band. On November 22, the Arizona band won the first semifinal of the “Battle of Music” competition.

The night before the attack, Dec 6, there was another competition round won by the USS Pennsylvania band. Having already secured a spot in the final, the Arizona band was there but just to watch.

On the next morning, the first bombs dropped with many of the band members preparing to play music for the daily flag raising ceremony.

They dropped their instruments and headed to their battle stations as ammunition handlers for turret two.

With their proximity to gunpowder and to the initial explosion, all of the band members perished.

The final Battle of Music round scheduled for December 20 was canceled and the Pennsylvania band awarded the trophy to the Arizona with a Latin phrase etched on the trophy meaning “such is the way to the stars.”

USS Arizona band trophy

One of the most interesting and helpful exhibits in the “Attack” gallery is the scale model of the USS Arizona Memorial.

Take a look at it and maybe even snap a few photos from different angles because it might help you get a sense of what you are looking at once you get out to the memorial.

USS Arizona Memorial model

Audio Tours

One popular option is to do the Pearl Harbor audio tour which in addition to giving you a narrated experience on the USS Arizona, will walk you through other sites on the Pearl Harbor premises.

You’ll hear from the actual Pearl Harbor survivors and narration is done by actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

It’s about 1.5 hours long and you can purchase these audio tours for ~$8 right in front of the visitor center entrance. You’ll be issued a map and then you simply hit the number of the location when you arrive and sit back and listen.

Audio tours can also be found at the USS Bowfin and the Aviation Museum.

Virtual Reality

There are also virtual reality experiences that you can book.

There are different options for the virtual reality experiences and they are viewed with an Oculus. Each session costs about $8 and lasts about 6 to 8 minutes (they may be a problem for people prone to extreme motion sickness).

The VR experience was located at the Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Center but due to the pandemic they moved outdoors next to the audio tour area.

The two new virtual reality tours include Air Raid Pearl Harbor and Skies Over Pearl. You can watch a trailer of them here but keep in mind that VR looks a lot different when you have a headset on.

23-minute film

In the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater they played a 23-minute film presentation before your visit but I believe because of coronavirus they no longer do this in the theater.

Instead, they play the movie on a loop outside under an open-air lanai behind the education building. You can view that video at any time but it’s probably best to do it before your boat tour.

It will give you an overview of the events leading up to the war with Japan and also cover different aspects of the attack while showing you actual video footage.

USS Arizona theater

Experiencing the USS Arizona Memorial


About 10 minutes prior to your boat shuttle boat ride, you want to arrive at the check-in desk at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater.

It’s recommended to arrive at the park about one hour prior to your tour.

The USS Arizona Memorial check-in area is a covered area with a few benches so you can just sit and relax while you wait for everything to begin.

USS Arizona check in area

When time approaches for your tour, a park ranger will round everybody up and brief everyone on what they need to know about the memorial.

You really only need to know a couple of things.

The memorial is also a military cemetery so you need to act and dress accordingly. The biggest thing to remember is to just not be loud (and to not let your kids be loud/obnoxious).

When you first arrive at the memorial, you must keep walking until you actually enter the memorial. You are not allowed to stop for photos until you get inside of it so that you avoid causing a traffic jam.

After that briefing, you’ll be ushered to the dock where you will board the boat to take you over to the memorial.


Your boat is manned by US Navy sailors and it is only about a 10 minute ride to the USS Arizona Memorial.

USS Arizona memorial boat seats
USS Arizona memorial boat seats

Once you’re in the harbor you’ll notice the mooring quays which are the last structures remaining from the attack on Battleship Row and named based on the ship that was located in that area at the time of the attack.

They were used to secure the battleships along Battleship Row and were actually an innovative way to secure lots of large ships in one area.

They also played a major role during salvage attempts and were “utilized as moorings for salvage ships, barges, and legs for ship-to-shore bridges and cross ship platforms,” according to NPS.

USS Arizona memorial mooring quays

As you approach the memorial, you’ll notice its distinct shape.

Critics initially were pretty hard on the memorial and said it look like a “squished milk carton” but there is symbolic meaning in the shape.

USS Arizona memorial

Each end of the memorial is rising up.

One side represents the pride that the US had before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the dip in the middle represents the pain experienced during the war.

The other side that rises back up represents the triumph the country experienced after victory.

USS Arizona memorial

You’ll be impressed by how skillfully the Navy sailors parallel park as you arrive at the memorial. Listen to them and they will let you know when it’s time to stand up and exit the boat.

Once properly docked, you’ll then make your way to the memorial.

USS Arizona memorial entrance

The shrine

Personally, I would recommend walking straight to the end of the memorial where you’ll find the shrine.

Most people don’t go to that area until after they explore the first part which means that you can have that area to yourself.

USS Arizona memorial shrine wall of names

Not only can you get better photos but you can have a more intimate experience with that part of the memorial.

The shrine has all of the names of the sailors and marines who were killed on the USS Arizona.

It reads:

“To the Memory of the Gallant Men Here Entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941, on the U.S.S. Arizona.”

Something that always gets me is knowing that of the 79 individual brothers on the Arizona, 63 died.

There were three sets of three brothers: the Beckers, the Dohertys, and the Murdocks but only one from each set survived.

USS Arizona memorial shrine wall of names

On the sides of the shrine, you’ll see names of those who have been interred within the ship and those dates.

USS Arizona memorial shrine wall of names

Those who were on the ship during the attack can choose to have their remains placed inside the ship’s well of barbette number four by a scuba diving team.

(Others who were Pearl Harbor survivors are allowed to have their ashes spread on the surface of the water in Pearl Harbor.)

The Arizona burial ceremonies involved a full military funeral and were very moving but it doesn’t look like that last remaining survivors plan on being buried this way so we may have seen the last of these ceremonies already.

Below, you can see what ceremony would look like.

As you admire the shrine, you’ll also notice the designs in the walls.

These are known as the tree of life and they represent a symbol of renewal. In my opinion, they add a lot of beauty to the memorial. 

USS Arizona memorial shrine wall of names

You can also find one of these back where you came from at the visitor center.

Viewing well

After checking out the names, you can then explore the other part of the memorial: the central assembly room.

Coming out of the shrine, you’ll see a large opening that looks directly down into the ship. This is the viewing well and is a place where people leave flowers for those being remembered.

If you want to leave flowers, it’s best to run it by the park ranger when you arrive.

They should not have a problem with it but they might want to make sure you’re not dropping anything down there that could affect wildlife (e.g., string from a lei).

USS Arizona memorial viewing well

From the surface of the water to the bottom it’s about 40 feet but part of the ship is directly beneath you here.

USS Arizona memorial viewing well

Number 3 barbette

When you look towards Ford Island Bridge, you’re looking towards the rear (aft) of the ship and you’ll see a rusted circular structure that rises just above the water’s surface.

This is no. 3 barbette and it’s where one of the four turrets with 14″ guns was located.

Turret number one which was at the front of the ship is the only turret still intact but it is on the deck that was blown up and so it dropped down and is now completely submerged.

Tip: If you took a picture of the model found in one of the galleries, you can refer to that to make out the different structures you’re looking at.

Marine life

While looking out at the ship’s remains, you might spot wildlife including various types of fish.

We were greeted by a friendly little sea turtle during our visit but beneath the surface a lot of wildlife flourishes like brown seahorses, sponges, coral, and even spotted eagle rays.

USS Arizona memorial sea turtle
Seat turtle at the USS Arizona.

The 7 windows

Looking around, you’ll notice seven wide openings on both sides of the memorial and on top. The number seven is symbolic for December 7, the day of the attack in the US (the attack occurred on December 8th in Japan).

The seven total windows on each side and on the ceiling come out to a total of 21. Some say this is symbolic of the ever-present 21 gun salute for the fallen although it’s disputed that the designer had that in mind.

The flag

You’ll also notice the flag that might be waving if you have a breeze coming through. This flag is actually attached to the severed mainmast of the USS Arizona — something that began in 1950.

It was in that year that the first temporary memorial was built above the remaining portion of the deckhouse but due to the ongoing expenses for the Korean War at that time the memorial was not a priority.

Related: National Mall in Washington DC (1 Day/24hr Itinerary)

The USS Missouri

The USS Missouri sits across the remains of the USS Arizona and if you look closely at it you can see that its guns are aimed over the USS Arizona.

This placement is a symbolic gesture with multiple layers of meaning.

It shows that the Missouri is looking over all of the fallen from the USS Arizona and it also represents both the beginning and end of World War II.

The beginning of course was the attack on Pearl Harbor and the end occurred when the Japanese signed the surrender instruments on Surrender Deck aboard the USS Missouri (which you can visit today).

Related: USS Missouri “Mighty Mo” Review

“Black tears”

At some point, you’ll probably notice oil on the surface of the water. You might even watch bubbles arise from the murky green depths.

The oil is known as the “black tears” and it is oil actively leaking from the USS Arizona, as it has done for 8 decades. Read more about the oil leak here.

USS Arizona memorial black tears oil

In 2018 it was estimated that there was still 500,000 gallons of oil down there and right now approximately 9 quarts leak every day.

The National Park Service is monitoring the environmental impact of the oil. In the event of a major leak, they will likely take action to mitigate or stop the leaks.

Ranger led discussion

During your visit, there may be someone such as a park ranger on the memorial to give you stories and answer questions. There was a good size group huddled in the middle of the memorial just listening to different stories.

Once you have seen everything you can then head back to the entrance area where people will be lining up for the boat ride home.

You can check out the plaques on the wall in case you missed them whenever you entered.

You’ll wait for the incoming passengers to disembark and then make your way back to the boat.

If you’re lucky, you might see a navy ship coming through.

Something cool about the Navy ships that pass through Pearl Harbor is that they all “man the rails” and pay their respects to the Arizona when they come in or out of harbor. This gesture is found in the symbolic design of the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

You can see what it looks like when the sailors man the rails for Pearl Harbor below.

Other sites not to miss

Before you depart the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, make sure that you also check out two artifacts from the Arizona.

The first is the USS Arizona Bell which is found right by the theater where you check in for the USS Arizona boat shuttle. It’s also where people wait while on standby.

This is one of the two bells from the ship and the other bell is currently at the University of Arizona campus in its clocktower which we visited right before we visited Pearl Harbor.

At the clock tower in Tucson, AZ, they symbolically ring the bell seven times the third Wednesday of every month at 12:07pm.

USS Arizona bell

The other thing to check out is the massive anchor from the USS Arizona.

USS Arizona anchor

Final word

The USS Arizona Memorial is the prime attraction at Pearl Harbor and perhaps in all of Hawaii for many. It is a solemn occasion when you visit but it’s also a time to reflect proudly on the bravery and sacrifices that thousands made during World War II.

To get the most out of your visit you want to plan ahead and also think about visiting some of the additional galleries, and trying out the audio tours or even the virtual reality sets as they will broaden your understanding of the events that took place and allow you to appreciate what all of those involved truly went through.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum Review (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii)

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is one of the main attractions at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that will give you insight into the role that the “silent service” of submarines played in World War II and also in the Cold War.

You’ll learn more about the the crucial role of submarines during warfare and get an idea of what it was like to serve in a submarine as you get to interact with sonar radars, periscopes, and check out conning towers and torpedoes.

In this article, I’ll give you an overview of what to expect when you head to the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus overview

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus is just one part of the overall Pearl Harbor experience and it’s home to the:

  • The USS Bowfin submarine
  • Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
  • Park with outdoor artifacts
  • Shaded eating area and food truck
  • Gift shop

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum was recently renovated at the tune of $23 million and re-opened in 2021 so it has a much more modern feel to it and is one of the newest tourist attractions at Pearl Harbor.

If you purchase a ticket to the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum you get entry to the USS Bowfin and all of the surrounding sites.

You’ll probably want to spend about 1.5 to 2 hours exploring all of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus sites.

The good news is that you can come back later in the day if you have to head out to catch another tour such as a boat shuttle to the USS Arizona.

Tip: If you want to buy tickets to multiple Pearl Harbor attractions (USS Bowfin, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri) check out this option online.

How to visit the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is located on the north side of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial area. After you go through the main entrance, you will head to the right to make your way to the submarine.

You should see signs pointing you the right way but basically it’s on the opposite side of where you line up for the USS Arizona shuttle boat.

It’s pretty close to where you hop on the shuttle bus to take you over to Ford Island where you can visit the USS Missouri, USS Oklahoma Memorial, and Aviation Museum.

Related: Pearl Harbor Ultimate Guide

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

You will need to buy tickets in order to visit the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum and here are the prices for the tickets:

• Adult General: $21.99
• Children General (4-12 years): $12.99

Military members and Kama’aina can get discounts:

• Adult (Military and Kama’aina): $16.99
• Child (Military and Kama’aina): $8.99

You can buy these online or you can buy them whenever you get there but I would advise you to just secure them online.

You’ll have to select the date of your visit but you do not have to lock in a specific time slot.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum experience

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is basically divided into two separate sections or galleries.

The first section is mostly focused on the role submarines played in World War II in the Pacific.

The second section covers more modern times such as the Cold War and focuses on the evolution of submarines including the introduction of nuclear warheads.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

Context for your visit

Japan did not have many natural resources which is one of the main reasons why the war started for them in the first place.

So they relied on merchant ships coming in from various countries to transport all of the different resources that they needed to expand their empire.

US submarines helped with fighting warships and also rescue attempts of fallen pilots but their primary accomplishment in World War II was that they wreaked havoc on these Japanese merchant ships.

The US submarine force only made up approximately 2% of the US Navy but they were responsible for destroying over 60% of Japanese merchant shipping and over 30% of Japanese warships in World War II.

Thus, they had a huge outsized effect on the war relative to their size.

Their effectiveness did come at a price with 52 submarines and more than 3,600 officers and crewmen lost during World War II.

So as you stroll through the museum keep that context in the back of your mind because it will help you appreciate everything you see and interact with a little bit more.

If you have the time, I would recommend watching the video below as it is an excellent overview of how submarines were utilized during World War II.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

The World War II gallery is basically one large room and you can explore it in any order you would like.

That’s great for people like to randomly check out exhibit but makes a little bit more difficult for people who prefer more of a linear flow to a museum experience.

Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum

One of the first exhibits you’ll see is a scale model of the USS Bowfin.

If you have not already visited the submarine, this can help give you some insight into the different compartments you’ll be going through.

One thing that you don’t see on your tour are the batteries that reside at the bottom and it’s pretty cool to see them in this model. It was those batteries that the submarine relied on when submerged.

Another interesting artifact is the bell from the USS Bowfin.

When the bell was created, it wasn’t clear exactly what year the submarine would be launched and apparently after it was launched no one decided to update the bell so it’s still missing the year.

The bell actually went missing at one point but luckily was re-discovered in 1996 when it was given to the museum.

USS Bowfin bell

In the World War II gallery, you’ll find several different interactive exhibits that give you a sense of what it was like to work on a submarine.

You’ll get to test your hearing and eye sight on radar and periscopes to see how you would fare in the 1940s.

My decision making was very suspect when it came to firing torpedoes so hopefully you’ll make it further than I did.

After you explore the World War II gallery, you can head over to the Cold War gallery.

The Cold War gallery gives you a lot of context around what was going on at the time and how submarines fit into the equation.

It introduces you to ballistic missiles and how they were used in submarines which I found to be pretty fascinating.

Having just visited the Titan Missile Museum in Tucson, Arizona a couple of months prior, it was really cool to see how these type of missiles were launched from submarines.

Once you finish up in the museum, there are some exhibits outside for you to check out. One of the most interesting is the conning tower from the USS Parche.

You may not be able to access the conning tower in the Bowfin, so this is your chance to see what it’s like inside one.

This is the compartment where torpedoes were launched from controls and where they made calculations for when and how to fire.

While the periscope in the conning tower does not function, there is a periscope nearby that you can view and see how powerful that magnification was.

You’ll also find a lot of missiles and torpedoes outside, including a Mark 14 torpedo.

Taking a look at the massive size of it, you can imagine how difficult it was to transport these torpedoes into the tight quarters of a submarine.

The Mark 14s were problematic torpedoes used during the first couple of years of the war.

It had issues with accuracy and detonation.

Many sailors endured the frustrating experience of listening to a torpedo hit the hull of an enemy ship only to fail to explode.

But eventually the Mark 18 torpedo came around and fixed some of those issues.

It also had issues but it came with the added benefit of not producing a wake of bubbles or turbine exhaust pointing back to the submarine firing it, which made it much harder for ships to track where the submarine was. 

Mark 14 torpedo.

I thought it was interesting to check out one of the guns and take a view of the sites the same way someone working the gun would have nearly 80 years ago.

The submarine rescue chamber is another one of the more interesting things to check out.

It was only used one time during a tragic training accident but it did end up saving the lives of 33 people. There’s an illustration by the chamber that shows how it works.

And finally there is the waterfront memorial which pays tribute to all of the submarines lost in World War II, although that is located outside of the submarine campus area.

After we checked out the submarine and museum, we did the USS Arizona tour and then by that time we had worked up a little bit of an appetite.

So we came back here to eat at Jake’s food truck and found that the food was actually pretty good for a museum food truck (we went with the chicken meals).

Jake's food truck
Jake's food truck chicken

We also made a quick pass through the gift shop which had a decent amount of things in there but we are not really gift shop people.

I kind of regret not purchasing one of these cool bullet planes pictured below especially because the purchase would go to help support the museum.

Final word

I really like this museum because I thought it was the perfect size.

There’s already so much to see at Pearl Harbor that you don’t really want a huge museum here and this gives you enough to keep you interested but not so much that you get overwhelmed.

If you plan on checking out the Bowfin submarine then I would highly recommend to also check out this museum because it will just give you a lot more context for what it was like on a submarine and the role that they played in the war.

USS Oklahoma Memorial Guide (Pearl Harbor) [2022]

There’s a lot to take in and reflect on when at Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii.

There’s the USS Arizona Memorial (one of the most visited sites), the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin Museum, and a plaza full of other worthwhile sites.

But one moving site that often goes overlooked is the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

Below, I’ll talk about what this memorial is and how you can visit it.

What is the USS Oklahoma Memorial?

Dedicated on December 7, 2007, the USS Oklahoma Memorial is a memorial to all of the sailors and marines who lost their life aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attacks of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

It is free to visit but you will have to board a shuttle bus from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial & Visitor Center or have an escort to get to it since it is located on a military base.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

Where is the USS Oklahoma Memorial?

The USS Oklahoma Memorial is located on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. It’s found just before you arrive at the entrance to the USS Missouri but it can be easily missed.

That’s because on both of my bus rides to Ford Island, none of the drivers mentioned the memorial and sort of just ushered everyone towards either the “Mighty Mo” or the bathrooms.

I’m not sure if that was just the standard procedure or if they do that to avoid having too many tourists wandering off but if you’re not aware of this memorial you may not even realize it exists when you make your trip to Ford Island.

The way to see the USS Oklahoma Memorial is to exit the tour bus and then basically walk in the opposite direction of the USS Missouri. You’ll see the white posts of this memorial on your right which is really hard to miss.

Notice the USS Missouri in the background of the image below. That’s how close it is.

Related: Pearl Harbor Ultimate Guide

USS Oklahoma Memorial

USS Oklahoma background

The USS Oklahoma was launched March 23, 1914 and over the years she served in many important capacities.

She protected allied convoys in Ireland during World War I, transported President Wilson to and from Paris during the Paris Peace negotiations, and helped evacuate refugees during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

After that, she made her way to the Pacific where she would spend the rest of her time in service.

The USS Oklahoma passing Alcatraz in the 1930s. Image via public domain.

On December 7, 1941 during the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, the USS Oklahoma sustained at least eight torpedo hits within the first 10 minutes of the bombardment.

A ninth would probably later hit the battleship as she completely capsized, trapping over 400 crewmen inside.

At the time of the torpedo hits, the USS Oklahoma was moored in the location of where the USS Missouri is currently berthed, which is why the memorial is located where it is.

The USS Oklahoma capsized in the foreground. Image via public domain.

On the day of the attacks, there were 2,402 US deaths. 1,177 occurred on the USS Arizona but the ship with the second highest casualty count was the USS Oklahoma with 429 deaths.

Illustration showing USS Oklahoma damage during the attack. Image via WFI Research Group.

The damage to the USS Oklahoma was so bad after the attack that the Navy realized they could not salvage the entire ship and would have to settle for salvaging individual parts.

But even that process would be a massive undertaking.

The USS Oklahoma being righted. Image via NPS.

For 15 months, the ship remained capsized until in March of 1943 when she was righted.

The hull was then sold in 1946 to a private buyer in California who wanted to salvage it but shortly after the ship was being towed its tow line broke and the ship sank about 500 miles away from Oahu to its final resting place.

Later on in 2006, a mast leg from the USS Oklahoma was found at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and it’s on display in Oklahoma at Muskogee War Memorial Park.

The ship’s bell and two of her screws are also on display but at the Kirkpatrick Science Museum in Oklahoma City.

As for all of the crewmen remains in the ship, those were collected from December 1941 through June 1944.

Only 35 men were identified out of the 429 killed.

The nearly 400 identified remains were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (“the Punchbowl”) in Honolulu.

However, recent efforts to identify many of those unknown remains were successful and it’s reported that 388 individuals have now been identified, which is 86% of the crew that was aboard the vessel at the time.

Unknown grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Experiencing the USS Oklahoma Memorial

Unlike the USS Arizona Memorial where you will need to schedule a time on the shuttle boat and deal with a much busier tourist scene, there’s a good chance when you visit this memorial, you’ll be all by yourself.

That’s how it was for me and I think that’s why this memorial hit a little bit harder for me than the Arizona Memorial — there were just fewer distractions.

At first glance, the memorial looks like rows of white picket fence randomly placed near the road leading to the USS Missouri.

But then as I approached the memorial and took a moment to read one of the interpretive panels, I realized what those white posts, called “standards,” actually were.

The white marble standards are symbolic of sailors “manning the rails” or standing at attention along the ships railing and superstructure as it passes through Pearl Harbor. It’s a sign of both honor and respect.

USS Oklahoma Memorial white standards

Each individual white standard represents one of the sailors lost on the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

USS Oklahoma Memorial white posts

Their name and rank is inscribed along with a designation of whether they were a part of the Navy or Marines.

Two of the standards have a special star designation indicating that they were medal of honor recipients.

USS Oklahoma Memorial white posts

The best way to experience this memorial is not to view it from the roadside but to walk through it.

These posts form several walkways and as you quietly roam through this memorial, it’s kind of impossible for the 429 white standards to not impact you in someway.

Each one of those is a tribute to a story that was cut short the day of the attacks and that sticks with you as you make your way through the memorial.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

There’s a reflective black wall of names that is reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial that took me back to our time in Washington DC. The black granite is meant to be symbolic of the ship’s hull.

USS Oklahoma Memorial wall of names

You’ll also find lots of relevant quotes on different sections of the memorial from various sources including President Lincoln, the Bible, Shakespeare, and a survivor from the attack, George Brown.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

Final word

The USS Oklahoma Memorial could easily be missed but it’s a must visit when in Pearl Harbor.

It’s a well done memorial and because of the nonexistent crowds, it offers a more intimate experience when reflecting on those who lost their life in Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona Mall Memorial in Tucson (U of A) Review

The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most tragic events in American history. Out of all of the ships that were bombed by surprise that day in 1941, the USS Arizona experienced the highest amount of casualties.

In fact, 1,177 marines and sailors lost their life on board the USS Arizona.

Given the name of the ship, the state of Arizona has always had a special bond to the tragedy, so it makes sense that the USS Arizona would be memorialized in Arizona.

In this article, I’ll give you an overview of what to expect if you decide to check out the beautiful USS Arizona Mall Memorial in Tucson.

What is the USS Arizona Mall Memorial?

The USS Arizona Mall Memorial is a special Pearl Harbor memorial located on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson meant to honor the sacrifice of the USS Arizona crew.

It consists of an outdoor mall area with tributes to all who lost their life, an actual-sized outline of the USS Arizona, an original bell from the ship, and a Memorial Lounge with exhibits and artifacts from Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona.

The construction for the memorial began in the fall of 2016 and the project was finished in January 2017, although it was dedicated in December 2016 for the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

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USS Arizona Mall Memorial

Where is the USS Arizona Mall Memorial?

The USS Arizona Memorial is located at the west end of the University of Arizona Mall, right in the middle of the University of Arizona campus.

The address is: E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721.

That address is the one listed on Google Maps but you really should be heading to the parking garage nearby if you happen to be traveling by car.

Related: Phoenix USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River Guide


The USS Arizona Memorial is located extremely close to a visitor parking lot.

You will want to head to the 2nd Street Parking Garage which is located at: 1390 E 2nd St, Tucson, AZ 85719. It’s right on the southeast corner of North Mountain Avenue and East Second Street.

Parking is $2 per hour or $10 for the day which is not bad. (It shouldn’t be hard to see everything in under one hour.)

Make sure that you take your parking ticket with you when you leave the garage because you’ll need it to pay at the pay station.

If the gates are already open then parking is free which may be the case on weekends. When we visited on a Saturday morning, we did not have to pay for parking. However, if there is an event such as a football game that might not be the case.

If for some reason you can’t find a parking spot there, consider one of the other garages:

  • Cherry Avenue
  • The Sixth Street garage
  • Tyndall Avenue garage

The 2nd Street Parking Garage nearby has elevators and so it is accessible. Much of the memorial is accessible although cutting through the grass in the mall could pose problems.

Visiting the USS Arizona Mall Memorial Tucson

When you make your visit to the memorial, you want to be sure to not miss anything. So to make things easy, here’s a rundown of everything you’ll want to see.

The bronze medallions

The 1,177 bronze medallions are located where the “bridge” of the USS Arizona would be.

Every individual who lost their life on the USS Arizona is remembered here with a bronze medallion which contains details about the individual’s name, rank, and home state.

For those who shared a family relationship with another lost sailor (e.g., “brother of”) that’s notated as well.

What struck me the most is how young some of these sailors and marines were. It’s insane to think about how 14 and 15-year-olds were getting into the military at that time.

It’s also moving to know that there were 26 sets of brothers and even a father and son pair who were among those who lost their life.

After visiting the National Mall in DC and checking out a lot of the war memorials, I became really interested in the (often controversial) process of how war memorials are designed and displayed.

It’s fascinating to understand the symbolism and features of each memorial and I really think they did an excellent job with this one.

USS Arizona Mall Memorial
USS Arizona Mall Memorial

The USS Arizona bell

The USS Arizona bell is definitely a highlight of the memorial area.

It’s housed in the Student Memorial Center Tower next to the mall memorial but to see it at a good angle, you will need to walk closer to one of the ends of the memorial.

It’s a little tucked away in this triangular tower but still open enough to get a good view of.

For me, it was a pretty unreal feeling to actually see the “USS Arizona” signage on the bell for the first time.

USS Arizona bell U of A campus

This bell has a pretty fascinating history.

It just so happened that a veteran from the University of Arizona, Bill Bowers, (U of A Class of 1927) came across this bell in 1944 when inspecting the contents of crates for brass objects while in Washington.

Astonished by his discovery, he lobbied to save the bell from being melted down at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and is largely responsible for why the bell is currently on display at the University of Arizona today.

The bell originally arrived on the U of A campus in July 1946 but it wouldn’t be used for a few years.

Then in 1951 it was installed in the clock tower of the the Memorial Student Union Building and on November 17, 1951 the bell was rung for the first time.

The bell remained there for the next 50 years until it was transported and installed in the present-day clock tower on August 16, 2002.

Before 2002, the bell was not actually visible, so this was a major upgrade for the public.

When it came time to ring the bell at its new location, Bill Bowers, at the age of 99, was rightfully given the honor of ringing the bell for the first time which happened on September 11, 2002.

It’s now rung seven times on every third Wednesday of every month at 12:07 pm. I’ve also heard that it’s rung after Arizona wins football games (against non-Arizona teams).

The other bell that was used on the USS Arizona is currently located in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona bell U of A campus

The USS Arizona profile

One of the most impressive (and easy to miss) elements of this memorial is the 597-foot long, 97-foot wide outline of the USS Arizona’s deck.

It’s subtle but there is a brick-like outline that is the actual size of the ship. The exact place where the US flag is flying on the memorial represents the foremast which is where the bell in the clock tower would’ve been set on the ship.

That’s interesting because it also happens to line up with where the bell currently is on display in the clock tower.

USS Arizona Mall Memorial ship outline

You can walk the memorial from one end to the other to get a sense of how big the ship was. In addition to the placement of the bells lining up, it’s also crazy to me how the USS Arizona’s size was pretty much a perfect fit for this end of the mall.

USS Arizona Mall Memorial ship outline

Interestingly, the memorial is also located right next to the Old Main building that at one point served as base for the Naval Training School during World War II.

The coral reefs cactus garden

The creator of the memorial, David Carter, put a very thought-provoking touch on the memorial with the coral reef garden. It’s a collection of diverse cacti that together form a beautiful coral reef like visual.

It looks like the cacti are allowed to grow freely which “acknowledges the conscious decision to leave the USS Arizona undisturbed.”

I think there’s always going to be a debate about how to handle remains at sites like Pearl Harbor.

But I personally felt like they made a good decision to simply let the ship “be” and it’s interesting to see that decision represented in a beautiful visual like this that gives the memorial “life.”

USS Arizona Memorial Lounge

If you visit the memorial, be sure to spend some time in the USS Arizona Memorial Lounge. It’s free and does not require any tickets but they do require a mask inside.

This is a small lounge that looks like it is used for random study sessions, but when I visited there were only two other people in the lounge.

The lounge is like a small Pearl Harbor museum exhibit with some artifacts and memorabilia from the ship and the attack.

Inside, you can find pieces from the USS Arizona on display along with artifacts from a Japanese aircraft and their two-man submarine, which was sunk.

 USS Arizona Memorial Lounge

There’s a lot of photographs and one of the most haunting was the picture of the band. They were apparently competing in a band competition the evening before the attack and unfortunately all of them failed to survive the attack.

Another interesting piece is that they still have the champagne bottle and water bottle used to christen the ship in 1915.

 USS Arizona Memorial Lounge

Final word

This is a well done memorial and in my opinion a great stop to make when traveling in Tucson. If possible, I would try to time your visit for one of the Wednesdays when the bell is rung but even if you can’t do that, it is still an interesting stop and a great way to pay respects for those who have fallen while in service of their country.