USS Arizona Memorial: An emotional history lesson; a must see when on O'ahu
Visited Wednesday, November 14, 2012; reviewed November 24, 2012 See this review on Trip Advisor.
To me, the USS Arizona Memorial was the one must see when I first visited Honolulu in August 2008. When my wife and I traveled to Oahu in November 2012, it was the only place that I insisted that she must visit as well. I was so glad that I returned as the site had been greatly improved since my first visit; a much more fitting area had been created to support the Memorial.
We had prebooked the 8:00 AM tour of the USS Arizona Memorial through the recreation.gov website ($1.50 fee per person; well worth the cost to avoid the lines that I stood in during my first visit in 2008). Per the instructions from the confirmation, we were to pick up the tickets an hour in advance. Due to the traffic we hit horrific traffic on the H-1 we were a little late, arriving at 7:15 AM, but there were no lines at all and our tickets were waiting for us. BTW, the GPS on my phone guided us right to the Memorial parking (we were staying in Waikiki).
I was astounded when we arrived. What a metamorphosis the grounds and infrastructure have gone through since my last visit. This is now known as the WWII Valor in the Pacific Monument and supports the Memorials to the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma and USS Utah, although the Arizona is the focal point. The place looks wonderful and is a much more suitable supporting area for the USS Arizona Memorial. And there was basically no crowd at this time of day (when I visited in August 2008, there was a monster line and no advance reservations; granted this is November, but I would have expected more folks). We walked right up to the ticket counter, got our passes and walked around the grounds and into the museums while we waited for our tout to start.
Turns out that we were on the first tour of the day (I thought the 0800 was the second tour, so this was a bonus). The overall tour includes a documentary style film that provides background and context to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the USS Arizona that brought the United States into WWII. I think the movie that was also new since my 2008 visit. Regardless, the movie is very well done, provides a great overview of the events and aftermath and is very emotional.
Of course the trip to the USS Arizona Memorial and the time spent there are the most special and most somber of the tour. The memorial will get crowded when there are two boatloads of tourists on board, so be prepared. But there is room for everyone to mill about and see the shrine and the display of the Memorial. The Ranger on site will answer any questions and did provide a short overview of the Memorial (basically answering the most often asked questions about the battle, the Arizona and the Memorial). Just remember to be respectful, keep your voices down and share the space.
Including the queue time for the movie, our 8:00 AM tour lasted from 7:50 until about 9:15, when got off the boat after visiting the memorial. After returning from the memorial, we spent some additional time walking through the museums. No headphones, we just read the placards and watched some of the video….again, very moving.
We spent time before and after the visit to the Arizona just walking the grounds and taking in the views of the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri. There are several placards and displays arrayed around the grounds to provide historical context. There were also a lot of birds on the grounds, which were fun to watch as a change of pace. In addition to the two buildings that house the museums, there is also a snack shop and a gift shop, the former is small and could be crowded, but the gift shop is larger and has a variety of souvenirs and a nice selection of history books.
This is a very well done site and well maintained by the National Parks Service. It is a piece of American history. Go and learn.