Pearl Harbor, located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, is a United States deep water naval base and home to the United States Pacific Fleet. As most people know it was also the location of a surprise attack by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941. This attack was the catalyst that brought the United States into World War 2.
I have visited Pearl Harbor several times, most recently on my trip to Hawaii in March, and it never fails to impress. Two of its attractions are of significant historical importance: The USS Arizona Memorial, and the USS Missouri. In a few hours you go from floating on the water above a sunken battleship, a permanent reminder of the horrors of the December 7th attack, to standing in the spot where the Japanese signed the Instrument of Surrender 4 years later.
It is important to note that, being an active military base, there are strict security policies when visiting which include a “no bag” rule. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. To the photography enthusiast, that means no camera bag. I was fine with this, as I planned on shooting this photo essay of Pearl Harbor with my beloved Fuji X100T. All the pictures you see in this post were taken with this camera, with and without the WCL-X100 wide angle adapter.
As always, click on the photos to view large and without WordPress compression!
One final tip: buy your tickets online before your trip. You won’t regret it (but may regret it if you don’t).
Your tour of Pearl Harbour begins at the Pearl Harbour Visitor’s Center:
When I arrived a very helpful staff member directed me to start with the USS Arizona Memorial (time stamped on my ticket), then do the USS Missouri Memorial, the Pacific Aviation Museum, and finally the USS Bowfin. The order you view the attractions in will of course be determined by the time of your visit to the USS Arizona.
The USS Arizona MEMORIAL
The USS Arizona, a Pennsylvania class battleship, was launched in 1916 and served until it’s destruction in the attack on Pearl Harbor. On the morning of December 7th, shortly after 8am, the Arizona was attacked by 10 Japanese torpedo bombers. The aircraft scored 4 direct hits, including the last one that struck at 8:06am. It is believed that this bomb penetrated the armoured decking and caused forward ammunition magazines to explode. What is known is that approximately 7 seconds after being hit there was a massive explosion that destroyed the Arizona. This explosion killed 1,177 crewmen (of 1,512 who were on board at the time).
The USS Arizona Memorial starts with a self guided tour through a small museum that lays out the history leading up to the December 7th attack:
This includes president Roosevelt’s famous speech that was delivered to congress on December 8th, 1941:
After the museum you proceed to a theatre where you watch a 23 minute video that shows the attack on Pearl Harbor in graphic detail. Once done, you board a boat that takes you out to the USS Arizona Memorial:
Here is a picture (SOURCE: Wikipedia) that shows the Memorial floating above the wreckage of the USS Arizona:
Time spent on the memorial is solemn, knowing that you stand above a war grave. On board the memorial the names of all those killed during the attack are listed:
You can see part of the wreck from the Memorial, and the oil that is still, to this day, leaking out of the wreckage:
I learned a new fact on this trip: Crew members of the USS Arizona who survived the December 7th attack can have their ashes placed within the ship when they pass away. Veterans who served aboard the ship at other times can have their ashes scattered above the ship too.
Sailing away from the USS Arizona Memorial I saw the USS Missouri, framed by the American Flag. I love this picture:
The USS Arizona is a now a National Historic Landmark, and an important part of American history.
THE USS MISSOURI MEMORIAL
From the USS Arizona I proceeded to the USS Missouri. Access to the USS Missouri is restricted due to its location on the base, so you travel over on a bus and enter through a fenced area.
When you disembark from the bus you are literally standing right next to the “Mighty Mo”:
I have to admit to feeling a sense of awe while taking this photograph. The USS Missouri has an amazing history. Commissioned in 1944, the USS Missouri fought in World War 2 (including the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa), in the Korean War, spent some time decommissioned, then was reactivated and fought in Gulf War 1 in 1991. She was finally decommissioned for good in 1992, and was donated in 1998 to the US Missouri Memorial Association where she became a museum ship at Pearl Harbor.
When you board the ship you walk out onto the main deck, and in no time at all are standing under the main guns of the USS Missouri: 16 inch guns which could fire 2,700lb shells up to 20 miles:
When she was re-activated in 1984, the USS Missouri also gained the ability to fire Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles. It was an amazing feeling to stand under those guns, and to realize that this exact vessel fought in some of history’s most important battles. A short walk along the deck and you are standing, literally, at the spot where the Japanese signed the Instrument of Surrender that brought WW2 to a close:
This was a powerful moment for me. Both of my grandparents fought in WW2 so I do have a historical connection to it, but more importantly life is about so much more than our own little corner of the world. To look down on the USS Arizona, then to stand right where World War 2 officially ended, created a connection for me that was so strong. I admit I stood in that spot for a while just thinking and shooting.
Touring below decks gives you a good sense of what life aboard the ship was like:
The USS Missouri now sits facing the USS Arizona Memorial, some say to stand guard over the remains of the Arizona, forever protecting those interred within the USS Arizona’s Hull.
THE PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM
From the Missouri you hop back onto the bus for a short ride over to the Pacific Aviation Museum. The Museum, opened on December 7th, 2006, is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Affiliates program. On April 4th, 2013 it received its 1,000,000th visitor. There are 43 aircraft on exhibit at the Museum:
Once you are done you catch the bus back to the Visitor’s Center. The final attraction of the day for me was the USS Bowfin.
THE USS BOWFIN
I was very excited about this, for no other reason than I am a boy, and we think submarines are cool. Seriously, have you ever seen a bad submarine movie (well, besides Down Periscope)? The USS Bowfin launched on December 7th, 1942 (one year to the day after the Pearl Harbor attack). It had an illustrious record, completing 9 patrols and engaging the enemy on numerous occasions.
You realize immediately when you descend the ladder into the sub that life on board was all about functionality. The first thing you see are the torpedo tubes:
As you work your way through the sub you realize just how tight life was for the sailors who worked aboard this vessel:
The USS Bowfin was decommissioned on February 12th, 1947 and placed in reserve, only to be reactivated for service during the Korean War. After serving as a training submarine, the USS Bowfin was officially struck from the US Navy list in December, 1971 and now serves as a memorial at Pearl Harbor.
That completed my visit to Pearl Harbor. One of the final things I saw as I was leaving was the anchor from the USS Arizona, recovered from the ocean floor:
I think this is a fitting final photo for this post, because of what it implies.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
Seeing this anchor here, standing firmly in place, says something about the spirit of a country that rises up in defence of its people. It is a reminder that life’s challenges make us stronger if we overcome them. Visiting Pearl Harbor is a fabulous way to spend a day in Hawaii, and to connect with the history that helped shaped the world we live in. It is a reminder that brave men and women from nations all over the world dedicate their lives to protecting us, so we can have the freedom to go about our lives as we please.
If you have a chance go. Honour the men and women that faced great adversity and experience a piece of our history.