My Trip To Pearl Harbor and Tour of USS Arizona

This January, I got the chance to take the vacation I always wanted to go on…to Hawaii. Despite a solid week of tourist-packed trips, events, and food; one thing I had to see  before I left was Pearl Harbor. If you ever get the chance, please take it. I had no idea what to expect.

I have read about Pearl Harbor and seen the movies but you don’t really understand the sacrifices made on December 7th, 1941 until you are there, staring out into the Harbor with memorials scattered across the water. My gallery of pictures:

*Numbers inside of brackets refer to the order of the gallery

This first shot (1) in my gallery below is looking out the harbor to the USS Arizona and the white bouys in the water are where other ships were sunk. All of these ships held thousands of men and were not small by any means. This kinda gives you a small understanding about the size of the loss that morning. There is also a submarine (2) in the harbor which was the USS Bowfin which was a submarine launched on December 7th, 1942 and eventually set up as a memorial to show the layouts and history of the US submarines.

When you arrive, there are many things to see while you wait to go out for the USS Arizona tour, which is by far the most popular attraction. Throughout the walking area are many markers (can see in the bottom of #2 picture) giving thanks and remembrance to ships, submarines, and lives that have been lost in wars throughout America’s history. There is a submarine museum, gift shop, many photo locations, places to eat, etc. It is well organized and the premises were spotless.  They definitely take pride in the location.

There are many different parts of the ships and subs at the harbor that offer an understanding of how things were located on the ships at the time of attacks. The Conning Tower (3) internals show how tight the inside of the Conning Tower (5) actually was. The conning tower of a submarine is where the steering was done as well as where the missiles were launched from. (4) is a picture of the Polaris A-3 Submarine launched ballistic missile. This missile had a range of 2,880 miles! It was launched by a gas launch system and when it reached the surface, the rocket motor ignited and became airborn.

(8) is a picture of yours truly looking out through a replica periscope that was used on the subs of the time. The distance of the periscope could be adjusted via controls on the side. From the view I was looking out, I could see the Arizona over the Conning Tower in picture (5).

(9) “Kaiten” torpedoes were Japanese suicide torpedoes. The Japanese modified these from their pre-existing torpedoes to allow them to be controlled by the “pilot”. The first ones made allowed the pilot to escape but the ones afterwards trapped the pilot inside. Only two ships were sunk by these torpedoes though due to extremely difficult steering and a near impossibility to see.

(10)40 mm quad turret which armed almost all major battleships for US. These turrets were mainly anti-aircraft and could fire a 2 lb. shell 33,000 feet at 120 rounds/min! These turrets were controlled by two men, one on each side. I couldn’t imagine how scary it would be to fight from these being extremely open to fire from the enemy.

As you can see, there are quite a few things to read about and look around at before you go out to the Arizona Memorial which is the main attraction. I tried viewing everything but it would literally take you a full day to take all of it in.

Reading about all of the history of the war and ships really helps you understand how the attack took place and helped me understand more about the Arizona before going out on our USS Arizona tour.

The Arizona tour starts with a 15-20 minute movie showing the ship and harbor before the attack and setting the stage of the War and why the attack took place. I learned more through the movie than anything else. It really gives you a lot of the lost details of the war, both on the American side as well as the Japanese side.

When entering the theater, everyone received a card with a soldier on it who died on the ship that morning. The cards told us about that person’s hobbies, family, lifestyle, hometown, etc. It did a great job of making you understand that 1000’s of people just like you and I died that day.

See, before going to the harbor, I thought of that day as a group of people died. After coming back from the harbor, you realize that 1000’s of individual people died. People who had families, people who had hobbies, people who wrote home to their family, people who loved our country, people just like me and you…died that day.

Following the movie, you set out on a small ferry to the Arizona memorial. Above the memorial is an Amerian flag…(11)

I took 10 pictures of the memorial going out on the ferry. It was just a breathtaking sight and the picture by no means does it justice. Before I tell you more about the memorial, please check out picture (24) to understand the layout of the memorial over the actual wreckage. The parts of the ship in brown are the parts still visible today.

One thing about December 7, 1941 that I didn’t know before the trip was that on that morning, most of the soldiers on the ships were either inside cleaning up or washing the deck. Also, the reason for the sinking was because of a Japanese vertical bomber (which means a plane dropped a bomb that traveled straight down) which dropped a bomb which landed in the front magazines. The bomb caused much of the ammunition (over 1,000,000 lbs.) to errupt, instantly killing the ship and its men alike. Over half of all of the fatalities that day came from the USS Arizona.

1,177 people died on the ship. Only 105 people were able to be removed from the wreckage following the sinking.

Up to that point in time, the single bomb killed more people at one time than any other single event in the history of the world…

(12) This picture shows oil which is still coming up from the ship today. I had read that oil was still rising before I got there but I was shocked to see exactly how much oil was in the water. In some places, it is estimated that in 2009 there were still 500,000 gallons of oil remaining in the hull. The water surrounding the memorial had traces of oil…very creepy though to think that the ship is still “alive” in a sense. Many of the survivors say that the oil will continue to rise until all survivors have passed away.

(13) The most visible remnant of the ship is the front gun turret. These heavy turrets could pierce any ships armor but do to the quick movement of the airplanes, became nearly obsolete that morning.

(14)(15)Both of these pictures show what is remaining of the flag pole that flew over the Arizona. I am unsure of how high this climbed, but I can imagine by the size of the pole that it must have been extremely tall.

(16)Shows the names of many of the men who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. 1,177 people passed away that one day on the USS Arizona alone.

(17)A list of men who survived the attacks but have since passed away. These men returned to have their ashes buried with the Arizona to be buried with their fellow soldiers.

(18)”Mooring bitts”. When docked, these posts held the ropes that kept them in port.

(19)A concrete landing that was built after the ship sunk.

(20)Plaque announcing official memorial. This memorial was built in 1958.

(21)Flags on the memorial.

(22)Inside of memorial. This shot is taken as you first step in the memorial. Looking at the picture, the turret and flag pole is on the right side, through the slit in the back is the list of names, and on the left is the mooring bitts and landing.

(23)The white buoy shows the end of the tail of the ship. Overall, it was over 600 ft. long. What you see in the water is the remnants of the 2nd gun turret.

(24)Layout of memorial over ship. Brown parts are visible still today.

(25)Plaque giving thanks for contributions to the memorial.

Overall, you will spend around 15-20 minutes on the memorial and it is quite the sight to see. Since going to the Harbor, I have to say that I give more thanks for our current soldiers both overseas and in the states as well. I am extremely grateful for the chance to see all of the history and I highly recommend trying to take the trip if possible. You can make a whole day out of the trip if you have the time…there is just so much to take in. Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and please comment with anything that will add to the blog!

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