Pearl Harbor

An Overview 

Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu, is a lagoon harbor situated about 10 miles west of Honolulu.  It is the site of the infamous air assault by Japan in 1941, which heralded the beginning of the United States’ involvement in World War II. 

In the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, the tranquil waters of the harbor were disrupted by war.  Japan believed that the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was the only threat to their ambitions of creating an Empire in Asia, and they set out to neutralize this threat by enforcing a surprise air attack.  The US was unprepared for this attack because the War Department did not believe that Japan would attack.  Poor communication between Hawaii and Washington meant that Japan’s messages threatening war were ignored, and so the surprise attack was successful.  The Japanese initially hit the airfields, followed by dropping numerous bombs on US battleships in the harbor.  In less than two hours, the entire US Pacific Fleet battleship force had been ruined.

The USS Arizona is the final resting place of 1,177 brave men.

The USS Arizona is the final resting place of 1,177 brave men.

Pearl Harbor is a solemn reminder of a tragic day.  It is one of the most significant sites in the history of the United States and a National Historic Landmark.  The area consists of a number of museums and memorials that honor those who served in World War II.

Once known for its wealth of pearl oysters- hence the name Pearl Harbor- the bay was originally called Wai Nomi (meaning "pearl water") by the Hawaiian people.  During the early 19th century the harbor was not used for large vessels due to its shallow entrance.  Due to its shipping and trading activity in the Pacific, the presence of the US grew in Hawaii, and in the 1820’s American warships frequented Honolulu.  By 1869, Congress had approved funds to deepen and widen the entrance to the harbor to allow more merchant vessels and warships to enter, and by 1899 the US desired to have a permanent presence in the Pacific and thus established a naval base in the harbor.

After the WWII attacks, Pearl Harbor remained an active base.  Today, it is still a Naval Harbor as well as the final resting place of the USS Arizona. The USS Arizona is a memorial to the 1,177 young sailors who died during the Japanese sneak attack, serving as a reminder to their commitment and sacrifice.  It is a place where visitors can come and pay their respects.

The USS Missouri, also known as "Mighty Mo", helped bring WWII to an end.

Visitors can also tour the USS Missouri battleship, which is famous for her role in bringing WWII to its conclusion; with Japan surrendering on her decks on September 2, 1945.  The USS Bowfin is another feature of the area, and this battleship is known for its nine separate combat patrols in Japanese waters, as well as lifeguard missions.  Visitors may walk through the corridors of this submarine.  The Pacific Aviation Museum preserves the history of this region and is well worth a visit, also.  Both the USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Memorial are located on Ford Island, just across from the Visitor Center, and the USS Bowfin is located right near the Visitor Center.

Here at Hawaii Guide, we have heard of many visitors who simply show up unprepared for their visit to Pearl Harbor, usually with negative consequences: Long lines for tickets and/or tickets being sold out; not managing their time at each location and therefore not being able to experience one or more of the sites, etc. There are many advantages to booking a Pearl Harbor tour with a reputable company, and we strongly recommend you do so. It'll likely make your Pearl Harbor experience stress-free, simple, and allow you to focus on the location rather than the trip details. 

Hawaii Guide's Recommended Pearl Harbor Tours:

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Article Edited/Contributed by: Victoria Derrick
Published/Updated:

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