Pearl Harbor Military Museums

Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is, of course, the site of the Japanese surprise attack which brought America into World War Two.   Most people also know about the memorial located above the USS Arizona, a battleship sunk during that battle with very high loss of life; however, far fewer are aware of two other historical attractions in the same vicinity, which are also associated with ships which fought the war in the Pacific.   The first of these is the USS Missouri, the last battleship the United States ever built, and the platform for the Japanese surrender which brought World War Two to a close.   In addition, there is the USS Bowfin, a submarine which forms the nucleus of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.   All three of these ships are now within easy reach of each other.

On December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was tied alongside a pair of concrete mooring piers near Ford Island in what was known as "battleship row".   She was there together with six other battleships, and with a support ship the USS Vestal tied up on the side furtherest from the island.   The attack began at 7:55AM, and only 15 minutes later a bomb penetrated the deck of the Arizona and detonated its foward ammunition magazine.   The huge explosion and subsequent sinking killed 1177 of her crew, which is over half the American casualties on the day.   All eight battleships were sunk or severely damaged, however five of them were later salvaged and returned to service.   The Arizona was left where it sank, together with almost all the bodies of the men who died on her.   The current memorial which straddles the ship was opened in 1962.   It can be visited without charge and is very popular, attracting large crowds, about twenty percent of whom are Japanese.   The outside of the memorial can be viewed both from the shore and during the launch ride over to the memorial.   After a very short trip the launch ties up alongside and then visitors can enter the memorial and see displays showing the state of the ship before the attack and now, as well as a marble wall with all the names of the sailors killed.   The ship itself can also be seen through the fairly clear waters of the harbor, slowly but constantly leaking the oil which is still in its tanks.

The USS Missouri is the ship on which General MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.   It's somewhat ironic that the Missouri is named after a US state which is land-locked, but then so were six of the eight battleships in port during the Pearl Harbor attack, including the USS Arizona itself.   At least the Pennsylvania came from a state with a port, but the Utah, Nevada and Arizona were all from completely land-locked desert states!   Unlike any of these ships, however, the Missouri was a member of the Iowa class of big gun battleships, the ultimate development of this type of warship.   Its nine huge 16 inch guns are each capable of throwing a shell weighing 2700 pounds to a distance of 23 miles (37 kilometers).   These armor piercing shells can then penetrate a bunker made of reinforced concrete 32 feet thick.   The Missouri stayed in service long after the Second World War, fighting in Korea and Vietnam, as well as the Gulf War against Iraq.   You can view the ship from the outside, or tour the inside and see its bridge and other areas.

The USS Bowfin is probably the least known of Pearl Harbor's attractions, but well worth a visit if you're at all interested in this sort of thing.   If you're at the Arizona visitor center then the Bowfin couldn't be easier to get to, because it's right next door.   The submarine which the museum's named after was launched on December 7, 1942 and was nicknamed the "Pearl Harbor Avenger", eventually sinking 44 Japanese ships.   You can tour both the outside of the submarine and the inside, and you can also visit a memorial to the 52 American submarines and 3500 crewmen lost in the war.   A display near the front of the museum shows historic torpedoes and missiles used on American submarines, including nuclear missiles and even nuclear torpedoes!   Another outside display at the back has historic exhibits like a Japanese Kaiten submarine, intended to be used on kamikaze missions against Allied warships.   The indoor exhibition areas have lots of artifacts and memorabilia including a large scale model of a World War Two submarine.