USS Arizona Memorial

Lonely Planet review

One of the USA's most significant WWII sites, this somber monument commemorates the Pearl Harbor attack and its fallen service members with an offshore shrine reachable by boat. At the recently rebuilt visitor center back on land, a modern multimedia museum displays rare WWII memorabilia and a model of the battleship, as well as historical photos and oral history.

Offshore, the USS Arizona Memorial was built over the midsection of the sunken USS Arizona , with deliberate geometry to represent initial defeat, ultimate victory and eternal serenity. In the furthest of three chambers inside the shrine, the names of crewmen killed in the attack are engraved onto a marble wall. In the central section are cutaways that allow visitors to see the skeletal remains of the ship, which even now oozes about a quart of oil each day into the ocean. In its rush to recover from the attack and prepare for war, the US Navy exercised its option to leave the servicemen inside the sunken ship; they remain entombed in its hull, buried at sea. Visitors are asked to maintain respectful silence at all times.

On land, among the most interesting exhibits at the visitor center's museum galleries are islanders' testimonies about the unease before the attack (maybe it wasn't as much of a surprise to residents as it was to the military) and the frank look at the discriminatory treatment of Japanese Americans during the war. A self-guided waterfront walk passes interpretive signs illustrating how the attack unfolded in the now-peaceful harbor. The center's bookstore sells just about every book and movie ever produced on the Pearl Harbor attack and WWII's Pacific theater, as well as illustrated maps of the battle.

Boat tours to the shrine depart every 15 minutes from 8am until 3pm (weather permitting). For the 75-minute tour program, which includes a 23-minute documentary film on the attack, make reservations online (fee per ticket $1.50) at www.recreation.gov at least a few days before your visit. Free first-come, first-serve tickets are also available in person at the visitor center's Aloha Court, but during peak season when more than 4000 people take the tour daily, the entire day's allotment of tickets may be gone by 10am and waits of a few hours are not uncommon, so arrive early.