Remembering the Day that Lies in Infamy 75 Years Ago

By Skip Dreps

The USS Arizona Memorial, at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona (BB-39) during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and commemorates the events of that day. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu led to the United States’ direct involvement in World War II.

More than two million people visit the memorial, built in 1962, annually. Accessible only by boat, it straddles the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it.

uss-arizona-model-2Historical information about the attack, shuttle boats to and from the memorial, and general visitor services are available at the associated USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, which opened in 1980 and is operated by the National Park Service. The battleship’s sunken remains were declared a National Historic Landmark on May 5, 1989.

The Navy placed the first permanent memorial, a ten-foot-tall basalt stone and plaque, over the mid-ship deck house on December 7, 1955. President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the creation of a National Memorial in 1958. Enabling legislation required the memorial budgeted $500,000 be privately financed; however, $200,000 of the memorial cost was government subsidized.

Principal contributions to the memorial included:

  • $50,000 Territory of Hawaii initial contribution in 1958
  • $95,000 privately raised following a 1958 This Is Your Life television segment featuring Rear Admiral (ret.) Samuel G. Fuqua, Medal of Honor recipient and the senior surviving officer from USS Arizona
  • $64,000 from March 25, 1961 benefit concert by Elvis Presley
  • $40,000 from the sale of plastic models of the Arizona in a partnership between the Fleet Reserve Association and Revell Model Company
  • $150,000 from federal funds in legislation initiated by the late Hawaii Senator and Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Inouye in 1961.

Despite being wheelchair accessible, there are no wheelchairs for guest to rent while at Pearl Harbor. Please plan on bringing your own or renting from a third party distributor. If you will require a wheelchair during your trip to Pearl Harbor, please let us know in advance so that we can make arrangements for a vehicle equipped with a lift if required. You can also choose to bring a collapsible wheelchair if you are able to climb the three steps into the vehicle and sit in a seat.

I suggest that guests make reservations for their Pearl Harbor tour at the same time as when they are planning their trip to Hawaii. Tickets are free and limited, and for many people, a Hawaiian vacation isn’t something you are able to do every year. It would be a shame if you weren’t able to reserve a tour while you are on vacation.

The USS Arizona Memorial in particular has a limited number of tickets available per day. Between the documentary that is shown and the shuttle boat ride to the memorial itself, there are literally only so many seats. People arrive at the USS Arizona many hours in advance to wait for tickets when they do not have reservations. On busy days, they can wait for hours and find there are no tickets left for them. During their busy season, they may even have sold out tours; so savvy travellers will schedule their Pearl Harbor reservations when they book their Hawaiian vacation.

uss-arizona-shuttle-ferryParalyzed Veterans of America donated more than $1 million years ago to help make the ramp to the ferry out to the USS Arizona Memorial accessible following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2015 the Navy Pier and ramp were damaged in a Navy ship accident, but have been repaired for the 75th Annual events.

I will be on December 7 this year, early in the morning, casting a memorial wreath in Elliot Bay to remember those Fallen at Pearl Harbor on a Day that still lives in Infamy and toll a single note on the Memorial Bell in remembrance.