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The USS Arizona Memorial shrine was built in honor of those who lost their lives during the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval Fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941. This incident, which Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt described as a "date which will live in infamy," brought the United States the very next day into World War II. From history we learned that it was in the early morning of December 7, 1941 when Japanese airplanes took off from aircraft carriers for a bombing raid on Pearl Harbor, the site of a U.S. military installation on Oahu, Hawaii. The surprise attack which was masterminded by Admiral Yamamoto, came in two waves that included a total of 78 aircraft and 272 bombers. During the attack, 21 U.S. Navy ships were sunk or damaged and 2,395 Americans died. It was a catastrophe for the United States because about half of the Pacific fleet was in port.
The USS Arizona Memorial grew out of a wartime desire to establish some sort of recognition and tribute for those who died in the attack. Ideas and suggestions for such a memorial began in 1943, but it wasn't until 1949, when the Territory of Hawaii established the Pacific War Memorial Commission, that the first real steps were taken to bring it about. President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the creation of the Memorial in 1958. The memorial, which was designed by Alfred Preis, was completed in 1961 and dedicated in 1962. It is a simple white marble structure constructed to straddle across the mid-portion of the submerged battleship Arizona that was sunk by torpedo bombs during the surprise attack. It is 184 feet long and varies in width from 27 feet at the center to 36 feet at the ends.
|The signboard at the Visitor Center's entrance||Visitors boarding the US Navy ferry boat||A shuttle boat on its way to the Memorial|
|The USS Arizona Memorial Structure||Visitors disembarking at the Memorial||Ramp at the main entrance of the Memorial|
|The 200-capacity Assembly Area||Entrance to the Shrine Room||Visitors viewing the submerged battleship|
The assembly area within the memorial can accommodate 200 people for ceremonies. At one end is a shrine room which contains a Vermont marble wall with the engraved names of Arizona's 1177 sailors and marines killed aboard the battleship during the attack. There were actually only 75 bodies that were recovered from the Arizona, and the remaining 1,102 are still entombed within the metal hull of the sunken battleship. The USS Arizona was never decommissioned and her flag still flies daily from a pole attached to the battleship's main mast. Rainbow-colored oil slicks can still be seen floating on the water above the ship. The flagstaff, which was temporarily relocated during construction, is mounted on a portion of the battleship's superstructure and doesn't touch any portion of the memorial itself.
The National Park Service operates a visitor center which is opened daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This center is the required first stop for everyone intending to tour the Memorial which is located on the shoreline overlooking Pearl Harbor directly off Kamehameha Highway. At the visitor's center is a bookstore and souvenir shop where books, postcards, and other memorabilia of Pearl Harbor can be purchased. An American flag which has been hoisted at the Arizona Memorial is also sold at the souvenir shop. Beside is a small museum showing photographs of Pearl Harbor during the bombing and a replica of the USS Arizona. The lawn behind the visitor center provides an excellent view of Ford Island and Battleship Row. No reservations are taken and all tours are free of charge and on a "first-come, first-served" basis.
The tour to the memorial starts with a 20-minute movie about the memorial and exclusive footage of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Visitors then board a U.S. Navy ferry boat which takes them to the actual site where the USS Arizona lies underwater. All visitors disembark on the Memorial and return with their shuttle boat. There are two official ceremonies held on the Arizona Memorial each year: Memorial Day and December 7th which commemorates the attack on Pearl Harbor. On these special days, representatives from different patriotic organization attend the memorial services and present wreaths to honor those who perished at Pearl Harbor. There are still a number of survivors of the attack who also manage to attend these ceremonies although they have started to diminish in recent years. The visitor center and Memorial are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's days.
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