How Pearl Harbor Has Changed Over the Past 20 Years

March 30, 2010

Pearl Harbor is best known for the 1941 Japanese bombing that prompted the United States to enter World War II. The US naval base located on Oahu Island, Hawaii, has many memorials and museum dedicated to the infamous events of Sunday, December 7, 1941. The most popular attractions in Pearl Harbor are the memorial of the USS Arizona and the outdoor museum called the Polynesian Cultural Center. Admission to the memorial is free and any soldier who served on the Arizona can have his ashes scattered above the shipwreck site. In the last 20 years, the island has erected more memorials to honor its rich history and significantly increased its profile as an education and entertainment vacation destination.
In December 2006, the Pacific Aviation Museum, located on historic Ford Island, opened Hangar 37 to the public. Hangar 37 focuses on the Pearl Harbor attack with interactive displays of the Battle of Guadalcanal and Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo bomber raid. Other hangars at the museum will focus on the Vietnam War, Korean War, and Cold War. The museum also plays host to several air shows. Scheduled for opening in 2010 or 2011, Hangar 79, will offer interactive displays and vintage aircrafts will educate the public on the major theatres of WWII including the Philippines and China. A full-size replica of a WWII aircraft carrier will also be featured inside the hangar. The museum has a flight simulator where visitors can experience the thrill of combat flying in a Wildcat or Zero aircraft.
Additionally, the island has 18 markers dedicated to battleships sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack. The Admiral Clarey Bridge, built in 1998, connects Ford Island to mainland of Oahu. Before the bridge was constructed Ford Island could only be reached by ferry and the island was closed to the public. Only tourists who possessed a military identification or had been invited by a military family could access the island.
Another Pearl Harbor historic site is the battleship USS Missouri. Moved from the US in 1999,the USS Missouri, nicknamed “Mighty Mo”, it now sits perpendicular to the sunken USS Arizona representing both the beginning and the end of the United States’ participation in the war The USS Missouri is famous because the Japanese signed the surrender papers aboard ship signifying the end of WWII. The ship’s location signifies its protection of the USS Arizona.
While surfers may travel to Waikiki beach for the awesome waves, the beach also offers a history lesson to tourists. In 1994, native Hawaiian historian George Kanahele penned a paper describing 10 ways to improve Waikiki Beach. One of Kanahele’s suggestions was the creation of the Waikiki Historic Trail and in 1997 he founded the Native Hawaiian Tourism and Hospitality Association to further his goals of restoring Hawaiian culture on the island. Kanahele suggested that the historic trail highlight significant events and locations in Hawaiian history. Although he passed before all of the historic markers could be placed on the trail, today 19 surfboard markers highlight historical sites along the beach.