Almost the whole of Pearl Harbor, the principal base for the US Pacific fleet, is off-limits to visitors. However, the surprise Japanese attack of December 7, 1941, which an official US inquiry called “the greatest military and naval disaster in our nation’s history”, is commemorated by a simple white memorial set above the wreck of the battleship USS Arizona, still discernible in the clear blue waters. More than 1100 of its crew lie entombed there.
Free tours of the memorial operate between 8am and 3pm each day, but it can be two or three hours after you pick up your numbered ticket before you’re called to board the ferry that takes you there. The visitor centre does at least offer long-range views of the memorial, which was partly financed by Elvis Presley’s 1961 Honolulu concert, his first show after leaving the army.
The huge USS Missouri, which survived the attack and was the scene four years later of the ceremony in Tokyo Harbor that ended World War II, is moored alongside the Arizona. Guided visits, by bus from alongside the Pearl Harbor visitor centre, include the actual surrender site as well as sweeping views of the harbour from the Missouri’s bridge.