In 1941, moored off the shores of Ford Island (located in the middle of Pearl Harbor) were some of the largest ships in the US Pacific Fleet. The first attack by the Japanese began at 7:55 am, with the second attack ending two hours later. The loss was immense: 2,403 people (military and civilians), 18 ships, 188 aircraft destroyed and another 159 damaged. World War II had now begun for the U.S. on a “date that will live in infamy.”
The museum takes you back to 1941, starting with a visit to Hangar 37. There, you’ll watch a film of the attack, interspersed with original film and photos from 1941. Visitors will get a sense of the dawning of a tranquil and peaceful day on this beautiful island, and watch as events unfold, bringing the drama to life on a very human level. Following the film, you enter an exhibit area with a variety of vintage aircraft on display. Feast your eyes on a Mitsubishi Zero, a Navy Wildcat fighter, and an Aeronca 65 TC. Aviations buffs will be enthralled.
After the tour of Hangar 37, visitors get further immersion into the day’s experience by visiting a recreation of the aftermath of the Japanese attack. Red Cross vehicles are staged on a debris-covered field, smoking planes are visible, and the senses go on alert as you can only imagine the horror of having lived through the real experience.
Leaving the battlefield and coming back to reality, the tour moves you to Hangar 79. Here you will see marks from the bombing that still exist: bullet holes in doors of the hangar and shrapnel marks in the concrete walls of the hangar, as you listen to first hand accounts of the attack told by actual survivors.
Getting tickets to visit the museum requires a few steps, but it is well worth the effort. You can get tickets through an approved travel desk at area hotels, or through the USS Bowfin ticket office. The Bowfin is located next to the USS Arizona Memorial, and is open daily 8 am-4 pm. To get to the museum, you board the Ford Island Trolley in front of the Bowfin. Allow at least two hours for the tour and viewing.
Location: Pearl Harbor, Hangar 37, Ford Island, 319 Lexington Blvd. (Honolulu)
Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily. Closed Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years Day.
Admission: $14 adults, $7 children, $7 aviator’s guided tour
NOTE: The museum is on an active military base and security procedures are in effect. No bags are allowed on the trolley.