A brief history of Pearl Harbor?
The luster of a pearl appears to change with the changing light of day, and so has Pearl Harbor in the shifting light of history. This remarkable port, home to the great US Pacific Fleet, has been described as “majestic,” one of the Pacific’s best harbors. In fact, every nation that has attempted to control it has long admired it. The sheltered blue-green oasis sparkles with scenic, historic, and strategic significance that predates the attack that drew the United States into World War II. Pearl Harbor had captivated people long before the morning of December 7, 1941, with its dramatic beauty and provocative history.
The ancient Hawaiians called this area Wai Momi, or “Waters of Pearl,” because of the abundance of pearl-producing oysters that once lay on the bay’s bed. The sweeping shoreline that caressed the pristine bay also boasted the greatest number of fishponds of any area on the islands. Because of this natural abundance, Wai Momi became a popular spot for fishing and diving. According to legend, a benevolent shark goddess guarded and protected this valuable natural resource. Today, the United States honors and values Pearl Harbor in the same way that the Hawaiian people did in the past.
The face of Pearl Harbor has changed dramatically over the years. When the first Westerner, British seafarer Captain James Cook, arrived in the islands in 1778, a coral reef blocked the entrance to Wai Momi, making it unsuitable as a deep-draft shipping port. At the time, the nearby Honolulu Harbor was a far more welcoming destination.
The United States Navy made its first contact with the Hawaiian Islands in 1826, when the schooner USS Dolphin sailed into port. It took more than 13 years for the Navy to recognize the potential of Pearl Harbor after that. During a routine survey of the area in 1840, an enterprising naval officer discovered that by completely removing the obstructing reef, the deep inner harbor could be accessed.
Despite acquiring exclusive rights to Pearl Harbor in 1887, the United States did not attempt to exploit their claim to this strategic estuary until well after the turn of the century. It wasn’t until the Spanish-American War that the United States realized it needed a permanent way station in the Pacific to maintain control of the Philippines. For the first time, the American government recognized Oahu’s strategic importance. Annexation soon followed, but little was done to fortify the area or capitalize on Pearl Harbor’s vast potential. Finally, beginning in 1902, the entry channel was dredged, deepened, and widened to clear a gap at the Harbor’s entrance. The 600-foot-wide, 35-foot-deep passage eventually provided access to the Harbor for the entire fleet, including the massive nuclear aircraft carriers.
Despite the overwhelming success of this massive undertaking, Congress did not establish a naval base at Pearl Harbor until 1908. Even so, it wasn’t until 1911 that the first large ship entered the channel and anchored off Naval Station Pearl Harbor: the armored cruiser USS California.
From the beginning of the twentieth century, it was clear that Japan was establishing itself as a world power. As a result of this shift, the United States relocated a significant portion of its naval forces to the Pacific. Pearl Harbor was a pivotal point in the transition, serving as the home port for the majority of the Pacific Fleet. As a result, the pieces of this historic puzzle began to fit together. In time, the very action taken to protect America from this potential threat would be the very thing that exposed her to it.
Pearl Harbor has been revered as a place of great value throughout its history. It initially provided physical sustenance for the Hawaiian people. Later, it enabled America to defeat her adversaries. Today, Pearl Harbor embodies both our past lessons and our future vision. Its legacy ensures that we will never forget the sacrifice that fuels our optimism for the future.
On Memorial Day 1962, the USS Arizona Memorial was dedicated to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor and the men who died defending it. The USS Arizona was designated a national historic landmark in 1989. Since 1980, the National Park Service has run the memorial and visitor center to ensure the preservation and interpretation of the attack’s tangible historical resources, including the rich and vivid memories of its survivors. Veterans have always played an important role in the upkeep of this historic site. In fact, Pacific Historic Parks contributes to the USS Arizona Memorial by coordinating their philanthropic efforts with an active group of Pearl Harbor survivors and others interested in preserving this important legacy.
Every year, over 1.4 million visitors from all over the world visit the USS Arizona Memorial. To accommodate international and out-of-state visitors, the site offers brochures in over 30 languages, including English, as well as an audio program that is currently available in seven languages.
History and Legacy at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The Japanese attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1941, altered the course of world history. It resulted in the United States’ formal entry into World War II, which eventually resulted in the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri in 1945. The legacy of these incidents, as well as countless others that occurred before and after the attack and surrender, can be experienced in a variety of ways at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, which preserves and interprets the Pacific War’s stories, people, and sites. The Memorial is a fantastic example of how such events can be honored while also having a long-term economic and cultural impact.
From Notoriety to Monument
The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, forced the United States into World War II. The attack killed over 2,300 military and civilian personnel and is still the final resting place for hundreds of USS Arizona and USS Utah crewmembers. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial interprets and preserves the attack’s sites and artifacts, as well as the subsequent history and sacrifices made during the Pacific War.
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is located on the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Although it was designated as a national historic landmark in 1964, the area’s historical and cultural significance has shifted over time. The Pacific War Memorial Commission dedicated the USS Arizona Memorial, which was built over the hull of the sunken USS Arizona, in 1962. The shipwrecks of the USS Arizona and USS Utah are both designated national historic landmarks in Pearl Harbor.
There are also two exhibit galleries, outdoor exhibits, an audio tour, a theater, and a bookstore at the complex. Visitors can access other Pearl Harbor Historic Sites from the Memorial’s main entrance, including the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. All of these locations house various pieces of history as well as displays that help viewers better understand the context of World War II events.
An executive order issued on December 5, 2008, designated the USS Arizona Memorial and other Pearl Harbor sites as part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Pearl Harbor. It was an event that demonstrated how visitors’ experiences at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial continue to change and evolve in profound ways.
Experiencing History in a Variety of Ways
History is displayed in a variety of ways throughout the Memorial, including actual pieces of history, displays that recount what happened in or near the area, and monuments dedicated to a specific person or event. This range of experiences allows visitors to grasp the significance of the space in a variety of ways. There are numerous ways for them to gather context of this history with which they can directly engage.
The USS Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center (now known as the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center) straddles the battleship’s sunken hull without touching it. The memorial is only accessible by boat and consists of an entry, assembly room, and shrine. Visitors can see the Arizona barbette sticking out of the water as well as oil leaking from the sunken battleship, dubbed “the Arizona’s tears.”
Since the ship played such an active role in World War II history, the Battleship Missouri Memorial has become one of the most popular attractions at the site. The unconditional surrender of Japan was accepted aboard the Missouri, and the “Mighty Mo” now offers visitors an interactive experience that allows them to travel back in time. Guided tours give you exclusive access to other areas of the ship. The “Surrender Deck” has quickly become one of the site’s most popular features.
Visitors to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park can board the vessel that survived nine war patrols and learn what life was like for the crew. Visitors can also enjoy outdoor exhibits in a four-acre park, a museum dedicated to the history of the United States submarine force, and a memorial honoring the American submarines and crews lost during the war.
The Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor houses two former World War II seaplane hangars that survived the 1941 attack, as well as a collection of aircraft and a diorama depicting aviation in the Pacific Theater. Visitors can take guided tours of Hangar 37 and Hangar 79, which house vintage and modern aircraft as well as scars from the actual attack.
All of these experiences honor and celebrate the history and people associated with Pearl Harbor, and this celebration has resulted in significant cultural and economic opportunities for the site and region.
A Monument’s Cultural and Economic Impact
While the ships and historical displays provide a powerful overview of the area’s history, there are numerous memorials throughout the site dedicated to the people who died at Pearl Harbor and during the war. The Waterfront Memorial includes monuments to each of the 52 United States submarines and over 3,500 American submariners lost during WWII. The base of the Lone Sailor statue is made of steel from the USS Arizona. These displays provide an important cultural context for what it means to properly celebrate such culture.
That power has allowed the Pearl Harbor National Memorial to appear in so many different magazines and tourist materials, despite the fact that residents can participate in the many events that take place at the memorial throughout the year. By providing such a powerful attraction to tourists, the site attracts visitors from all over the world, resulting in a real economic impact with both direct and indirect effects.
The museum gift shop and restaurant, in terms of direct impact, are unique in their offerings and authentic 1940s ambiance. Both have one-of-a-kind items that can only be purchased at the location. Furthermore, tickets and supplemental tours are a significant economic driver for the site, and donations are readily accepted. Large contributions may be designated for specific projects.
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial’s indirect economic impact can be seen in how a visit to the site is included in so many different packages that take visitors to the Memorial as well as other locations throughout the island. The list of authorized commercial transportation providers for the Pearl Harbor National Memorial demonstrates the magnitude of this economic impact on local businesses.
The Memorial has had a significant cultural and economic impact, but that is only part of the legacy it has come to represent for Oahu, Hawaii, and the United States.
Making and Keeping a Legacy
Few places have the historical significance of Pearl Harbor, but a legacy requires more than history. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial has been able to attract visitors from all over the world to celebrate this history while leaving an indelible mark on the culture and economy of the island, state, and country by creating so many different unique experiences and preserving the history of the area in such a powerful way.
Topic: A brief history of Pearl Harbor?
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By: Travel Pixy