Closed: The USS Arizona Memorial is Taken Out of Commission

By Victor-ny - CC BY-SA 3.0

The USS Arizona exhibit at Pearl Harbor is closed down.   The World War Two Valor in the Pacific exhibit welcomes millions a visitors a year.

Boat transportation was suspended after a staffer saw a crack that had formed on the entry ramp suggestive of a potentially serious structural issue that could put visitors in danger.  Visitors are now taken on harbour tours around the memorial rather than visit the wreckage of the USS Arizona.

USS Arizona During the Pearl Harbor Attack.

“There is a brow or an edge where the visitor ramp meets the memorial, and at that point, there’s been some fissures located on the exterior,” said Jay Blount, public information officer for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. “After further investigation on the interior, it was determined that the structure is not supporting the loading ramp the way that we need.”

Blount did not estimate on how long it would take to implement the repairs, instead citing them as unknown.  He also indicated that The National Park Service would keep the public updated as their team of specialists worked to restore access to the monument as soon as possible.

An aerial view of the USS Arizona Memorial

The USS Arizona battleship memorial indicates the final resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the ship during the December 7th Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that provoked the United States into joining the second world war.  Designed by Honolulu architect, Alfred Preis, it was built in 1962.  The structure sits on top of the ship without touching it, allowing for excellent views without further disturbing the ship’s integrity.

The Japanese dropped 1,760-pound armour piercing projectiles within the first fifteen minutes of the attack, with one of those bombs landing in proximity to the ship’s powder stores, causing a massive detonation and fires that killed the crew members almost immediately.  The fires continued to burn the ship and the crew for two and a half days, effectively cremating most of the 900 bodies still aboard.  Only 335 crew members survived.

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island. A torpedo has hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California.

The damage to the ship was total, and the Navy didn’t see fit to attempt a salvage effort, but instead allowed it to remain where it sank  because the location of the wreck didn’t provide any impediment to future navigation. It is now considered to be an active United States military cemetery.

USS Utah Memorial – Pearl Harbor

All the ships sunk or damaged in the Pearl Harbor attack were returned to service except the USS Utah and the USS Oklahoma.  The USS Utah suffered the same fate as the USS Arizona and now exists as a permanent war memorial and active United States military cemetery.  While the USS Oklahoma was also sunk during the attack, she was raised and put in dry dock and decommissioned in 1944, only to sink to the bottom of the ocean while being towed to the US mainland.  The memorials to the USS Oklahoma and the USS Utah are still open on the opposite side of Ford Island.

The memorial for the Arizona closed on May 27th, but the saga began two years ago in May 2015 when the Navy hospital ship Mercy collided with the memorial’s dock, damaging it.  Since then the fissures have only been growing as the exhibit sees between 4,000 and 5,000 people a day, and an estimated 1.8 million people a year.

USS Bowfin Museum at Pearl Harbor

Despite the memorial’s closure, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is still open.  Here guests can watch the documentary film, and then engage in a harbor tour, including Battleship Row in reasonably close proximity to the USS Arizona Memorial.  Also, the various bookstores, gifts shops, and Pearl Harbor museums remain open, as well as the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park.