Last updated: 09:51 AM ET, Thu May 28 2015

Hawaii & World War II

Pearl Harbor sites enhance the experience for visitors

Agent@Home | Destination & Tourism | Ryan Rudnansky

Hawaii & World War II

PHOTO: The battleship USS Missouri and USS Arizona Memorial are two of the four historic sites at Pearl Harbor. All photos courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Major sites in the Hawaiian Islands have been adding new attractions and services that offer a more immersive experience while also paying homage to the destination’s role in U.S. history.

This includes four historic Pearl Harbor sites run by the National Park Service: the USS Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.

These four historic sites together tell the story of the Pacific Theater of World War II, from the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor to their surrender aboard the mighty battleship USS Missouri.

Arizona & Missouri Memorials
Of these four, the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial are perhaps the most well known. The USS Arizona Memorial, commemorating the 1,177 officers and crewmen lost aboard the ship when it was bombed, is the No. 1 visitor destination in the Islands, attracting more than 1.8 million visitors per year. The Battleship Missouri is the site where Japan surrendered to the United States, marking the end of World War II.

PHOTO: The battleship USS Missouri and USS Arizona Memorial are two of the four historic sites at Pearl Harbor.

Some recent changes at the Pearl Harbor sites have not only enhanced the visitor experience at the USS Arizona and Battleship Missouri memorials, but also have brought the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and the Pacific Aviation Museum into the spotlight.

For example, half-day tours are now offered that not only include the two-and-a-half-hour USS Arizona Memorial Narrated Tour (an audio tour hosted by Jamie Lee Curtis and featuring commentary from Pearl Harbor historians and survivors), but also allow visitors to add their choice of admission to either the Battleship Missouri, USS Bowfin or the Pacific Aviation Museum.

The “Passport to Pearl Harbor” tour program is even more immersive. For $65, visitors gain admission to all four historic sites: the USS Arizona Memorial (including the narrated tour), the Battleship Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine & Park and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

If visitors don’t get to all the sites in one day, they can use the passport on a second day as long as it’s within a seven-day window.

Carlton Kramer, vice president of marketing for Pacific Historic Parks, said the “Passport to Pearl Harbor” — introduced three years ago — has become extremely popular.

PHOTO: A family takes in the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.

On top of that, it has encouraged and facilitated more tourism to sites such as the USS Bowfin and the Pacific Aviation Museum, which had not previously received as much attention as the USS Arizona and Missouri. Kramer recommends that visitors schedule at least eight hours for the full “Passport to Pearl Harbor” experience.

Pacific Aviation Museum
Anne Murata, director of marketing and business development at the Pacific Aviation Museum, agrees. She says the Pacific Aviation Museum is a site to behold, but it hasn’t gotten as much attention considering that it’s the youngest of the four sites and it’s also situated the farthest from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

But the “Passport to Pearl Harbor” has certainly helped in that regard because with the passport, visitors want to get to all four sites.

The Pacific Aviation Museum started out with one hangar and eight planes and has evolved into a two-hangar, 50-plane major attraction. It is so massive that Murata recommends that visitors spend at least one to one-and-a-half hours there to get the full experience.

Some of the museums exhibits, Murata notes, are traditional attractions, such as an emotive 12-minute documentary of the Pearl Harbor attack narrated by pilots and survivors, the Pan American Airways exhibit and the Amelia Earhart photo exhibit.

But the Pacific Aviation Museum also has a couple of planes that have become mighty popular with younger generations, Murata said.

The Curtiss P-40E Warhawk, a fighter plane, is one of the exhibits that has become popular with millennials. In fact, a miniature version in the form of a magnet, “The Traveling P-40,” is the star of a photo contest that the Pacific Aviation Museum puts on. Travelers simply send their address to the museum and receive the miniature P-40 for free. Then, they post pictures of themselves with the magnet in major attractions around the world.

P-40 pins For Travel Agents
Murata said that the museum will send the Traveling P-40 pins for free to travel agents who want to give them to their clients.

The Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress bomber, or “The Swamp Ghost,” also has become popular with younger visitors to the museum. The Swamp Ghost crashed in the swamps of New Guinea during the World War II. It’s called the Swamp Ghost because it was found time and time again, only to apparently vanish into thin air when it was time to bring it back home.

It was later discovered that the marsh would overtake and cover up the plane during the wet seasons, which gave the illusion of its disappearing. Murata said that the plane’s story and nickname have caught on with millennials in particular.

That’s not all. The Pacific Aviation Museum has also been running the “Biggest Little Airshow” for six years. During the show in August, pilots fly their remote-control planes and helicopters in the skies above the museum. Aircraft will be flown and on static display. There are even “candy bombings” for the keiki (kids).

It’s also worth noting that there is free shuttle transportation to all four attractions and the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center.

Fore more information and to reserve tickets, go to or The website at provides a quick overview of each of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites, along with links to each attraction.

Here Are Tips for Visiting Pearl Harbor

  • The National Park Service gives out free tickets two months in advance, as well as next-day and same-day free tickets. Go to to get tickets.
  • Make sure you book the USS Arizona Memorial narrated tour. The USS Arizona Memorial is self-guided and the audio tour makes a big difference in terms of visitor experience.
  • Visit the official website of the Pacific Aviation Museum for a free flight simulator coupon, a favorite among kids.
  • Ask for a “Traveling P-40” magnet from the Pacific Aviation Museum. It’s free if you give the museum your mailing address.
  • Stay active on social media. Keep in touch with social media-savvy attractions such as the Pacific Aviation Museum.
  • For an all-inclusive experience, book a half-day tour or the “Passport to Pearl Harbor.” The offerings have become popular among visitors young and old for delivering a fully immersive, educational experience.
  • Stay in tune with what younger generations such as millennials want. Mention “Swamp Ghost” and watch millennials’ eyes light up.
  • The Pearl Harbor Visitors Center will host a fireworks show commemorating the war on Aug. 15 at 5:30 p.m.
  • Don’t forget about the USS Oklahoma Memorial, which is next to the Battleship Missouri.
  • Check out the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program. The program is popular with kids.

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Agent@Home Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the May 2015 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.