By Anna General
Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs
Designated as a national historic landmark for its strategic importance related to the United States annexation of Hawaii and for the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack during World War II, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial recently reopened the USS Arizona Memorial tours to the public.
Located adjacent to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the USS Arizona Memorial stands above the hull of the sunken USS Arizona, which serves as a tomb for more than 900 Sailors and Marines who remain within the ship. The memorial also honors the 1,177-crew members who died as a result of the attack.
In a recent press release, the National Park Service (NPS) announced increased access to Pearl Harbor National Memorial, which includes the reopening of USS Arizona Memorial programs.
Jason “Jay” Blount, chief of interpretation and public information officer for the Pearl Harbor National Memorial said the NPS across the country has developed an adaptive recovery plan that allows each individual park to resume access to various components of their operations.
“Based on the guidance of local officials from the City and County of Honolulu, close consultation with the Centers for Disease Control as well as local NPS public health officials, we determined museums could reopen safely in Hawaii,” said Blount. “We resumed access to USS Arizona Memorial programs so that the public could have access to this critical component of American history but we were certain to implement multiple safety procedures to ensure that our visitors and staff can do so safely.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center (PHVC) ensures the safety of visitors and staff by reducing the number of people who visit by providing fewer boat tours with longer time spent on the memorial to pay their respects to the fallen Sailors and Marines who were killed during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
“We have limited the number of people who enter the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center at one time. We’ve also reduced the number of people who participate in the USS Arizona Memorial program [boat tours] to 50 people every 30 minutes with about a daily max participation of almost 800 people per day,” said Blount. “During the first week of its reopening, we have not reached that 50-person maximum threshold.”
As visitors transit to and from the USS Arizona Memorial, the U.S. Navy requires the use of face coverings on their vessels. Prior to boarding the vessel, the NPS staff provides short, interpretive briefings on the various histories around the time of Dec. 7, 1941. To obtain tickets to the Arizona Memorial boat tours, reservations are only available online by visiting www.recreation.gov for a $1 reservation fee prior to arrival to PHVC.
“When making the online reservation, visitors are emailed a QR code and they can present that to our staff either digitally with their phone or in a paper print out,” said Blount. “We also have a system in place if they forget their printout or phone, we can help them pull up their reservation from our contact list.”
In addition to the health and safety of visitors and staff, multiple hand sanitizer canisters are placed around the facility and plexiglass shields are installed so that staff and visitors have a physical separation.
The health and safety of visitors, employees, volunteers and partners continues to be paramount. At Pearl Harbor National Memorial, the operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored.
“It is important to know that visiting the museums at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free and the $1 reservation fee is a fee that is applied by the contractor responsible for the ticketing system, it’s not funds received by the NPS,” Blount said.
For more information on hours of operation, please visit www.pearlharborhistoricsites.org.
(Editor's note: Published in the Ho'okele magazine - August 2020 edition.)