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Pearl Harbor National Monument

Pearl Harbor National Monument. Located at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base at Oahu, Hawaii, the overturned hull of the sunken battleship USS Arizona is one of the most important American memorials to World War II in the Pacific. On 7 December 1941, in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombers sank the 1912 battleship with a direct hit on its forward ammunition magazine. Within minutes, the ship rolled over and sank in the shallow harbor; many of the crew were entombed in the wreckage. In 1949, the Hawaiian territorial government's Pacific War Memorial Commission made the ship's wreckage the focal point of efforts to create a permanent monument to the dead at Pearl Harbor. A year later, the U.S. Navy attached a flagpole to the protruding mainmast of the sunken ship and erected a temporary floating platform over the vessel.

In 1958, Congress authorized the commission to raise private funds for a memorial, which was completed four years later. Designed by Alfred Preis, it consists of a 180‐foot modernistic building that straddles part of the exposed hull of the Arizona.

During the Cold War, U.S. leaders used the Arizona memorial to emphasize military preparedness and the need to guard against a similar surprise attack. Controversy remained, however, over how to interpret Japanese responsibility for the war, as well as tension over whether the memorial would encourage continued animosity between the United States and Japan. In 1991, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, President George Bush, himself a naval veteran of the Pacific War, delivered a major address at the memorial urging support for American military preparedness but also stressing the need for friendly relations between the two countries.
[See also Battlefields, Encampments, and Forts as Public Sites; Commemoration and Public Ritual.]


Edward Tabor Linenthal , Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, 1991.
G. Kurt Piehler , Remembering War the American Way, 1995.

G. Kurt Piehler

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