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Getting an Aerial View of Pearl Harbor Today

a body of water next to the ocean

Pearl Harbor looks a lot different now than it did during the attack of WWII. However, the harbor and surrounding bay has always been evolving throughout Hawaiian history. Even the years leading up to the war had much in store for the area. Getting an aerial view of Pearl Harbor today reveals just how much has changed since that day of infamy.

Because Pearl Harbor remains an active military base for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, some parts are off limits to civilian visitors. Although these restrictions exist on ground, the beautiful bay hides no secrets from the air. Without fighting through crowds of tourists, the exclusivity of the sky lets viewers gaze out undisturbed.

Getting an Aerial View of Pearl Harbor Today

The map above highlights some main attractions that you may have heard of before. Here are a few top sites to see in Pearl Harbor from the sky.

Ford Island

Predominately located at the center of Pearl Harbor is Ford Island, originally known by its Hawaiian name, Mokuʻumeʻume. Over its history, the island has changed ownership several times. At first the location of Hawaiian fertility rituals, the Hawaiian monarchy gifted the land to a Spaniard, regained ownership soon after, and then sold it at an auction to an American. The Ford family used the small islet as a sugarcane plantation and gave the patch of land its current name. Eventually, the U.S. Navy took over Ford Island in the 1930’s and increased its size to accommodate massive battleships.

Today, an aerial view of Pearl Harbor reveals the several tourist destinations and Navy outposts housed on the island. Even after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Ford Island remains an active U.S. Navy base. Visible memorials include the Battleship Missouri, USS Utah, and USS Arizona. The Admiral Clarey Bridge connects Ford Island to the mainland.

Battleship Missouri Memorial

aerial view of battleship missouri

Perhaps one of the most visible attractions from the sky, the iconic Battleship Missouri Memorial remembers the United States’ last commissioned battleship. The ship also served as the site for the Japanese surrender ceremony that ended World War II. The Missouri saw action at the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and later played a role in the Korean War. The Persian Gulf would be its last assignment. In 1998, the USS Missouri made its final voyage back to Pearl Harbor, where it has been a museum ever since.

Now the Battleship Missouri Memorial educates visitors on the ship’s history from its commission in 1944 to today. January 30th of each year is Living History Day on the USS Missouri that lets visitors experience the ship’s past first-hand.

USS Utah

The USS Utah was anchored right off of Ford Island when crisis hit in December of 1941. Although the Japanese fighters were targeting aircraft carriers, Utah was mistaken for one and attacked. Two torpedoes hit, causing the ship to flood and roll over. A total of 461 men were able to safely swim to shore and survived, but 64 perished. The wreck remains partially submerged off the coast.

Unfortunately, the Utah Memorial is off-limits to the public. However, it is open for military personnel and, of course, fully visible with an aerial view of Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona Memorial

aerial view of uss arizona

The USS Utah is the most visited site in Pearl Harbor today. It marks the location where the World War II Pacific Front began for the United States. Over a thousand crew members aboard the USS Arizona died after the Japanese Navy bombed the battleship. The memorial is visible floating over the sunken wreckage. It includes an entry, assembly room, and shrine. An opening in the middle of the memorial allows visitors to peer down into the wreck below.

From the sky, you can see oil on the surface of the water still leaking from the USS Arizona. An aerial view also lays out the body of the entire ship directly below the water.

Middle Loch: U.S. Navy Ship Boneyard

Finally, tucked into Middle Loch is one of three remaining boneyards of the U.S. Navy. A few decommissioned ships are kept here to await their fate. Ships are either retained to later reactivate, resold, or used as target vessels for training. Although not exactly a tourist destination, these ships prove to be an impressive sight from the sky.