Pearl Harbor Exhibit

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 launched the U.S. into the global war.

At 3:42 a.m., the watch officer on board the coastal minesweeper Condor reported what looked like a periscope visible near the entrance to Pearl Harbor and signaled that information to the destroyer Ward.

At 6:53 a.m., the Ward advised Navy headquarters that they had “attacked, fired upon and dropped depth charges upon submarine operating in defensive sea area.” Little did they know that six Japanese carriers had already launched the first wave of torpedo bombers that would target Hickam Field, Ford Island, and Kaneohe Naval Air Station.

In a matter of hours, eight American battleships were sunk or severely damaged. The Arizona sank with more than 1200 trapped sailors and the destroyer Cassin laid wrecked in dry dock. Of the battleships, only the Nevada made enough steam to move but was deliberately run aground to ensure access to Pearl Harbor would not be blocked.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on that would-be peaceful Sunday morning achieved total surprise.

The Japanese radio message back to their fleet confirming that they had achieved surprise: “TORA! TORA! TORA!”

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Pearl Harbor Exhibit Video

The Museum’s Pearl Harbor exhibit houses several significant artifacts and displays:

Japanese midget submarine HA-19

Japanese midget submarine HA-19 was one of five submarines that attacked Pearl Harbor on that morning each with a crew of two and carrying two torpedoes. HA-19’s gyrocompass malfunctioned and she ran aground outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor and was captured.

Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki, the boat commander, survived while his crewmate drowned. Sakamaki became the first Japanese prisoner of war. Included in the display are photos of Ensign Sakamaki, internment documents, and images of HA-19 aground. Postscript: in 1991, Sakamaki visited the National Museum of the Pacific War for its annual Symposium and was reunited with HA-19.

Adm. Chester Nimitz awards the Navy Cross medal to Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller for his actions aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

A tribute to Doris Miller relays the now-famous story of a young, African American, Texas native who was a mess steward on the USS West Virginia and became a decorated hero for manning a machine gun to defend his ship and crew. At the time, the U.S. Navy was segregated, and African Americans were only allowed to serve in certain capacities and were not trained in the use of weaponry. Postscript: Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, a Knox-class frigate named in his honor (USS Miller) was commissioned in 1973, and in 2020, the U.S. Navy announced that its newest aircraft carrier will be named in Miller’s honor. Miller was one of 646 killed when the USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56) was sunk in November 1943.

Hero Doris Miller speaks with a group of unidentified persons at a war bond rally on January 7, 1943

A Hatch from the USS Arizona

A hatch from the USS Arizona is an artifact that many visitors find significant. A great portion of the Arizona still rests where it was struck and sunk alongside Ford Island. Of the 1177 crew who were killed, over 900 remain entombed there. An external hole is prominent on the hatch where would-be rescuers tried to access the ship after the attack.