Permanent Exhibit

Pearl Harbor Exhibit

This exhibit is a part of our permanent collection and can be seen with our General Admission tickets.


Where it all started… this exhibit tells the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the role of this Japanese submarine and the tragic toll it took on our sailors. Major artifacts include the HA-19 midget submarine and a hatch from the USS Arizona.


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!”

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