The National Park Service is resuming a “limited number” of USS Arizona Memorial programs on Friday with visits to the sunken battleship and grave.
The ability to again step foot on the hallowed memorial — normally one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state — follows a June 19 reopening of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, museum and grounds with an easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Trips out to the memorial itself were not available then. A total of 1,177 crew members died on the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941, and more than 900 remain entombed on the coral-encrusted battleship.
With tourism still practically nonexistent in Hawaii due to an ongoing 14-day self-quarantine for arrivals, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center has been seeing an average of 75 to 125 people a day during the week and 180 to 190 on weekend days, said spokesman Jay Blount.
Normally, during the summer peak travel season, the Arizona Memorial would see about 6,000 people per day, Blount said.
He said the visitor center phased reopening has been successful in terms of providing some quality educational experiences for kamaaina and military members.
“Yesterday, we had a mother and father and six children all come in together. And I just left the museum a little while ago and there was a father and his teenage daughter and they had the entire museum to themselves,” Blount said Wednesday.
A successful reopening “as far as the total number of people we’d like to see come out and learn more about the history? I’d say no. We’d like to see more,” he added. “But successful in that the American public has access to Pearl Harbor National Memorial again. I think that’s wonderful.”
The new 45-minute program will consist of a brief orientation from park staff followed by a boat ride to the memorial on U.S. Navy vessels.
Canceled for the time being is the 24-minute movie in a theater that usually precedes the Navy launch ride to the memorial.
“Although there will be fewer programs, visitors will be provided a longer duration time on the memorial to pay their respects to the fallen sailors and Marines,” the park service said in a release.
The adjacent USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park also reopened June 19, while the neighboring Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum opened June 24.
The Navy requires the use of face coverings for all visitors while transiting to and from the Arizona Memorial. Tours will be limited to 50 people per vessel (the boats hold 150) and available only by making online reservations, the park service said.
To obtain tickets for a visit to the memorial itself, reservations need to be made at recreation.gov prior to arrival. A paper copy or digital reservation confirmation must be presented to staff for validation no sooner than 30 minutes prior to the program time, according to the park service.
Tickets for specific tour dates will be made available in two waves: seven days prior and one day prior to the selected program date.
“We encourage the public to visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial and our historical partner sites to pay their respects to the thousands of Americans and their families who served, suffered and sacrificed during that fateful period in world history,” said Acting Superintendent Kathi Palacio.
The health and safety of visitors, employees, volunteers and partners “continues to be paramount,” the park service said. “At Pearl Harbor National Memorial our 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.”