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Monday, December 9, 2013

Getting to Know Hawaii: USS Utah Memorial

The Need to Knows:
  • The USS Utah is located on Ford Island, near the intersection of Saratoga Blvd and Yorktown Blvd (past the Navy Lodge).  A small lot is available for parking.  It's exact location can be found here:
  • Since this memorial is located on an active military base, if you don't have the proper identification, you can only visit it if you are sponsored by someone with the appropriate credentials.  The shuttle from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center unfortunately does not stop here.
  • There is no cost associated with visiting the memorial.
  • Because the memorial is small, you don't need much time here (unless you feel compelled to, then by all means, do!)  When we visit with friends and family, we combine it on the same day with the USS Arizona, the USS Bowfin, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum, so we probably spend about 15-20 minutes lingering here.
Looking onto the memorial and the wreckage behind the trees
Two of the lesser known memorials from the attack on Pearl Harbor are the USS Utah and the USS Oklahoma Memorials.  Both memorials honor men and ships that were also lost during the attack.  Today I'll be covering the USS Utah Memorial, and next time I'll talk about the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

The USS Utah Memorial isn't exactly easily accessible.  It's tucked away on Ford Island close to some officer housing, so it may be difficult for those of you without base access to see this memorial.  Although the shuttle bus from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center will take you to the USS Oklahoma (it's right in front of the Battleship Missouri Memorial), it doesn't go to the Utah and you have to be able to drive yourself there instead.  However, if you are by chance able to go, whether with your own ID or by being sponsored by someone with a military/DOD ID,  I highly recommend it.

Only small portions of the Utah are actually above water.  The rest are submerged in the channel.
The USS Utah Memorial is oftentimes empty, leaving you with what I personally feel is a very intimate experience.  There are a few plaques to tell you a little bit about what happened here, but it may be good to brush up on the Utah's history, which I'll help you with below.  I know it's mentioned in the fantastic movie presented right before your boat tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, which is why visiting the Utah in conjunction with the USS Arizona Memorial is a great idea.

Lei with the Utah in the background
The Utah is one of only two ships still submerged from the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the other being, of course, the Arizona.  She had been converted from a battleship into a combined training and target ship and, thanks to wooden planking covering her deck, was possibly mistaken by the Japanese for an aircraft carrier.  She was struck by two torpedoes that caused heavy flooding and she began to list to the side.  Only 11 minutes after initially being hit, she capsized.  Although the ship's captain was able to rescue four men by physically cutting them out of her hull and a vast majority of the crew did survive, 64 men total were killed and they remain entombed within the Utah to this day, making the ship an official war grave.

Incredible image of the Utah capsizing off Ford Island (wikipedia.org)
This memorial is one I always make a point to take my guests to when they come in for a visit.  It's definitely doable alongside the other big historic military attractions (USS Arizona, the Mighty Mo, the Pacific Aviation Museum, etc.) as long as you pay attention to your timeline.  Although there isn't much fanfare over here, I believe it's haunting and beautiful in its own way and will help you grasp the full scale of the attack that happened in this very spot.

Panorama of the wreckage with the Waianae Mountains in the background
The USS Utah Memorial may be a simple memorial, but I believe it is absolutely worth visiting.  Just go with a respectful mindset and a refresher of its history and you will be reminded of another side of the scars we as a nation were left with 72 years ago this past weekend.

View looking back onto Ford Island


  1. Thank you for posting this - especially for those of us who cannot go here.

    Since our last visit to Pearl Harbor I have been doing a lot of reading up on the attack and also the story of the salvage and putting many of the attacked boats back into service which went on for quite some years after the attack.

    I strongly recommend anyone interested in knowing more about what happened after the attack get the book "Resurrection - salvaging the battle fleet at Pearl Harbor" - it is fascinating reading. Each book I read leads me to another book, and another book.

    I wish that the shuttle bus would at least be able to drive past this memorial but it looks from your photos like it might not be an easy thing to do, the bus would have to do a 3 point turn there and if there were a lot of cars parked there this might not be easy.

    Looking forward to the USS Oklahoma Post ;)

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, beedoo! And that book sounds great -- I'll definitely be checking it out soon!

      And yes, unfortunately, I'm not quite sure how the shuttle bus would be able to really even drive by here. You can't really see much from the road (only the glimpse shown in the first picture) and it's also a residential area (officer housing). It just doesn't seem possible to me at this point :( But if we are still here the next time you visit Oahu, I'd be happy to sponsor you and show you around Ford Island, Hickam, and Pearl!

  2. On our third trip with the family to the islands we stayed on Oahu and I made sure that we visited Pearl Harbor. We only visited The USS Arizona memorial because we had the entire family along. I would have visited every memorial available, but having kids along made that next to impossible.
    I will say that the visit to the USS Arizona Memorial was a very sobering and somber experience for even my then 8 year-old.
    Maybe I can visit the USS Utah and USS Oklahoma Memorials in the future.

    1. I'm so glad you made the effort to visit the Arizona! It's truly one of the most touching experiences I've had while living on island. Hopefully you can check out the other memorials on your next visit -- your kids would most likely enjoy the Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum, too! :)

  3. My wife and I want to come in the near future to visit the USS Utah Memorial. We live in the Los Angeles area and my wife's grandfather is entombed in the ship. His name was Charles Otto Michael. He was an officer. We have been told in the past that if you are a direct descendant, you would be allowed to visit the memorial. It says on the Ford Island website that to visit the memorial, you must have a military ID. Do you have any more information about who we should contact to ask what we need to do to get access to the Utah memorial? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi trptplyr! I don't have an answer for you right this second, but I didn't want you to think I wasn't responding to your question. I'll be asking around to see who you can contact regarding this matter. Do you have an approximate time frame in mind yet for your trip here?

    2. In the meantime while I'm asking around, you could try contacting the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center (where the USS Arizona and USS Bowfin are located). The number is (808) 422-3399. They just may have an answer for you or can at least point you in the right direction. Let me know how it goes!

    3. Hello again trptplyr! Sorry for the triple reply, but I think I found another number that might help you. This is for the Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs Office. I don't have a particular person for you to get in touch with, but call the main line and explain your situation and they just might possibly be able to provide you with a sponsor on the day you and your wife visit the memorial. The number is (808) 473-2888. Hope this helps! :)



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