Japan surrenders to the U.S. onboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945. // © 2016 75th Commemoration Committee
Feature image (above): Pearl Harbor attractions include USS Arizona Memorial (foreground) and Battleship Missouri Memorial. // © 2016 75th Commemoration Committee
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, it not only triggered U.S. involvement in World War II, but it also changed the course of history. More than seven decades later, children still learn about the attack, adults discuss its significance and a handful of survivors reminisce about what former president Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed a “date which will live in infamy.”
With the approach of the 75th anniversary of that fateful day, Hawaii is planning a major commemoration on Oahu that will appeal to visitors from around the globe. Themed “Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future,” the tribute — which will feature stirring music, movies, educational programs and more — is slated for Dec. 1-11.
Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Thomas Fargo, head of the 75th commemoration committee, said the series of special events will focus the world’s attention on Hawaii.
“The 75th commemoration embraces our acknowledgement and respect for all men and women who have answered the call of duty for the last seven decades, and will honor those during WWII who did everything possible to protect our nation and the world,” Fargo said.
Many Events Are Free
While the commemoration is expected to draw important dignitaries to Oahu, it has also been designed to attract everyday travelers, with many events open to the public.
Among the free activities are military band performances on the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center lanai, a wreath-laying ceremony at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), a presentation by a keynote speaker and a parade through Waikiki. On five different evenings, visitors can head to Waikiki Beach for complimentary screenings of movies related to various branches of the armed services.
Ticketed events include an opening gala, a luncheon honoring veterans of Americans of Japanese Ancestry, a Pearl Harbor survivors tribute and a concert at Aloha Stadium.
During the celebration, Pearl Harbor’s four historic sites — USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pacific Aviation Museum — will stay open for tours and activities, although there may be some limitations on Dec. 6-7. Travel agents can find the entire schedule on the commemoration’s website.
To stimulate both interest and bookings, hotels, attractions and other visitor-oriented companies are already creating programs related to the special event. For instance, the Historic Pearl Harbor package from Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk comes with two full-day tour passes to the attraction, including audio tours of the Arizona Memorial and Bowfin (from $299 per night until Dec. 22).
Meanwhile, Oahu Visitors Bureau (OVB) has called on several strategies — such as fams, webinars and social networking — to help travel agents sell vacations timed with the commemoration.
“We have been educating agents on the significance of the commemoration and the importance of booking early, especially since the events take place during one of Oahu’s high seasons,” said Noelani Schilling-Wheeler, OVB’s senior director of sales and marketing.
Key markets for the commemoration include WWII buffs, multigenerational families, veterans, active members of the military and millennials who want to take part in a historic occasion, added Schilling-Wheeler.
“I cannot stress enough the urgency for travel agents to get proactive with their database, their communities and their social platforms in sharing this very historic set of events and booking clients as early as possible,” Schilling-Wheeler said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience on U.S. soil and a way for all of us to honor the past and inspire the future.”