Located on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor is a nonprofit aviation museum commemorating the 1941 Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, which resulted in the American entrance into World War II. Ford Island, a 441-acre island within Honolulu, Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor, was purchased by the United States during World War I for use as a defensive airfield. Originally used as an Air Corps flying ground, the island became a prominent Navy base in the 1930s following the Army’s decision to move operations to Hickam Field.
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The island and harbor are best known as the site of the December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, a surprise military strike conducted by the Empire of Japan which sunk four American battleships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and killed 2,403 American troops. The Pearl Harbor attack is credited as the cause for American entrance into the Pacific and European Theaters of World War II during the following days, and has retained a lasting legacy in popular culture since as the subject of numerous films, works of historical writing, and other forms of media.
In 1964, Ford Island was declared a National Historic Landmark. A master plan for development of the island as a historic district was drafted in the 1990s, although military operations at the base continued through the end of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st century. The 1998 opening of the Admiral Clarey Bridge is credited as a major part of the island’s rebirth as part of a $500 million redevelopment plan enacted by Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye. The roots of the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor date back to 1991, when the Pacific Aerospace Museum was opened inside Honolulu International Airport. Though the museum was closed following the September 11 terrorist attacks, several exhibits were preserved by the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor nonprofit, a citizen organization developed in 1999 as part of Senator Inouye’s plans for the development of a new aviation museum in Honolulu. The new Ford Island museum began construction in 2006 and opened the following year on December 7, commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Japanese attack.
Today, the museum encompasses several hangars and landmarks on Ford Island with relevance to the Pearl Harbor attack, including Hangar 37 and Hangar 79, which both show preserved structural damage sustained during the attack, and the Ford Island Control Tower, which broadcast the first radio alert of the attack. Shuttle buses provide visitor access to Ford Island and drop off at the Pacific Aviation Museum outside Hangar 37, which serves as a museum entrance point. A 12-minute film inside the hangar begins the visitor experience, chronicling the Pearl Harbor attack, and a multimedia corridor simulates life on the island prior to the start of World War II. The 42,000-square-foot hangar is home to 25,000 square feet of exhibit space, showcasing World War II aircraft such as the Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Type 0, nicknamed the “Zero,” the B-25B Mitchell, the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber, and the Boeing N2S-3 Stearman.
From Hangar 37, visitors travel to Hangar 79, an 80,000-square-foot space displaying modern jets and helicopters. Inside the hangar, the MiG Alley Korean War Exhibit contains the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 and the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre, both of which played an influential role in air battle during the Korean War. Other craft on display include the Curtiss-P-40E-Warhawk, the Lockheed F-104A Starfighter, and the Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter. The hangar also houses Lieutenant Ted Shealy’s Restoration Shop, an aircraft restoration shop configured to its original WWII standards, which may be toured as part of an Aviator’s Tour experience.
A number of “You Are There” exhibits throughout the museum share personal anecdotes and important highlights about aircraft and memorabilia on display. Several Combat Flight Simulators, including a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat cockpit and an F4U Corsair, are available for visitors to climb aboard for interactive flight simulation adventures. The museum’s restaurant, Laniakea Cafe, offers a variety of traditional Hawaiian and American fare, and a Museum Store sells WWII-themed merchandise, including books, art reproductions, and model airplanes.
Ongoing Programs and Education
In addition to field trip experiences for grades K-12, the Pacific Aviation Museum offers a number of learning experiences for students, including a Barnstorming Tour program, which brings flight simulators and other aviation-themed activities directly into 6th-grade classrooms across Hawaii. Themed camps are available for student and scout groups, focusing on STEM concepts and flight principles. An aviation scholarship program, the Frank Der Yuen Aviation Scholarship, offers financial support to Hawaii flight students, and an astrophotography workshop program for middle school students allows use of telescopes provided by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
The annual Biggest Little Airshow in Hawaii brings miniature aircraft from around the world to the museum for demonstrations and stunt flying. An October career day event brings keynote speakers and a job fair to the museum, and an annual gala event serves as the main fundraiser for restoration efforts and educational programming.
319 Lexington Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96818, Phone: 808-441-1000