Almost the whole of Pearl Harbor, the principal base for the US Pacific fleet (just over one hour from Waikiki, beyond the airport, on TheBus #20), is off limits to visitors. However, the surprise Japanese attack of December 7, 1941, which an official US enquiry called "the greatest military and naval disaster in our nation's history", is commemorated by a simple white memorial set above the wreck of the battleship USS Arizona, still discernible in the clear blue waters. More than 1100 of its crew who had earned the right to sleep in late that Sunday morning by coming second in a military band competition are entombed there.
Free tours to the ship operate between 8am and 3pm each day, but it can be two or three hours after you pick up your numbered ticket at the Pearl Harbor visitor center (daily 7.30am-5pm) before you are called to board the ferry across the bay. Many of the 1.5 million annual visitors are Japanese; an even-handed twenty-minute film pays tribute to "one of the most brilliantly planned and executed attacks in naval history", and books and charts are on sale telling the Japanese side of the story. The USS Arizona memorial was partly financed by Elvis Presley's 1961 Honolulu concert, his first show after leaving the Army.