The highly anticipated Pacific Aviation Museum - Pearl Harbor (PAM) opened to the public on Dec. 7, 2006, the 65th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Hawaii.
Located at Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island, a National Historic Landmark and the site of our nation’s first aviation battlefield, the PAM tells the story of military aviation in the Pacific during World War II.
The first phase of the Museum is 42,442 square feet and located within Hanger 37 -- future phases will be built at Hanger 79 and Hangar 54 and tell additional stories of the Korean War, Vietnam War and Cold War.
Difficulty Getting to the Museum
I was privileged to tour the museum with its Marketing & Business Development Director Jean Navarra. With her assistance I was also able to secure a pass to drive through the Navy base to the museum, something which, unfortunately, regular visitors cannot do.
In fact, the rather cumbersome and restrictive means to get to the museum is something which is likely keeping visitor levels quite modest. Unfortunately there appears to be no easy solution to this problem.
In order to visit the museum you must park at the Arizona Memorial parking lot, purchase a ticket at the nearby USS Bowfin ticket office and then board the Ford Island Trolley at the Trolley stop in front of the USS Bowfin Memorial. Since the museum is on an active Military Base security procedures are in effect. No bags are allowed on the Trolley. You may bring a camera, but no bags whatsoever.
Despite the difficulty in getting to the museum, it is well worth a visit and once the additional two hangers are completed in 2009 and 2011 respectively, it will definitely be a must stop for any visitor who truly wants to understand the role of aviation in the defense of freedom.
Inside the Museum
The Museum has acquired a significant collection of original, historical aircrafts. Visitors learn about the patriotism, valor and sacrifice made by the military and civilian men and women in the Pacific region. In addition to featuring the planes that flew on the front lines, the Museum also tells the stories of the supporting heroes on the ground.
Had the museum chosen to just exhibit aircraft, it would be far less impressive. It is the stories of the men who actually flew in these aircraft depicted in life-like settings or dioramas with the planes that makes for a memorable visitor experience.
As you enter the Museum you watch a short documentary on military aviation in the Pacific and the history of Ford Island which was home to not only a naval air field but adjacent to Battleship Row which was the primary target of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941.
You then proceed through a hallway with blowups of old photos and postcards evoking the Oahu of December 1941 prior to the attack. As you enter the main part of the hanger you first see a large artistic interpretation of a Japanese plane preparing to attack Ford Island or Battleship Row.
Highlights within Hanger 37 include:
- Japanese Zero fighter - The Zero took part in every major action involving the Japanese Navy. It won a series of victories against all types of land and carrier-based Allied aircraft during the first six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
- Army Air Corps B-25 Mitchell bomber - This American twin-engined medium bomber was used with devastating effect against German and Japanese targets in every combat of World War II. The aircraft was named the "Mitchell" in honor of General Billy Mitchell and gained fame as the bomber used in the 1942 Doolittle Raid.
- 1942 Stearman Biplane - This historic airplane is the actual plane that former U.S. President George H.W. Bush learned to fly in and took his first solo flight in. At the time he was only 18 years old, making him one of the youngest American Aviators in World War II.
- Aeronca 65TC - This was the first American plane engaged in combat during World War II. As the pilot and his teenage son were enroute back from Molokai to Honolulu in this pilot trainer Aeronca operated by Gambo Flying Service, they encountered the first wave of 150 Japanese Zero fighters headed to attack Pearl Harbor. Two Zeros circled back and attacked this civilian general aviation plane causing damage to the aircraft.
- Battle of Niihau Display - This display tells the story of the Niihau residents who captured Japanese Pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi upon his crash landing on the island after attacking Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay and Bellows Army Air Field on Dec. 7, 1941.
In addition to the historical dioramas, the Museum offers visitors the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of being a pilot by operating a simulated fighter. The experience will enable participants to "fly" an American or Japanese plane and communicate via radio with other flyers while surrounded by a panoramic view of the sky from a pilot’s point of view.
Dining and Gift ShopThe Museum also contains an exclusive aviator-style restaurant and a gift store where visitors can purchase a variety of gift items including shirts, hats and books. The museum also offers event space for private functions, indoors or outdoors, for up to 10,000 guests.
If You GoAs I have stated, tickets are available at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum. The ticket office is open daily from 8:00 - 4:00. General admission is $14 for adults, $7 for children; admission for Hawaii residents and military is $10 for adults and $5 for children; and all active duty military in uniform will receive free admission. For ticket information, call (808) 690-0169.
Allow at least two hours for your visit to the Museum and remember that the Museum is on an active Military Base so security procedures are in effect and no bags are allowed on the Ford Island Trolley.
The Pacific Aviation Museum - Pearl Harbor is a non-profit organization founded in 1999 to develop, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, the first military aviation museum in Hawaii. For more information, visit the museum's website at www.pacificaviationmuseum.org.