Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is preparing to open the doors of the historic Ford Island Control Tower on Memorial Day after being closed for decades.
A new tour, Top of the Tower Tour, is a guided tour that includes access to the historic Operations Building, the Firehouse Exhibit, and an elevator ride to the upper cab of the control tower – the pinnacle of the tour with 360-degree views of the Pearl Harbor aviation battlefield from 168 feet high. Historic videos and pictures in the upper cab show the attack’s impact and aftermath, giving a new understanding of the “day which will live in infamy.”
The bottom of the Operations Building is anchored by the Preserving our National Treasure exhibit, researched and fabricated by U-Haul®, which explores the history of the building and tower in WWII and beyond. The exhibit also shares the WWII story of U-Haul founders, L.S. Ted and Anna Mary Cary Schoen, a family story of service and ingenuity.
“The Ford Island Control Tower stands as a symbol of resilience and peace, standing watch over this hallowed ground,” said Elissa Lines, Executive Director of Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. “It’s time for the world to witness Pearl Harbor from an aerial perspective.”
The Ford Island Control Tower officially opens for operations on May 30, 2022, in honor of Memorial Day. The restoration process began in 2012 and cost more than $7 million to date. Spanning 10 years, the effort included: restoring historic windows and walls, replacing 53 tons of steel in the tower itself to stabilize the structure, and updating the ceiling, flooring, electrical conduits, lighting, restrooms, and office space. Air conditioning was also added.
The latest stage to be completed, the refurbishment of the historic elevator, provides access from the ground floor to the upper control cab. With funding from the Schoen family of U-Haul and mechanical expertise from Otis Elevator Company, the elevator lift system was repaired and updated as needed to both preserve the historic elements of the 1940s-era equipment and ensure safe operations. The elevator will allow visitors to ascend 15 stories to the upper cab exhibit and observation deck. A final project, restoration of remaining exterior windows, is slated for later this year.
“From the tower, it’s easy to imagine the thunderous rain of bombs and bullets coming down, erupting in fire, chaos, and death,” says Rod Bengston, Director of Exhibits, Restoration, and Curatorial Services. “Now, however, visitors will also be able to grasp a sense of peace and tranquility that comes from the historic view.”
According to Bengston, designer of the exhibit in the upper control cab, the following sites can be seen from the tower:
- Battleship Row, where eight U.S. Navy battleships (USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia, USS California, USS Nevada, USS Tennessee, USS Maryland, and USS Pennsylvania) were bombed and damaged, with four sunken;
- Military bases and airfields at Hickam, Wheeler, Bellows, Ewa, Schofield, and Kaneohe, where 188 U.S. military aircrafts were bombed;
- Ewa Plains, where the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service initiated the attack;
- Hospital Point, where the USS Nevada was beached;
- The Ford Island runway, surrounding shipyards, and historic buildings
- The Pearl Harbor National Memorial features the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as the Battleship MissouriMemorial, and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum.
Funding for the multi-phase, decade-long restoration of the Ford Island Control Tower was powered by generous donations from the State of Hawaii, Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust, Freeman Foundation, Historic Hawaii Foundation, James Gorman Family Foundation, OFS Brands, Dave Lau, and Sharon Elske, Alexander “Sandy” Gaston, Robert A. and Susan C. Wilson Foundation, The R.K. Mellon Family Foundation, CDR and Mrs. Edward P. Keough, Larry and Suzanne Turley, and the U.S. Department of Defense, and many other individuals and corporations.
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is located on America’s WWII aviation battlefield, one of the few places in our country’s nearly 250-year history where America was attacked by a foreign enemy on its own soil. From the strafing marks on our grounds to the incredible views of the most famous battleship in American history, the view from the tower is not to be missed.