It took more than $7 million and 10 years of restoration work, but the historic Ford Island Control Tower at Pearl Harbor reopened on Memorial Day — in time to honor the more than 2,400 service members who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Part of the restoration included the addition of an elevator, thanks to U-Haul’s Shoen family. U-Haul, by the way, was founded by a U.S. Navy veteran and his wife in 1945.
“Reopening the Ford Island Control Tower is another way to honor the memories and preserve the stories of the brave individuals who sacrificed their lives defending our freedom,” U-Haul Chairman Joe Shoen, son of U-Haul founders L.S. “Sam” and Anna Mary Carty Shoen, said in a statement. “Our history must be shared with future generations.”
The best part is that you can visit the Ford Island Control Tower. During the Top of the Tower Tour, visitors will experience views of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, featuring the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as Battleship Row, where eight ships were bombed and four were sunken.
Visitors can also see military bases and airfields at Hickam, Wheeler, Bellows, Ewa, Schofield, and Kaneohe, where 188 U.S. military aircraft were bombed, as well as Ewa Plains, where the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service initiated the attack, Hospital Point, where the USS Nevada was beached, and the Ford Island runway, surrounding shipyards, and historic buildings.
“From the tower, it’s easy to imagine the thunderous rain of bombs and bullets coming down, erupting in fire, chaos, and death,” Rod Bengston, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum director of exhibits, restoration, and curatorial services, said. “Now, however, visitors will also be able to grasp a sense of peace and tranquility that comes from the historic view.”
The Ford Island Control Tower’s History
The Ford Island Operations Building, officially known as S84, was still under construction on December 7, 1941. In fact, the control area wasn’t even at the top of the building. Instead, it was at the base of the tower.
The first radio broadcast announcing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at 8:05 a.m. on December 7, 1941, actually came from what came to be the Ford Island Control Tower, according to PearlHarbor.org. Amazingly, although the building was being strafed by Japanese aircraft, controllers continued to guide U.S. aircraft in and out of the Ford Island airstrip, according to Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
By November 1942, the tower was painted with a three-tone gray camouflage pattern. It didn’t receive its distinctive orange and white stripes until the early 1960s, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum explains.
The building was used for a number of purposes through the years, including as a fire station, chapel, training facility, and, eventually, a control deck operated by the Hawaii State Department of Transportation for civilian touch-and-go landing practice.
Know Before You Go
The 15-story Ford Island Control Tower now stands at 168 feet tall. During the Top of the Tower Tour, which is billed as a “once in a lifetime” experience, visitors can use the elevator to reach the observation deck. From there, they’ll have a 360-degree view of Pearl Harbor.
It’s important to note that only 120 tickets will be available each day. They are $24.99 as an add-on to general admission or the Passport to Pearl Harbor Tour, or $34.99 for just the Top of the Tower Tour.
You can learn more about the tour and buy tickets at the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites webpage.
For more about the attack on Pearl Harbor, be sure to read National WWII Museum Opens Exhibit For 80th Anniversary Of Pearl Harbor. And if you’re planning a trip, be sure to also read Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Pearl Harbor National Memorial.