Phone: 619-669-5183

A Hidden Nautical Gem in Honolulu – The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum

The bombing of Pearl Harbor remains one of the most traumatic events in recent United States history and there are a number of museums that commemorate it. However, few museums are like the The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, a museum dedicated to the submarine known as the “Pearl Harbor Avenger.”

On December 7, 1942, exactly one year after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the Bowfin was launched into war. It was named after the bowfin, a predatory fish known for its voraciousness and it lived up to its name. It would go on to sink 44 enemy ships during nine separate and highly successful war patrols. The Bowfin was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and a Navy Unit Commendation. It was also one of the only 15 ships saved from becoming scrap metal for the army when it was acquired by the Pacific Fleet Memorial Association in 1979. Subsequently, it was relocated to Hawaii where it was restored.

The park and museum opened on April 1, 1981, right next to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center in Pearl Harbor. It was opened to “restore and preserve” the Bowfin and other “submarine-related artifacts.” It’s unique in that Bowfin Park’s parent organization, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association, is a non-profit, non-state funded outfit devoted to keeping the museum open. In essence, the Bowfin is a boat donation on a grand scale.

The museum itself has a lot of different things to offer visitors. First, you can actually take a tour of the Bowfin itself. Guests are given a cassette player that narrates the tour as they explore the submarine. The actual museum, which is 10,000 square feet, invites guests to explore the history of the submarine by looking through artifacts like photographs, paintings, recruiting posters, and even weapons systems. For instance, you can examine the inner workings of a Poseidon C-3 missile. There is also a 4-foot mini-theater that screens more than 50 episodes of the classic 60s TV show “The Silent Service,” which chronicles actual World War II events.

Visiting the Pearl Harbor National Park will make your visit to the Bowfin museum all the more poignant. When you see how many people died in the attack on Pearl Harbor, you will appreciate why the Bowfin was sent into war.

The museum is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM, with the last guided tour of the actual submarine at 4:30 PM. In a calendar year, they’re only closed three days on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. If you have children under 4 years old, you have to be aware that they are not allowed to tour the submarine per safety rules. However, they are free to tour the museum and even the mini-theater for free. Adult tickets for the tour cost $8 and the child rate (children 4 years old to 12 years old) is $3. For seniors, Hawaii residents, and military personnel the rate is only $6. It’s located at 11 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu, HI 96818-3145.

Additional resources:

Leave a comment