Construction around USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center made our visit a little chaotic. There are several attractions besides the Arizona around the harbor and it was hard to get a proper orientation.
The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum is pretty cool as it is a restored submarine docked in the harbor. The portable audio tour plus the on-board exhibits gave us a pretty good description of how the submariners lived. The exhibits are in excellent condition and the metal fixtures are very, very shiny.
The USS Arizona Memorial was everything I expected. The visit is short by necessity (the average visitor stays for 13 minutes) because there is not much to do once you are out there but look and reflect. Visitors must first see a film for historical context before boarding the ferry to the memorial. The film was good; it made a good impact without being either too sentimental or overly polite.
The infamous oil slicks are eerie. Tiny black blobs of oil rise slowly up from the wreck through the water column, then bloom at the surface into a shiny rainbow colored lick, as if the soul of each dead seaman is escaping the tomb in turn.
We made a quick tour of the USS Missouri battleship, where Japan formally surrendered to the Allies. Unlike the Arizona, the Missouri is intact and afloat, and I felt the massiveness of the ship overshadowed its central significance.
The overall experience of visiting these sites is powerful, though their scattered locations around Pearl Harbor make the visit disjointed and exhausting. The sites still do a good job of telling the story of the Second World War in terms of its people rather than its hardware.