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Pearl Harbor Diorama: More than 25 Years in the Making

By Moneé Cottman, Public Affairs Specialist, National Museum of the United States Navy     

Hammond_pictured with model and backdrop1

More than 25 years ago, historian Reverend Todd Hammond decided to make a model display of the center of Pearl Harbor based in part on photos taken prior to the attack. The model has only been seen by personal invitation by a number of veterans and other interested persons over the years, but has not been on public display. An earlier, much smaller version of the model was on public display in Burbank, California in 1994-1995. As the diorama grew in size and in level of detail, many of the stories surrounding the ships and harbor installations at Pearl Harbor began to fascinate Hammond. The events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the personalities involved have driven his interest in this project for the more than 25 years. And now, he’s sharing it with the wider community.

Over the years, Hammond had been encouraged by a number of people – veterans, local politicians, and even artists – to put the Pearl Harbor model on display. Amongst that growing list of supporters is well-known Pearl Harbor

Chief Frank Ruby, USN (Ret.) sharing his recollections of the attack with Todd Hammond.
Chief Frank Ruby, USN (Ret.) sharing his recollections of the attack with Todd Hammond.

survivor, Chief Frank Ruby, USN (Ret). Hammond was encouraged by Ruby to share the model with the general public. Ruby had a vision of transporting the display around to elementary schools and sharing about his experiences. The size and ungainliness of the diorama, however, made this an untenable option. Ultimately, he suggested that it should go to a museum to be shared. He was a regular invited guest to an event at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, where they both lived at the time, and asked the Director for suggestions.

Ruby was given contact information for the National Museum of the United States Navy which he then passed onto Hammond. Upon seeing photos of the model, the museum suggested that the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor would be an appropriate venue to exhibit this piece. “This exhibit is the last major anniversary when one may directly pay homage to the survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hammond’s dedication to the diorama is an example of how we can continue to honor the commitment and patriotism of our veterans,” said museum director Jim Bruns.

The 8’ x 12’ model covering approximately five square miles of Oahu as was on the eve of the attack is the first time this diorama will be on public display. “It is my hope that his model may, in some small way, pay tribute to those who lost their lives and had their lives forever changed because of the events of December 7, 1941,” said Hammond.

In addition to the Scale Model of Oahu, visitors can view key historic objects and rare artifacts including the bell from the USS Hoga, a piece of battleship USS Arizona and the battle “E” plaque battleship USS Tennessee. Film footage, personal stories by Pearl Harbor survivors and compelling photography continue to shape this commemorative exhibit.

Hammond installs thousands of objects including aircraft, ships and hundreds of little buildings built to 1:2,400 scale exactly as they were prior to the attack.
Hammond installs thousands of objects including aircraft, ships and hundreds of little buildings built to 1:2,400 scale exactly as they were prior to the attack.

The National Museum of the United States Navy collects, preserves, displays and interprets historic naval artifacts and artwork for the information, education and inspiration of naval personnel and the general public. As an official Department of the Navy museum under the Naval History and Heritage Command, the National Museum of the United States Navy is the only Navy museum to present an overview of U.S. naval history 1775 to the present.

Valor in the Pacific: A Remembrance, is on display December 7, 2016-March 1, 2017. Want to visit the museum? Go here to find out how!