Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fort Barrette and MCAS Ewa Field December Ceremonies

Fort Barrette and MCAS Ewa Field December Ceremonies


Ray Emory, on board the USS Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941 will be the Key Note Speaker at the Ewa West Oahu Fort Barrette and MCAS Ewa Field December Ceremonies, starting at 9 AM. Sunday, December 5 at the actual combat battle site.

The MCAS Ewa Field ceremony this year will honor the little known and unrecognized airmen killed along the Ewa Coast by Imperial Japanese Zero fighters. Two private planes carrying three Army soldiers, and four US Navy SBD's from the USS Enterprise, were shot down along the Ewa shore and inland area that today is largely covered by golf courses and home tract developments.

By 10 AM, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the battle was over, but for the United States, World War II was just beginning. The attack came during peacetime, meaning servicemen weren't required to wear dog-tag IDs. This led to a high rate of unidentified dead, and they might have remained so, if not for the tireless work of 88-year-old retiree Ray Emory.

Emory has continued to research KIA's and MIA's, including one of the still yet to be identified airmen of the USS Enterprise shot down over the Ewa shoreline. His remains may be buried at Punchbowl National Cemetery, home to some 600 unidentified Pearl Harbor casualties.

"These guys got killed in battle for their country and they should be so identified and recognized, period," says Emory. Emory calls his effort a labor of love to help honor the memories of those who died and to bring closure to their families.

"I'll be doing this to my dying day," said the 88-year-old Hawaii resident. Emory turns to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), when he thinks he's ID'd someone. Emory said he gets a huge lift by helping to piece together an unsolved case.

"You don't know how good it feels to get a call from JPAC saying,'You've done it again," he said. But the biggest reward, he said, is being able to call family members and tell them that their loved one has been identified.

In early December, 1941 the USS Enterprise was out of Pearl Harbor on a secret mission carrying Ewa Field Marines and aircraft to Wake Island. It was scheduled to arrive back in port by December 7, but was delayed one day by a Pacific storm front.

Had it been in port and destroyed, it may have made a critical difference during the Battle of Midway when the Enterprise played a crucial role in winning that air and sea battle that many still call "a miracle."

But before the Midway battle, by late December 1941, after the Ewa Field Marines held out for nearly 30 days against a superior Japanese naval and Imperial Marine invasion force, Wake Island fell. The effect of this event and a subsequent 1942 "Wake Island" movie, caused tens of thousands of Americans to enlist in the US Military.

On the morning of December 7, an Enterprise air group was sent out ahead, and was making their way to a Ford Island landing when they were suddenly attacked by Imperial Naval Zero fighters near Ewa Field.

Four SBD's were shot down, killing seven air crewmen and pilots. Three private planes were also shot down by Zero fighters, two along the Ewa coast.

This action was also witnessed by then Ewa Village resident Ramsay Hishinuma, who was a teenager camping out with friends at Hau Bush beach park that morning.

The names of the Navy and Army SBD KIA and MIA will be honored this Sunday, December 5 at 10 AM at Fort Barrette and the MCAS Ewa Battle site ceremony, beginning at 9 AM. The public is invited to attend.

John Bond