Tuesday, August 13, 2013

75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor: The Unknown Ewa Battlefield, December 7, 1941

75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor:

The Unknown Ewa Battlefield, December 7, 1941

Nearly everyone today knows the story of "Pearl Harbor" and what happened.
But that story largely neglects what happened in West Oahu- not just at Ewa Field and Ewa Plantation Village, where 40 planes were destroyed- four Marines and two civilians killed, and 65 reported wounded at local hospitals. Fort Barrette was also attacked by Japanese planes, killing one soldier and wounding others.

Or the air combat that saw five Japanese planes shot down- and the still largely unknown story of 8 Navy SBD's from the USS Enterprise that were also shot down in West Oahu, killing 11 officers and crewmen, as well as the two private planes shot down by Japanese Zero's carrying three West Oahu Army soldiers.

The Ewa West Oahu Battlefield (approximate) total is:
11 Navy pilots and crewmen killed (SBD's and Wildcats)
4 Marines killed (Ground) and many combat wounded
4 Army soldiers killed (3 Air, 1 Ground by strafing)
2 Civilians killed (Ground) and many dozens wounded...
22 U.S combat deaths.
Including the Japanese air crews- around 10
Overall total: 32 killed in Ewa-West Oahu on December 7, 1941.

There is also the very real possibility that the first ground combat of the Pacific War was fought right on the Ewa coastline- a Japanese pilot who held out for two days before finally being killed because he wouldn't surrender.

People know today how bad the Pearl Harbor attack was- but it could have been far worse. The USS Enterprise (CV-6) had gone to Wake Island to drop off Ewa Field Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF-211), and was due back at Pearl on 6 December, but a storm slowed her progress back. If the Enterprise had been sunk at Pearl Harbor, this would have been a very great victory for Japan, and could have significantly altered the Battle of Midway, where the Enterprise aircraft helped sink many of the Japanese carriers and aircraft that had attacked Pearl Harbor.

While the Enterprise did not make it Pearl on December 6, Admiral Halsey decided to send ahead Scouting Squadron 6, nine pairs of SBD-2 dive bombers, mostly from Scout Squadron Six, but including a few planes from Bomb Squadron Six. The planes were to maintain radio silence, search for enemy ships and then land at Ford Island. These planes began arriving along the Ewa coastline at the exact same time that waves of Japanese planes were flying down the same Ewa coastline. The result was one of the least known stories of December 7, 1941.

Coincidently, also arriving from the opposite direction- all unknown to each of the other parties, were a large flight of B-17's from California. And once the attack started, P-40's from Haleiwa Airfield arrived in the same Ewa area as Japanese planes were attacking Ewa Field. The result was one of the most bizarre air combat events of the Pacific War, and it all happened over Ewa, West Oahu.

Meanwhile Japanese began attacking Ewa Marines flown to Wake Island...

'Forgotten' Sacrifice Honored In West Oahu

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Preserving 'Ewa Marine Corps field

an uphill struggle

By William Cole Advertiser Columnist   June 30, 2008

'Forgotten' Sacrifice Honored In West Oahu


'Ewa Beach resident John Bond hasn't given up on his struggle to gain preservation of Marine Corps Air Corps Station 'Ewa, one of the first battlefields of U.S. involvement in World War II on Dec. 7, 1941, but he knows he's up against some powerful players with other ideas.

"Despite the recommendations that the 'Ewa Marine Corps Air Field qualifies for the National Historic Register, qualifies for national monument status, qualifies for national battlefield status and the National Battlefield Protection Program," Bond said, the Navy has other plans.

Japanese Zero fighters strafed the nearly 50 Marine aircraft at 'Ewa Field before the first raid on Pearl Harbor minutes later. Four Marines were killed during three waves of attacks.

Joel Fujita, who's now 88, remembers being on the roof of his parents' 'Ewa Plantation home about 50 yards from the base front gate. He and three brothers climbed up on the roof to see what they initially thought was a training exercise.

"A Zero fighter came over. You could see the canopy open," Fujita said. "He was waving to us, so we waved back, and about five minutes later, a plane came back and started to strafe in front of our house."

Bond, an amateur historian who has done a lot of research into 'Ewa Field, said he's pursuing a suggestion from Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory, who was onboard the USS Honolulu, for 'Ewa Field to become a new national veterans cemetery.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl has no more space for in-ground burials.

Bond is trying to rally last-minute support as the Navy, which owns the 'Ewa Field land, finalizes plans to lease to Ford Island Properties 499 acres for 40 years with an option to take title to the property.

A chunk of that land includes the old 'Ewa Field runways.

The Navy said the lease still is being negotiated, with an agreement expected by the end of August. Ford Island Properties is part of the Hunt Development Group.

Steve Colon, president of the Hawai'i division of the Hunt Development Group, previously said in a statement that the Kalaeloa land "offers an opportunity to create needed jobs near the urban center of Kapolei," but added that specific plans had not been made for its use.

Bond believes Hunt will build shopping centers and expensive homes on the land, which abuts Barbers Point Golf Course.

The Navy had said 4 to 5 acres at the center of the old runways are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but Bond wants a bigger chunk of the old base preserved.

There's not much left to see of the airfield, with only foundation outlines, a Quonset hut and concrete building or two standing, but the original runways are still there. Dozens of arched concrete aircraft revetments remain on a separate portion of the base.

Bond's development concerns for the area are evident in plans like the final lease agreement that recently was signed to bring as a neighbor to 'Ewa Field a big shopping center.

The agreement was announced by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the Tampa, Fla.-based Hawai'i DeBartolo LLC. The center, called Ka Makana Ali'i, will have 1.6 million square feet of commercial space.

Fujita recalls a very different time, when Marines in 1941 used to walk over and wait in the family's front yard for the bus to town.

"We had four good friends, Marine pilots, and we used to do their laundry," Fujita said.

He also remembers during the Dec. 7 attack a Marine wounded and in bandages coming into the street with a rifle looking for Japanese infiltrators.

Larry Galola wrote in to say photos of the concrete aircraft revetments brought back memories of when they were used as bomb shelters for elementary students during the early 1950s.

"I attended Barbers Point Elementary School back then and it was located on the edge of the airfield. During the Cold War bomb drills we walked to those revetments and took shelter there," he said. "I also recall exploring all the old abandoned WWII bunkers as a kid living on base."




Group fights to preserve historic military sites

By William Cole Advertiser Military Writer November 5, 2008

Two military properties are included on the Historic Hawai'i Foundation's annual list of most endangered historic places in the state, a concern that the organization said can be overcome by preservation and re-use.

The Fort Kamehameha Historic District of 33 early-1900s homes, a general store house, battery Hawkins annex, bandstand, chapel and flagpole at Hickam Air Force Base are being examined by the service for demolition or lease, or movement of the structures elsewhere.

At Kalaeloa, meanwhile, large portions of the former Marine Corps Air Station 'Ewa, hit by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, are being transferred by the Navy to Texas-based developer Hunt Companies, earning a second spot on the Historic Hawai'i Foundation list for the military because of demolition concerns.

Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of the foundation, said there are ready-made answers to the preservation issues.

The State Historic Preservation Division would like to take over the Fort Kamehameha Historic District, using several of the homes for offices and the others for the storage of iwi, or bones, and other items, officials said.

In the case of 'Ewa Field, historically significant areas can be incorporated into future development plans, Faulkner said.

"Those are fairly straightforward and easy solutions," Faulkner said.

The last Shinto Shrine on Maui and the oldest buildings at the century-old University of Hawai'i campus also are on the foundation's list of the state's most endangered historic sites for 2008.

"The nine sites vary by historic era, architectural style and original purpose," Faulkner said. "But they all contribute to our understanding of Hawai'i's history. The historic places we preserve, and the people whose stories they tell, make Hawai'i what it is."

Faulkner said the list is intended to draw attention to threats to historic places from neglect, natural disaster or deliberate demolition, and to encourage community action to reverse those threats.

The 2008 list includes six locations on O'ahu, and one each on Moloka'i, Kaua'i and Maui.

Faulkner said military bases are under orders from the Defense Department to reduce their inventory and footprint of property deemed "excess."

"All of the military is under tremendous pressure to reduce their inventory and their maintenance costs because all of the money is going to the wars," Faulkner said.

"The military owns and manages and is steward of some of the most important historic resources in Hawai'i, and they do not have the money to take care of them."

In the case of the Fort Kamehameha Historic District, the Air Force is putting together an environmental impact statement to examine the ramifications of demolishing, leasing or moving the homes.

According to the Air Force, the Defense Department in 1984 determined that the housing and associated structures in Fort Kamehameha were eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Air Force said all of the homes were constructed in about 1916, and that "the handmade appearance of the homes in the shoreline setting manifests the rural lifestyle of the era."

The homes were vacated by August, Faulkner said, after the Air Force determined that living in the homes was a safety hazard because of their proximity to runways at Honolulu International Airport.

The Air Force said the majority of the Fort Kamehameha housing is within a mile to a mile and a half of the runways, which places it in an "Accident Potential Zone 1" safety zone.

Faulkner said several of the homes are outside the accident zone, and the State Historic Preservation Division wants to use those as offices. Nancy McMahon, the state's deputy historic preservation officer, said most of the buildings would be used as "curation facilities."

At Kalaeloa, the Navy plans to transfer 499 acres to Ford Island Properties, including a large portion of 'Ewa Field, one of the first U.S. bases to be attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

Ford Island Properties is part of the Texas-based Hunt Companies.

The State Historic Preservation Division, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Historic Hawai'i Foundation all have raised red flags over the land transfer, saying more needs to be done to preserve the history of the military land.

'Ewa Beach historian John Bond wants to preserve portions of the Marine Corps air station, but Ford Island Properties' plans for the land remain unclear.

Japanese fighters attacked 'Ewa Field minutes before Pearl Harbor, and four Marines were killed.

Bond is trying to line up support for a preservation plan.

"I'd say we're making a lot of unofficial, good progress," Bond said. "We haven't yet made the
official progress."


Group wants to save WWII history from demolition
By Zahid Arab Jun 08, 2008

EWA BEACH (KHNL) - Many here in Hawaii and around the country can never forget the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That deadly ambush, killed thousands and has been immortalized in pictures and film. But now a local group says an important area involved in the attack is in danger of being destroyed. 

It's a place where many marines lost their lives after a steady Japanese attack.

The Ewa Marine Corps Air Field has been untouched since the war and while some consider it forgotten, others call it a fixture in American history.

  "They basically shot up all of the planes that were right here. Destroyed most of them and then continued onto Pearl Harbor," said John Bond.

Historian John Bond says the old Ewa Field is often confused with Barbers Point Naval Air Station.

  "As the planes kept coming in and bombing different fields and everything they would come back to this area rotate and then keep shooting everything that moved," Bond said.

Once a target of fire, Ewa Field is now the target of demolition. A private commercial development company takes over the land's lease in July.

  "That group can basically come out here and bulldoze this field completely because they don't have to abide by anything in their lease other than the fact that they can do whatever they want out here," Bond said.

Nearly 70-years after the attack, this building that was said to be used for Ammunition storage is virtually the only building that remains here at Ewa Field. A piece of history that may soon fade fast.

" There really is a very short clock running on this place right now. If it's not saved this place could be lost in a matter of weeks," Bond said.

  The last time anyone's used the field was back in the late 40's, but Bond says the memories here are not forgotten.

" Those guys that served and died out here deserve some recognition they shouldn't be swept under the rug because literally that's what's happened here," Bond said.  For this historian it's a hope to create a path to protect this piece of American history.

  President Bush ordered an investigation into designating Pearl Harbor and other historic World War II sites a national monument. Bond says he's asking everyone to contact their Congressman and urge them to protect Ewa Field.

 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Hawaii

This annual list, compiled by the Historic Hawaii Foundation, in cooperation with the State Historic Preservation Division, selects some of Hawaii’s most endangered historic places.



Ewa Field

(Ewa, Oahu)

• What is it?

Originally established in 1925 as a Navy field for airships—yes, dirigibles—this military site was used only sporadically until early 1941, when the Marine Corps converted it into an active airfield as World War II heated up around the world. When the Japanese fighter pilots buzzed in close on Dec. 7, they were able to destroy or badly damage almost 50 aircraft, and kill four Marines. The field itself was left relatively unscathed, and continued to play an important role in training and deploying Marines during the war. "There’s a cultural history here that’s hugely important," says historian John Bond. "Ewa Field is directly tied into the key battles of World War II, from Pearl Harbor to Wake Island to Midway." Ewa Field was officially decommissioned in 1952. Today, the airfield sits empty, overgrown with grass and kiawe trees.


• What threatens it?

As we went to press, the Navy, which had owned the property, transferred 499 acres of Kalaeloa land, including parcels containing the former Marine Corps Air Station, to private developer Ford Island Properties, a subsidiary of

Texas-based Hunt Companies. The transfer went through without the historic resource inventory analysis requested by the state Historic Preservation Division, a survey that would have cataloged the historically significant architectural, archaeological and cultural elements of the property. Ford Island Properties hasn’t made public its intentions for the land, but given its prime location near the Barbers Point Golf Course and the 67-acre shopping center being planned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, it’s safe to say it will make an attractive site for development.

• What can be done?

It’s not too late for an inventory of Ewa Field’s historic elements. Ideally, Ford Island Properties and the HCDA will work together with the community on development plans for the area to include the preservation of Ewa Field. Says Bond, "I’m not against Hunt or anyone developing here, I just want to protect what historically we think is important here."