by Jack McKillop
Physical Description & History
The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,550-miles (2,494-kilometers) from the island of Hawaii in the south to northernmost Green Island in Kure Atoll. Midway Islands are also considered in the Hawaiian Islands but is included in a separate article. The Hawaiian islands are about 2,300-miles (3,701-kilometers) southwest of the North American continent.
The islands are the exposed peaks of a great undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, formed by volcanic activity over a hotspot in the Earth's mantle.
A joint resolution in the U.S. Congress to annex Hawaii was signed by President William McKinley on 7 July 1898 and the islands became the U.S. Territory of Hawaii. On 22 February 1900 the Hawaiian Organic Act established a territorial government with a governor appointed by the U.S. President. The territorial legislature convened for the first time on 20 February 1901.
The population of Hawaii in 1900 was 154,001 with 39,306 living in Honolulu. By 1940, the population had increased to 422,770 with 179,326 living in Honolulu.
On 18 March 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Hawaii Admission Act which allowed for Hawaiian statehood. In a referendum more than 93% of Hawaii’s citizens voted in favor of statehood and Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state of the Union on 21 August 1959. At the time, the population of Hawaii was about 423,620 (85%) Americans and foreigners and 76,620 (15%) Native Hawaiians.
In the 20th Century, the U.S. Navy built major installations on four islands, Hawaii, Kauai, Molokai and Oahu:
Barbers Point, Naval Air Station
Naval Air Station Barbers Point (21°18' 27"N, 158°04' 13"W) is located on the island of Oahu about 8.1-miles (13-kilometers) west-southwest of Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The base was adjacent to Marine Corps Air Station Ewa (q.v.).
In the 1930s, the Navy leased a 3,000-foot (914-meter)-square section of land and erected a mooring mast for the rigid airship USS Akron (ZRS-4). However, while flying off the coast of New Jersey, Akron encountered severe weather and crashed in the early morning hours of 4 April 1933. Only three men survived the crash. Thus ended the need for the mooring mast.
In November 1941, the Navy started work on an air station to the west of MCAS Ewa. NAS Barbers Point was originally designed as an auxiliary, or outlying airfield, of NAS Pearl Harbor. Original plans were designed to supply accommodations for land-based operations of two aircraft carrier groups of 90 aircraft, with provision for station personnel. Included were runways, two hangars, necessary shops, storage, and utilities, and quarters for 2,000 enlisted, 250 officers, and 800 civilian workers.
This base was established as an NAS on 15 April 1942 and was utilized for advanced combat training for fighter and bomber crews prior to assignment to forward areas. Additional authorizations after the outbreak of World War II increased the station's capacity to a point at which it could support four carrier groups. Personnel accommodations were increased to a capacity of 4,000 enlisted, 450 officers, and 1,200 civilian workers. Additional magazines and training facilities were added and the size of runways and plane-parking areas were increased.
The two main runways, 8,400-by-1,000-feet (2,560-by-305-meters) were originally laid out forming an “X,” or modified radial layout. These runways were to be 500-feet (152-meters) wide with lengths varying from 3,400-to-4,800-feet (1,036-to-1,463-meters). Later, it was decided to enlarge the runways by increasing the width to 1,000-feet (305-meters) and the overall lengths to 8,400- and 8,300-feet (2,560- and 2,530-meters), respectively. With this radial arrangement of runways, control of flight operations was facilitated and the necessity for long taxiways obviated, with resultant greater operational economy and traffic capacity.
Two steel-frame 370-by-240-foot (113-by-73-meter) hangars, with 25-foot (8-meter) wide two-story lean-tos at either side for offices and shops, had exterior walls of asbestos-protected corrugated metal. The assembly and repair shops were housed in a steel-framed, concrete, block-walled structure.
Housing and messing accommodations for 2,000 enlisted men were provided in nine-barracks, a mess hall and galley, and a bakery and cooks' quarters. In August 1942, these facilities were ordered increased to care for 4,000 men. The barracks were H-shaped, two-story structures. Housing for 400 officers was provided in several two-story, frame buildings.
One-story, wood-frame buildings were erected for a 150-bed hospital. Included in on interconnected building were a mess hall, boiler plant, and morgue. Medical stores, the garage, and nurses' quarters were in small separate buildings.
Storage space was provided in 92 buildings. The original plan called for one large warehouse, but later, in conformity with the policy for dispersing stores, eight scattered groups of small storehouses were substituted. These buildings were of light, temporary construction, on concrete slabs. In addition, four larger storehouses were built in the main station area.
Aviation gasoline storage was provided in twenty-four 25,000 U.S. gallons (20,817 Imperial gallons or 94.6 kiloliters), underground, steel tanks, equipped with a water-displacement system. The underground receiving tank, also of steel, had a capacity of 570,000-U.S. gallons (474,624-Imperial gallons or 2.2-megaliters). Delivery was designed to be by truck or by railroad tank-car. The storage tanks were buried in coral rock. In line with the Navy's policy to disperse important stores, the tanks were built in widely separated groups of four tanks each, with a distance of at least 100-feet (30-meters) between any two-tanks. Diesel oil and fuel oil were each stored in two 25,000-U.S. gallons (20,817-Imperial gallon or 94.65 kiloliters), underground, steel tanks.
The air station was decommissioned by the Navy in 1998 and turned over to the State of Hawaii for use as Kalaeloa Airport. In 2011, Kalaeloa Airport is used as an alternate landing site for Honolulu International Airport and for general aviation purposes.
Barking Sands, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility Barking Sands (22°01' 22"N, 159°47' 06"W) was located on a U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) base on Kauai Island. The Army acquired the land in 1940, named it Mana Airport, and paved the runway. Additional land acquired in 1941 expanded the facility to 2,058 acres (832 hectares). Hawaiian Airlines used the field for passenger stops, and Pan American Airways made occasional landings at the field. Barking Sands experienced very heavy military traffic during World War II, and a series of land transfers and easements caused continual changes in the total real estate assigned to the installation.
During the war, the base consisted of two runways, a 6,400-by-200-foot (1,951-by-61-meter) asphalt runway and a 6,360-by-200-foot (1,939-by-61-meter) crushed rock runway, with a 1,600-by-300-foot (488-by-91-meter) apron, all of which could accommodate heavy bombers. Fourteen-barracks and four-mess halls, 23-revetments for heavy bombers and permanent accommodations for 1,500 men were also added.
The USAAF never used the airfield to its full capacity and a portion of the base was turned over to the Navy on 1 January 1944. NAAF Barking Sands was commissioned in the spring of 1944 but the USAAF reclaimed the land on 15 June 1944.
The USAAF/USAF retained the base after World War II and it was officially named Bonham Air Force Base in 1954. In 1956, the USAF turned over 37-acres (15-hectares) to the U.S. Navy for testing of the Vought Regulus I cruisemissile. In 1958, the Pacific Missile Range Facility was established to support the growing demand of the Navy at Bonham. The Pacific Missile Range Facility was commissioned in 1962 and Bonham AFB was transferred to the Navy in 1964.
Ewa, Marine Corps Air Station
Marine Corps Air Station Ewa (pronounced Eva) (21°19' 30"N, 158°02' 41"W) was located adjacent to NAS Barbers Point on the island of Oahu. The Navy leased 150 acres (61-hectares) in 1925 to erect a mooring mast for the rigid airship USS Shenandoah (ZR-1). However, on 2 September 1925, Shenandoah departed NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey on a flight to the Middle West for training and to test a new mooring mast at Dearborn, Michigan. While passing through an area of thunderstorms and turbulence over Ohio early in the morning of 3 September, the airship was torn apart and crashed near Marietta, Ohio. Shenandoah's commanding officer and 13 other officers and men were killed. Twenty-nine survivors succeeded in riding three sections of the airship to earth.
The Navy next planned to send the rigid airship USS Macon (ZRS-5), based at NAS Moffett Field, Sunnyvale, California, to Hawaii in 1935. The mooring mast was to be lowered and quarters built for the crew. On 12 February 1935, when returning from fleet maneuvers, Macon ran into a storm off Point Sur, California. During the storm, she was caught in a sudden updraft which caused structural failure of her upper fin and resultant gas leakage and loss of control. Settling to the sea, Macon sank off the California coast, losing only two-crew members.
After the crash of Macon, it was decided to modify this land by constructing a 1,500-by-150-foot (457-by-46-meter) oil-surfaced emergency landing field and it was named Ewa Mooring Mast Field.
In September 1940, the Navy purchased an additional 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) around the field for a Marine Corps air station. Field work was started in September on the grading required for the extension of the existing runway and for a new cross-runway; the airstrips were in usable conditions by early 1941 and the first aircraft arrived on 3 February 1941. By June of that year, the paving of the two strips was complete, and Marine personnel moved in, erected their own living facilities, and operated a small number of planes.
In July 1941, work began on two groups of barracks with a total capacity of 3,000 men, 100 man Bachelor Officer Quarters, a storehouse, shops, a dispensary, mess facilities, and an operations building. Two-additional runways were laid down, a 300-by-950-foot (91-by-290-meter) warm-up platform was added, and one hangar was provided, an old structure moved from Ford Island.
On the morning of 7 December 1941, there were 48 aircraft present, 20 Douglas SBD-1 and three SBD-2 Dauntlesses, 11 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats, eight Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators, two Grumman J2F-4 Ducks, one Lockheed JO-2, one Sikorsky JRS-1, one Douglas R3D-2 and one North American SNJ-3 Texan.
The first Japanese attack occurred at about 0800 hours when Mitsubishi A6M5, Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighters Model 11 (later assigned the code name Zeke) strafed the airfield for 20 to 25 minutes. The first targets were the tactical aircraft that were parked on the field and then they attacked the utility aircraft and targets of opportunity. The second attack began at 0835 hours when Aichi D3A, Navy Type 99 Carrier Bombers Model 22 (later assigned the code name Val) strafed the field and dropped 551 pound (250 kilogram) bombs. By this time, the Marines were alerted and returned fire with the Japanese aircraft. After the second attack, seven U.S. Navy Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) landed but the ground crews told them to leave and they took off for NAS Pearl Harbor; three of the aircraft later returned and landed. After the SBDs left, 15 Vals attacked but due to heavy ground fire and lack of targets, they flew off.
Of the 48 planes at the field, 33 were completely demolished, with the remainder, except one, suffering major damage. Four Marines were killed and 13 wounded. In the months after the attack, one runway was restored to usable completion in less than two months; buildings were hastily erected, and splinter-proofing of power transformers and other vital installations was rushed. On 1 September 1942, Ewa was established as a Marine Corps Air Station.
Extensive passive-defense facilities were included in the expansion that accompanied the designation of Ewa as a separate base. These measures included 75 reinforced-concrete half-dome revetments, 91 sandbag bunkers, a dressing station, and blast protection for vital installations. The airfield had four-runways, each 300-feet (91-meters) wide, with lengths varying from 2,900- to 5,000-feet (884- to 1,524-meters). Gasoline storage was built underground in four 25,000 US gallon (20,817 Imperial gallons or 94.6 kiloliters) and five 50,000 US gallon (41,634 Imperial gallons or 189.3 kiloliters) pre-stressed-concrete tanks, which were dispersed in small groups. By the end of July 1943, the Seabees had erected 20 Quonset huts for their own camp and had completed nine-wood-frame barracks, several squadron workshops and storage buildings, an administration building, and a warm-up area, with accompanying taxi-strips.
By December 1944, the Seabees completed the administration building, a parachute loft, shops and garages, nose hangars, warehouses, a public-works building, messing facilities, and reinforced-concrete magazines. In November 1944 the Seabees undertook the construction of a recreation building and a dispensary, finished the warehouses, garages, the 3,000 man messhall, and began work on the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) barracks.
After MCAS Ewa was officially designated, the mission of the base was to organize, administrate and distribute personnel and supplies to Marine units fighting in the Pacific. After the war ended in 1945, MCAS Ewa assumed a peacetime existence until the Korean War started in June 1950. However, this war exposed a big problem, i.e., the runways were too short for the new Marine jets and the runways could not be expanded because of the proximity to NAS Barbers Point. As a result, the Marines established an air station at Kaneohe Bay (q.v.) and Ewa was officially closed on 18 June 1952. The property was absorbed by NAS Barbers Point.
French Frigate Shoals, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
French Frigate Shoals (23°46'N, 166°11'W) is an atoll with a diameter of 18-miles (29-kilometers). Located 558-miles (898-kilometers) west-northwest of Ford island, Pearl Harbor, it is a 20-mile (32-kilometer) long crescent-shaped reef, 13 sand islets and the 122-foot (37-meter) high La Perouse Pinnacle, the only remnant of its volcanic origins. The total land area of the islets is 61.5 acres (24.9 hectares) and total coral reef area of the shoals is more than 232,000 acres (93.9 kilohectares).
The Navy began using this atoll in the 1930s in training exercises and Consolidated PBY Catalinas operated from it even though facilities were minimal.
On 4 March 1942, the Japanese initiated Operation K-1 which was a plan to bomb Pearl Harbor. Five submarines were selected to participate in this operation: HIJMS I-15, I-19 and I-26's hangar space was fitted with six fuel tanks each to store aviation fuel. The objective of the attack was to bomb Pearl Harbor's "Ten-Ten Dock" and disrupt ship repair activities. HIJMS I-9 was assigned to take up station midway between Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands and French Frigate Shoals and act as a radio beacon for two Kawanishi H8K1, Navy Type 2 Flying-Boats (later assigned the code name Emily) of the Yokohama Kokutai (Yokohama Naval Air Corps) operating from Wotje Atoll. HIJMS I-15, I-19 and I-26 were to refuel the flying boats at the Shoals. I-23 was to standby 10-miles (16-kilometers) south of Pearl Harbor, provide weather reports and act in an air-sea rescue capacity.
After being refueled, the two Emilys took off to bomb Oahu. They were detected by radar based on Kauai Island and four U.S. Army Air Forces’ Curtiss P-40s were scrambled at 0115 hours to intercept but failed to find the Japanese in the darkness and clouds. The Emilys overshot Pearl Harbor and dropped eight 551 pound (250 kilogram) bombs from high altitude through clouds. One Emily apparently dumped its bombs into the ocean; the second Emily ended up hitting Tantalus, a hillside neighborhood overlooking downtown Honolulu, at 0210 hours. No damage, other than to trees, was recorded. Both Emilys returned safely to base without having to refuel.
In order to prevent Japanese submarines from again using the area as a refueling point for flying boat raids on Hawaii, the U.S. Navy sent light minelayers USS Pruitt (DM-22), Preble (DM-20), Sicard (DM-21), and Tracy (DM-19) to mine French Frigate Shoals on 4 April 1942.
On 29 May 1942 the seaplane tender, destroyer USS Thornton (AVD-11) arrived at the Shoals to relieve the light minelayer USS Preble (DM-20) on patrol station there. Unknown to the Americans, the Japanese planned to repeat Operation K-1 to determine if the U.S. fleet was still at Pearl Harbor prior to their plan to invade the Midway Islands. The Japanese submarine HIJMS I-123 arrived the same day to find the Americans already there preventing the flight and the Japanese never obtained the necessary intelligence about the U.S. fleet which led to the sinking of four of their aircraft carriers during the Battle of Midway.
The Navy decided to build a minor naval air facility to support the staging of aircraft flying between Hawaii and Midway Islands and to serve as an emergency fueling stop and as a link in the radar chain centered in the Hawaiian Islands. Construction was started during July 1942 by the Seabees. The major development centered about Tern Island (23°52' 10"N, 166°17' 05"W) in the northwest corner of the reef. A ship channel, 200-feet (61-meters) wide, was dredged through the barrier reef, and a seaplane runway, 8,000-by-1,000-feet (2 438-by-305-meters), was cleared in adjacent waters. This runway was also provided with an a 4,000-square-foot (372-square-meter) mooring area. By use of coral dredged from the channel and seaplane runway, Tern Island was increased in area to 26 acres (10.5 hectares) to permit the construction of a 3,100-by-250-foot (945-by-76-meter) coral-surfaced landing field. A parking area to accommodate 24 single-engine aircraft was also provided. Housing in Quonset huts was provided for 360 men and four temporary wooden buildings served as storehouses. Fresh water and electric power were provided by stills and generators; 20 steel tanks with a capacity of 100,000 U.S. gallons (83,267-Imperial gallons or 379 kiloliters) were provided for aviation gasoline.
The Navy commissioned Naval Auxiliary Air Facility French Frigate Shoals on 17 March 1943. On 1 April 1946, the island was swept clean by a tidal wave and the Navy closed the facility on 6 June 1946. The U.S. Coast Guard established a LORAN (LOng RAnge Navigation) station in 1952 which remained in operation until 1979.
The atoll was incorporated into the state of Hawaii after it became a state of the Union in 1959. In 2011, the atoll is part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Hilo, Naval Air Station
Construction of Hilo Airport (19°43' 13"N / 155°02' 54"W), a commercial airport on the east coast of the island of Hawaii, commenced in 1927. The site was known as Keaukaha. Inmates from a nearby prison camp cleared the area of brush and rocks and the new facility was dedicated on 11 February 1928. The following year, Inter-Island Airways (now Hawaiian Airlines) began flights from Honolulu to Hilo. Improvements to Hilo's airfield were minimal during its first decade however, between 1937 and 1941, the U.S. government invested over US$575,000 (US$9.28 million in 2011 dollars).
The U.S. began a buildup of the armed forces in late 1940. In March 1941, the U.S. Army Air Corps [redesignated U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941] began construction of facilities for military use at this airfield. The field was not attacked by the Japanese on 7 December 1941 but martial law was ordered for all islands and all airports in the Hawaiian Islands came under the control of the U.S. military. This airfield was taken over by the USAAF on 25 December 1941.
The U.S. Navy’s seaplane tender, destroyer USS Hulbert (AVD-6, ex-DD-342, ex-AVP-19), was moored to a pier in Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack but was not damaged. After loading ammunition, she sailed to Hilo on 9 December to set up an advance base for Consolidated PBY Catalina patrol bombers. On 30 December, the Japanese submarine HIJMS I-1 arrived off Hilo and conducted periscopic reconnaissance. USS Hulbert was sighted and after sundown, I-1 surfaced and fired ten high explosive shells at Hulbert claiming moderate damage; Hulbert returned fire, joined by a local Army Coast Artillery unit. I-1 scores one hit on the pier next to Hulbert and another shell started a small fire in vicinity of Hilo Airport.
In 1942, the USAAF began work to convert the airport to a major base. Construction resulted in three paved runway, 6,500-, 6,000- and 3,000-feet (1,981, 1,829 and 914-meters) long respectively, storage for 450,000 U.S. gallons (374,703-Imperial gallons or 1.7 megaliters) of gasoline and revetments for 24 aircraft. Quarters and messing facilities for 70 officers and 1,200 men and a gasoline pipe line from Hilo Harbor were also available. Fighter and observation aircraft used the base during this period but the first fighter squadron was not based here until December 1942.
On 1 April 1943, Hilo Army Air Field was officially established by the USAAF. On 19 April, the Territorial Legislature renamed Hilo Airport General Lyman Field, for General Albert Lyman (1885–1942), the first U.S. General of Hawaiian ancestry.
In June 1942, U.S. Navy planes to support future operations were pouring into the Pearl Harbor area from the U.S. Critical construction materials were at a premium, and it was necessary, as far as possible, to disperse air facilities, both for convenience of operation and as a precaution against possible renewal of Japanese air attacks. With these factors in mind, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, directed a joint board of Army and Navy officers to submit recommendations for the location of an airfield to support the operation of two aircraft carrier groups totaling 180 aircraft. After investigating the existing facilities at Hilo Army Air Field, the board recommended that it be expanded to meet the Navy needs.
Construction was undertaken by the Seabees, which arrived in March 1943. Runways were widened from 200-to-500-feet (61-to-152-meters), and additional parking areas built. Supplementary gasoline storage, comprising ten 50,000 U.S. gallon (41,634 Imperial gallon or
189 kiloliter) tanks of prestressed concrete, were constructed underground, and a 500,000 U.S. gallon (416,337 Imperial gallon or 1.9 megaliter) water-storage reservoir was built. In addition, 11 barracks, officers' quarters, 16 storehouses, and other miscellaneous structures for shops and administration purposes were set up. Communication lines, drainage systems, and roads were expanded. Runway surfacing and road building amounted to 800,000-square-feet (74,322-square-meters) of asphalt paving. Construction was completed in April 1944.
Naval Air Station Hilo was commissioned on 1 August 1943 although it was only 20 percent complete.
By October 1943, the threat of Japanese attack had subsided and the USAAF withdrew their fighter squadron and planned to base heavy bombers here in the summer of 1944. However, the plan changed and the bombers were based on Oahu. The USAAF’s Air Transport Command used this base but otherwise, it was totally a Navy base. The Navy used NAS Hilo as a training base for Navy aircraft units preparing for operations in the Pacific. These units generally spent two months here before boarding a carrier.
NAS Hilo was decommissioned on 1 April 1946 and ownership of the airport was returned to the Territory of Hawaii in September 1946. The USAAF/USAF leased the facilities and retained operational control of its control tower for over three years after the end of the war. As of 2011, this airfield is now Hilo International Airport.
Honolulu, Naval Air Station
In 1925, the government of the Territory of Hawaii appropriated US$45,000 (US$591,000 in 2011 dollars) for the construction of an airfield near Honolulu, the territorial capital on the island of Oahu. A total of 119 acres (48 hectares) of land and 766 acres (310 hectares) under water were purchased. The small airfield, named John Rogers Airport (21°19' 07"N, 157°55' 20"W), was dedicated on 21 March 1927. The airport was located about 4-miles (6.4-kilometers) southeast of Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. By 1929, the airport consisted of a 1,800-foot (549-meter) runway that was 250-to-300-feet (76-to-91-meters) wide. On 11 November 1929, Inter-Island Airways (now Hawaiian Airlines) began flights with eight-passenger Sikorsky S-38 flying boats to other islands.
By 1930, there were two runways and two hangars on the property. During the years 1930-1931, 40,000 cubic-yards (30 cubic-kilometers) of coral was placed to grade and surface additional areas for the runway. The cross-wind runway was widened from 100-to-250-feet (30-to-76-meters) and lengthened from 1,600-to-2,050-feet (488-to-625-meters). The main runway was widened from 250-to-550-feet (76-to-188-meters) and lengthened from 1,800-to-2,200-feet (549-to-671-meters). One thousand-feet (305-meters) at the windward end of the main runway was brought to rough grade and needed only surfacing coral to complete a runway a total length of 3,000-feet (914-meters). The intersection of the two runways was increased and brought to a finished surface; this added greatly to the appearance and usefulness of the airport. In 1936, additional land was acquired and the two runways were extended to 4,000- and 3,500-feet (1,219- and 1,067-meters) long and they were paved 300-feet (81-meters) wide.
In December 1935 planning was initiated for seaplane runways in Keehi Lagoon (21°19' 39"N, 157°53' 46"W) located to the east of John Rodgers Airport and in 1940, Congress authorized a total of US$3.3 million (US$53.6 million in 2011 dollars) for dredging of the Keehi Lagoon Seaplane Basin. Dredging began in October 1941.
Like the aircraft at military airfields on 7 December 1941, the aircraft at John Rogers Airport were bunched up to protect against anticipated sabotage rather than dispersed against potential air attack. Two Hawaiian Airlines transports were damaged on the ground during the Japanese attack. One pilot was killed as the Japanese aircraft flew over the airfield on their way to Pearl Harbor; small planes of other flying services received bullet holes but were able to return to the airport without injury to pilots or passengers; two aircraft were lost and two civilian Aeroncas were fired on by the attacking forces.
Immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack all airports in the territory were taken over by the military. Some of these airfields were considered vulnerable to attack and unusable, and the others were placed under strict control of either the Army or Navy. In May 1942, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ (USAAFs’) 19th Transport Squadron moved from Hickam Field to John Rogers and operated Beechcraft C-45 Expeditors, Douglas C-47 Skytrains and C-53 Skytroopers and Lockheed C-57 Lodestars from the airfield until 1946. Barracks for 2,160 airmen were also constructed on the field.
During 1942, the Navy enlarged the facilities at the Pan American Airways terminal on the southern tip of Pearl City Peninsula in Pearl Harbor, for use by the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS). However, as ship traffic in the adjacent Pearl Harbor waters increased, it became evident that the continued use of these waters by seaplanes would be impractical. Consequently, the Navy took over the John Rodgers Airport.
In December 1941 the Army Corps of Engineers were about 10 percent complete on the dredging of three seaplane runways at Keehi Lagoon which were to be 2-to-3-miles (3.2-to-4.8-kilometers) long-by-1,000-feet (305-meters) wide-by-10-feet (3-meters) deep. Dredging was intensified with as many as nine dredges working on the project. The seaplane landing area, as dredged by the Army, consisted of three runways, each 1,000-feet (305-meters) wide-by-3-miles (4.8-kilometers) long. These runways were useable by late 1943 and completed in September 1944
In August 1943, the Navy received a permit from the Territory to enter and construct facilities for its own use. The commercial airlines had four hangars, several small buildings, and two short, intersecting runways. With the exception of the area surrounding these buildings and runways, the land was low and swampy, and only 2-feet (61-centimeters) above high tide. Extensive construction was undertaken to provide a base for seaplane and land plane operations, principally for the NATS.
Work was started on the project in February 1943, when the contractors brought a dredge into Keehi Lagoon and began the dredging necessary for the seaplane runways. Spoil from this operation was used as fill to bring the land areas to a 10-foot elevation. In April it was decided that Army engineers would do the necessary dredging for the runways and Navy Seabees would perform the other work at the station.
In May 1943, the Seabees had also taken over the completion of the buildings started by a civilian contractor and began the erection of aviation-gasoline storage facilities, including twenty 50,000-U.S. gallon (41,634-Imperial gallon or 189-kiloliter) pre-stressed concrete tanks, a control tower, several barracks and warehouses, a ten plane nose hangar, and two seaplane ramps. In the summer of 1944, the Seabees increased the aviation-gasoline storage capacity to 500,000 U.S. gallons (416,337 Imperial gallons or 1.9 megaliters) and completed the two concrete seaplane ramps. They also built eight floating piers for docking seaplanes, five aviation-material storehouses, machine shops, several 250-man frame barracks and two-story, 40-by-100-foot (12-by-30-meter), Quonset barracks, an officers' mess, WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) quarters, and did additional work on the landing field.
The establishment of NAS Keehi Lagoon, was approved by the Secretary of the Navy as a terminal for the NATS and Pan American Airways. The initial operation of both land and sea planes was planned for 1 December 1943. On 26 December 1943 the Secretary of the Navy redesignated the NAS Keehi Lagoon as NAS Honolulu with the primary mission of maintaining and operating a base for the Pacific Wing of NATS units. The base was commissioned on 1 January 1944 and full scale operations commenced for both land and sea planes in April 1944.
The USAAF continued to use the field in conjunction with the Navy and it was used by the Pacific Division, USAAF Air Transport Command. In addition, all Boeing B-29 Superfortresses and many other combat planes were staged through the airport en route to the combat zones, making it one of the most important installations in the war.
Starting in June 1944, additional Seabees assisted on the landing field and road work, in addition to constructing utility systems, a 60-by-205-foot (18-by-62-meter) cold-storage building, six line-storage sheds, a concrete block paint and oil storehouse, and three underground 5,000-U.S. gallon (4,163 Imperial gallons or 18.9 kiloliter) oil tanks.
The main runway of the completed field was 7,400-feet (2,256-meters) long, paved for a 200-foot (61-meter) width, and intersected near its western end by a 6,800-foot (2,073-meter) runway. Two 6,600-foot (2,812-meter) parallel runways were also built. These runways, as well as all of the connecting taxiways and parking areas, were paved with asphaltic concrete. Shops, repair facilities, and a large paved parking area were provided, together with housing and living facilities and an administration area.
In November 1944 the seaplane runways and launching ramps in Keehi Lagoon were turned over to NAS Honolulu. These runways were used only by the Navy, which had about five flights per week by seaplanes between Honolulu and California. By the end of World War II the seaplane runways were obsolete.
In March 1946, this station was renamed Naval Air Facility Honolulu and the control of the airfield was transferred to the Territory of Hawaii in October 1946. The airport was renamed Honolulu Airport in 1947 and the naval station finally closed on 30 June 1949. The airport was renamed Honolulu International Airport in 1951.
Kahului, Naval Air Station
Kahului is a seaport town on the north shore of the island of Maui. Two naval facilities were established here, a section base that was started in 1942 and a naval air station that was commissioned in 1943. This air station was located about 5.5-miles (8.8-kilometers) north of NAS Puunene (q.v.) which was half the size of this station.
The site of Naval Air Station Kahului (20°53' 55"N, 156°25' 55"W) was leased from a commercial sugar company. About one-third of the 1,350 acres (546 hectares) was cultivated cane land; the remaining portion was pasture containing swamps and fish ponds. The only existing facilities were power and telephone lines, and a narrow-gauge railroad which ran along the highway connecting the villages of Kahului and Sprecklesville. The nearest water supply was in the village of Kahului.
The work of developing a new airfield for carrier-group operations and training was begun by civilian contractors. They established a complete construction plant, including a camp and utilities, and accomplished the construction of 12 barracks, about 50 per cent of two messhall-galleys, and one bakery, and performed about 25 per cent of the clearing and grading preparatory to runway construction, before April 1943, when they were replaced by Navy Seabees.
The Seabees’ first efforts were concentrated on runway excavation and barracks construction. Two airstrips were prepared, each 500-feet (152-meters) wide by 5,000-and 7,000-feet (1,524 and 2,124-meters) long, respectively, with work made difficult by the considerable blasting operations required. A warm-up platform, 1,500-by-650-feet (457-by-198-meters), was constructed, approximately 190,000-square-yards (159-square-kilometers) of parking area were laid down including revetments for 12 bombers and 61 fighters, and three nose hangars were erected in the center of the area. Nine ready-rooms, two machine and metal shops, a battery shop, a carburetor shop, and a radio-radar shop were built. Adequate taxiways and parking bunkers were constructed, and the field and taxiways paved with asphaltic concrete. Buildings of the cheapest and most temporary adequate construction were erected for barracks for 936 officers and 5,461 enlisted men.
Five 25,000 U.S. gallon (20,817 Imperial gallon or 94.6 kiloliter) above-ground tanks were erected for aviation-gasoline storage; three were installed underground; and two large bulk-tanks were erected. Ammunition was stored in 19 magazines, served by paved access roads.
The Seabees also constructed a moving-target machine-gun range, a skeet and trap range, and a machine-gun school. A sewage-disposal plant, sewage lines to the plant, water mains, and an electrical distribution system were installed, together with adequate ditching for drainage. Warehouses, theaters, and supply buildings were erected, built of temporary construction as the need arose.
This station was designed to accommodate two carrier air group of 180 aircraft. The purpose of the base was to conduct final training for carrier-based squadrons that were scheduled to fight in the Pacific. Pilots honed their skills flying their aircraft and their specialities. Fighter pilots trained in air-to-air combat and supporting amphibious operations, bombing squadrons practiced level and dive bombing and torpedo squadrons practiced torpedo attacks. The gunners in bombing and torpedo squadrons practiced their craft using the ranges built by the Seabees.
NAS Kahului was commissioned on 15 March 1943 but the first unit did not arrive until September. The station remained open until it was placed on caretaker status in November 1946.
A bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress authorizing the Navy to grant title to Kahului to the Territory of Hawaii and the bill was finally passed in June 1952, but the actual transfer did not take place for several more years. In 2011, this is Kahului Airport.
Kaneohe Bay, Naval Air Station
In 1938, the U.S. House of Representatives inserted a section to a Navy appropriations bill which directed the Navy “to appoint a board consisting of not less than five officers to investigate and report upon the need, for purposes of national defense, for the establishment of additional submarine, destroyer, mine, and naval air bases on the coasts of the United States, its Territories, and possessions.” As a result, the Navy created a board headed by Admiral Japy Hepburn to list the projects and their cost. The Hepburn Board submitted a report in December 1938 listed the estimated cost of constructing all of the projects included in the report as US$326 million (US$5.228 billion in 2011 dollars).
The Congress passed a National Defense construction program in 1939 and contracts were signed with civilian construction companies. One of the contracts covered the construction of a new naval air station at Kaneohe, on a 1,830-acre (741-hectare) tract on Mokapu Peninsula on the northern shore of the island of Oahu. The new air station, Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay (21°26' 56"N, 157°46' 12"W), was originally planned as a seaplane base with facilities to support five squadrons of seaplanes.
Civilian construction companies began work in September 1939 on 42 projects. The major project entailed extensive dredging operations to provide the necessary seaplane runways within the sheltered waters of Kaneohe Bay. Dredging continued for three years, during which time 11 million cubic-yards (8 million cubic-meters) of material were removed. In the summer of 1940, an airstrip was added to the facilities, with accompanying increases in housing, hangars, parking area, gasoline storage, and industrial buildings. The completed runway, 5,700-by-1,000-feet (1,737-by-305-meters), was paved with asphaltic concrete.
Facilities built for aircraft operation and maintenance included five steel hangars, five seaplane ramps, concrete parking areas, two warm-up aprons, a maintenance hangar, two seaplane hangars, and two Midway-type hangars. Twenty-foot (6-meter) lean-tos for shops and offices were built adjoining all hangars. Both corrugated asbestos and asbestos-protected corrugated metal were used as walls, partitions, and as roof sheathing on hangars and similar structures.
The gasoline storage and distribution system consisted of 136 underground steel tanks, each holding 25,000 U.S. gallons (20,817 Imperial gallons or 94.6 kiloliters), and were connected with the water-displacement distribution system and five 50,000 U.S. gallon (41,834 Imperial gallon or 189 kiloliter) and four 25,000-U.S. gallon (20,817-Imperial gallon or 94.6 kiloliter) underground, pre-stressed, concrete tanks, equipped with motor-driven, deep-well pumps. The gasoline was pumped from tankers at the fueling pier, through an 8-inch (20-centimeter) line, to the tanks.
Administration buildings, housing and messing facilities, a hospital, shops, and a storage building were constructed to meet the expanding needs. Housing was built for 9,000 men, 23 married officers' quarters, 52 married enlisted men's quarters and 15 officers' barracks. Before the Japanese attack, all barracks were constructed of reinforced concrete, but after the outbreak of war all personnel facilities were built of wood, to conserve critical materials. When the Navy Seabees arrived, they built 16 additional barracks, two-story wood-frame structures which housed 240 men each. Some 30 magazines were built for ready storage of bombs, torpedoes, and small arms.
NAS Kaneohe Bay was formally established on 15 February 1941 for use as a seaplane base for Navy patrol squadrons. On 7 December 1941, three patrol squadrons equipped with 36 Consolidated PBY-5 Catalinas were based here as follows:
At about 0748 hours on 7 December 1941, nine Japanese Mitsubishi A6M5, Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighters Model 11 (later designated Zeke) circled at low altitude over the air station and strafed the control tower located on a hill and the PBYs moored in the bay. This was followed by an attack on the planes on the ramp. This attack lasted for about 15 minutes. The very first plane attacked was the Wing Commander's Vought OS2U-1 Kingfisher on the landing mat. At the time a chief petty officer was turning over the propeller by hand and it was apparently thought to be a fighter preparing to take off. This plane was thoroughly riddled. After the first wave there was a few minutes lull and then another attack by an estimated six-to-nine Zeke fighters.
All attacks were directed at the planes on the ground, in the water, and at the hangar. The first attack set all planes in the water and some of those on the beach on fire. The second attack hit additional planes, setting them on fire.
At about 0930 hours a formation of nine Nakajima B5N2, Navy Type 97 Carrier Attack Bombers, Model 12 dive bombers (later designated Kate) came in formation over the Bay, more or less following the coast line from Kahuka Point, at an altitude of about 1,000-to-1,500-feet (305-to-457-meters) and dropped bombs on the hangar occupied by VP-11 and VP-12. This attack caused the loss of the greatest number of personnel as a considerable number of men were in the hangar getting replenishment ammunition. Two bombs and a dud hit in the hangar and two close alongside. Immediately behind this wave of bombers were nine additional Kates and it is uncertain whether or not they dropped bombs -- so much smoke was in the area and people stunned by the first wave that this point is uncertain. If they did not, it is certain that an additional drop was made by the first wave of bombers, aimed at the other hangar, but which fell between the hangar and the water, some falling in the water and did very little damage, except for holes in the parking area.
After the Japanese attack, 50 plane revetments were constructed; vital installations were splinter-proofed; and personnel shelters were constructed. For the rest of the war, NAS Kaneohe served as an important staging point for aircraft carrier and patrol squadrons deployed for combat in the Pacific.
The Seabees arrived on 1 April 1943, to replace the civilian contractor's forces and take over further construction. The Seabees began completion of unfinished projects and undertook the construction of a new bombproof powerhouse and an electrical-distribution system which included 14 concrete substations. They also built an assembly and repair building, 160-by-240--feet (49-by-73-meters), a plating shop, a building for testing engines, and an engine-overhaul building. In February 1944, Seabees started construction of a second runway, 400-by-5000-feet (122-by-1,524-meters). Major construction at Kaneohe was completed during May 1945.
The base was inactivated on 30 June 1949 and redesignated a Marine Corps Air Station on 15 January 1952. Following the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Committee’s decision to close NAS Barbers Point, the base acquired four Navy P-3 Orion patrol squadrons and one SH-60 Seahawk Anti-Submarine squadron in 1999.
Molokai, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
On 15 December 1927, an Executive Order was signed by the Territorial Governor setting aside an area of 205 acres (83 hectares) of Territorial land for an airport at Hoolehua on the island of Molokai. Inter-Island Airways (now Hawaiian Airlines) started scheduled operations to Molokai Airport (21°09' 10"N, 157°05' 46"W) on 11 November 1929. The airport consisted of a 1,300-foot (396-meter) sod runway. Between the years of 1927 and 1942, the Federal government aided the Territory with funds to gradually enlarge and improve the field.
The U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) established a radio station on the airport in 1935 but it was moved to a new location in 1938. During 1938 and 1939, additional runways were added but the 1,300-foot (396-meter) runway remained the main runway. In 1940, the USAAC announced plans to lengthen the main runway and build barracks.
During 1940, 261 acres (106 hectares) were set aside at Ilio Point on the northwest coast of Molokai for a U.S. Navy bombing range. The was followed in 1941 with the acquisition of 14 acres (5.7 hectares) at the airport by the Navy to support the bombing range at Ilio Point.
Immediately after 7 December 1941 the armed forces assumed control and operation of all territorial airports. During this period the U.S. Army made extensive improvements including construction of two new runways that were 5,400- and 3,400-feet(1,646- and 1,036-meters) long by 200-feet (61-meters) wide. Other additions were taxiways, plane parking areas and lighting of the runway 05-23, 40 new buildings, earth revetments, air raid shelters and sewer, water and power systems.
It is unknown whether the Navy commissioned this facility but it was used to train crews for service in the combat zones which relieved congestion at other bases.
In early 1947, the territorial government assumed responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the airport but title to the property did not revert to the territory until 15 April 1952. In 2011, this airport is Molokai Airport with several airlines providing service to other islands.
Pearl Harbor, Naval Air Station
Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor (21°21' 47"N, 157°57' 43"W), also known as NAS Ford Island, was part of Naval Base Pearl Harbor (q.v.) but is being treated separately in this article. This station was located on Ford Island, a 335-acre (136-hectare) island located in the center of Pearl Harbor.
U.S. military aviation on Ford Island began in 1917 when the U.S. government purchased Ford Island for US$236,000 (US$4.17 million in 2011 dollars) with the understanding that both the Army and Navy would use the island. In September 1918, the 6th Aero Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Service began operating from the island and the airstrip was named Luke Field in 1919. In January 1923, the Navy moved its flying operations from the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard to Ford Island and NAS Pearl Harbor was commissioned. As a result, the U.S. Army Air Service operated from the west side of the island and the Navy from the east side.
The large “Hangar 6” with its seaplane ramp became the most prominent building at NAS Pearl Harbor. The runway was completed in 1925 but by the end of 1935 there were so many planes stationed at the Army’s Luke Field that the military negotiated a deal where the Navy would get Ford Island, and the U.S. Army Air Corps would construct a new air base across the harbor which would become Hickam Field. By the end of 1940 the move of Army personnel from Luke Field to Hickam Field was complete.
Between 1935 and 1940, Pan American Airways used Ford Island as the Hawaiian base for transpacific flights from California to the Philippine Islands. In 1936, a 3,000-by-4,000-foot (914-by-1,219-meter) hard-surfaced landing matt was built for seaplanes.
At the start of the war-program construction, on 30 November 1939, about one-third of the island was occupied by the USAAC, and the waterfront was devoted principally to fleet moorings. Reconstruction of the Army airfield after the USAAC moved to Hickam Field required removal of the existing pavement and grade correction. Asphaltic concrete was used for the landing mat, which, upon completion in June 1941, was 4,500-by-650-feet (1,372-by-198-meters). A concrete warm-up platform, 1,300-by-600-feet (600-by-183-meters), landplane hangars, administration building, dispensary, bachelor officers' quarters, underground gasoline storage facilities, the main wharf, seaplane ramps and parking areas, the final assembly shops, and miscellaneous storage buildings were essentially complete by 7 December 1941.
In December 1941, NAS Pearl Harbor served two functions; first, it was home for the four squadrons of Patrol Wing Two (PatWing-2) and second, it was the home base for the carrier-based squadrons when the aircraft carriers were in port. Generally, the carrier-based aircraft would fly off the carriers to NAS Pearl Harbor before the ship reached port; subsequently, the aircraft would fly back to the carrier when the ship left port. Because it served as a home for carrier aircraft, there were seven spare carrier aircraft present during the Japanese attack. NAS Pearl Harbor was also the home of two utility squadrons flying non-combatant utility aircraft.
The four patrol squadrons based here flew Consolidated PBY Catalinas while PatWing 2 was assigned one Curtiss SOC-1 Seagull and one Vought SU-3 Corsair as hacks. On 7 December 1941, the four patrol squadrons and their aircraft were:
Also based at NAS Pearl Harbor was a utility squadron (VJ) and a detachment of another squadron. Spare carrier-based aircraft assigned to three carrier air groups which were at sea and other aircraft assigned to various units were also present. A total of 70 aircraft were on the ground and 33 of them were destroyed.
During the attack, one seaplane hangar and the dispensary were damaged, and considerable damage was done to the seaplane parking area. Although repairs were quickly effected, the construction program was disrupted for many days while the landing field and hangar area were being cleared of wreckage.
Ford Island was very busy during World War II. A squadron of PBY flying boats was stationed there, as were numerous other Navy aircraft. The runway grew until it covered the entire center of the island. Hangars and auxiliary buildings filled almost all available space.
Revetments, personnel shelters, a bombproof command center, and much splinter-proofing were provided, and one of the old hangars was converted into an emergency barracks. A new 16-inch (41-centimeter) water main was laid across the channel, and the power cable was repaired.
The advent of war brought heavy air-traffic to Ford Island, necessitating additional gasoline storage. Forty-eight 25,000 U.S. gallon (20,817 Imperial gallon or 94.6 kiloliter) tanks were built underground, and the existing surface tanks were splinter-proofed.
The original seaplane area was augmented by an engine overhaul shop, five concrete ramps, and extensive parking and warm-up areas. Revetments were built, and mooring facilities repaired.
On the northern shore of the island, two T-wharves of reinforced concrete were built on precast concrete piles. The dredging incidental to their construction provided material which was used to enlarge the island to the extent of 7 acres (2.8 hectares). On the southern shore, a bulkhead, a wharf, and several small-boat slips were built, and a T-wharf was rehabilitated. Many buildings of steel and concrete were erected for the various shops, warehouses, training buildings, and administration offices.
A 10-inch (25-centimeter) gasoline-distribution loop, completed in January 1943, was installed to supply the fueling pits. Most of the initial construction was complete by this time, and until the termination of the civilian contract in December 1943, attention was directed toward the extension and improvement of existing installations.
By late 1942, Ford Island was home to various Fleet commands. The base also served as the home of the Naval Air Transport Service units that inaugurated flights from Hawaii to the South Pacific and Australia until they moved to NAS Honolulu (q.v.). In 1943, an aircraft pool was created to form a reserve supply from which carriers, air groups and squadrons could draw to replace lost aircraft.
In 1962, the Navy officially deactivated Ford Island as an air base.
On 2 February 1970 a 4,500-foot (1,372-meter) runway at Ford Island was opened to civilian pilots for flight training operations. The Navy extended its permit to the state for the use of the air strip for civilian flight operations through calendar year 1972, and acceded to the request that students be allowed to make their first solo flights from the airfield. Operations were no longer restricted to touch-and-go landings and taxi-back practice.
On 1 July 1999 general aviation activity ceased at Ford Island when the State of Hawaii acquired 757 acres (306 hectares) of surplus land at the former NAS Barbers Point (q.v.) as Kalaeloa Airport to be used for general aviation purposes.
Pearl Harbor, Naval Base
Pearl Harbor (21°20' 40"N, 157°58' 30"W) is a lagoon harbor on the southern shore of the island of Oahu about 8-miles (12.9-kilometers) west-northwest of Honolulu.
In 1875, during the reign of King Kalakaua, the U.S. was granted exclusive rights to enter Pearl Harbor and to establish "a coaling and repair station." This treaty continued in force until August 1898, and the U.S. did not fortify Pearl Harbor as a naval base. The shallow entrance constituted a formidable barrier against the use of the deep protected waters of the inner harbor as it had for 60 years. On 20 January 1887, the U.S. Senate allowed the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base (the US took possession on 9 November that year). The Spanish-American War of 1898 and the desire for the U.S. to have a permanent presence in the Pacific both contributed to the decision.
Following the annexation of Hawaii, Pearl Harbor acquired the Coal Depot and its equipment and on 17 November 1899 Naval Station Honolulu was commissioned; the name was changed to Naval Station Hawaii on 2 February 1900.
From 1900 to 1908, the Navy devoted its time to improving the facilities of the 85 acres (34 hectares) that constituted the naval reservation. Additional sheds and housing were built and improvements included a machine shop, smithery and foundry. The harbor was dredged and the channel enlarged to accommodate larger ships.
In 1908, the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard was established. The period from 1908 to 1919 was one of steady and continuous growth of Naval Station Pearl Harbor. During this period, the enlargement and dredging of the Pearl Harbor channel and lochs "to admit the largest ships," the building of shops and supply houses for the Navy Yard, and the construction of a drydock started on 21 September 1909. A receiving station located at Hospital Point was built and the first submarines arrived in Honolulu in August 1914.
Development of Pearl Harbor under the National Defense construction program, together with the fortification of other Pacific island possessions, was begun in the fall of 1939. At that time, the Navy Yard occupied 498-acres (202-hectares) and included one battleship drydock with its supporting industrial establishment, one marine railway, administration offices, two fuel-oil tank farms (above ground), a supply depot, and housing, a total of 190 buildings. The Pearl Harbor naval hospital, occupying 41-acres (17-hectares) adjoining the navy yard, was a 1,100-bed facility. The Pearl Harbor submarine base occupied 32-acres (13-hectares) of harbor waterfront and was contained in 28 buildings.
For some time prior to this beginning of construction, deficiencies were identified: additional ship-repair facilities were needed; also, fuel storage, housing, electric-power and fresh-water systems, greater anchorage area within the harbor and additional piers and wharves; in fact, improvements and additions of every category were essential to strengthen this main fleet base in the mid-Pacific.
In December 1939, work began on two drydocks. Built adjacent to the existing battleship dock, which had been in use since 1919, Dock No. 2 was a battleship dock, 1,000-by-133-feet (305-by-40.5-meters) with a 46-foot (14-meter) depth over the sill; Dock No. 3, a smaller structure accommodating destroyers and submarines, was 497-by-84-feet (151-by-26-meters) with a 22-foot (7-meter) sill depth.
On 4 October 1941, a contract with a civilian construction company called for the construction of Dock No. 4, a power plant, and mooring facilities for aircraft carriers at the Navy Yard.
On 7 December 1941, 351 Japanese aircraft launched from six aircraft carriers located north of the island of Oahu attacked military targets on the island. Pearl Harbor was a prime target. One hundred forty eight Navy vessels were in the harbor when the attack started. The Japanese sank four battleships (two of which were raised and returned to service later in the war), a minelayer and a miscellaneous auxiliary and damaged three cruisers, and three destroyers. The power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked.
After the attack, Dock No. 2, was usably complete and Dock No. 3 was half finished. After the blocking of Dock No. 1 by the burning of the destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375), and the sinking of the only floating dock in the harbor, Dock No. 2 was the only drydock available. It was not yet finished, but the caisson gate was in place and emergency use was practicable, a fact of the utmost importance to all subsequent salvage operations. For a period of time, salvage work was performed instead of construction of new projects.
As salvage and repair jobs were completed, the Navy Yard’s main task was to serve as an emergency repair base that worked 24-hours a day. A 1943 report stated that the yard was capable of repairing or altering any ship afloat, except the placement of battleship turrets. The report went on to say that between June 1942 and June 1943, the yard had performed work on 508 ships. A later report stated that between October 1943 and July 1945, the yard had worked on 5,554 ships.
As an indication of the tremendous amount of work accomplished by the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base, 400 submarines were overhauled, refitted, or repaired during the period from May 1944 until July 1945.
The pace of work at Pearl Harbor slackened after the Japanese surrender but did pick up again during the Korean and Vietnamese Wars. In 2011, Naval Station Pearl Harbor is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The base is home to more than 100 naval vessels of the Pacific Fleet, including several aircraft carriers and submarines, and other support vehicles.
Puunene, Naval Air Station
In 1927, the Territorial Legislature appropriated US$15,000 (US$194,797 in 2011 dollars) for acquisition of land for an airport site on the island of Maui. The site chosen was at Maalaea and property was purchased. Inter-Island Airways (now Hawaiian Airlines) commenced the first scheduled air service from Honolulu to Maui on 11 November 1929 using eight-passenger Sikorsky S-38 amphibians.
The runways at Maalaea were set-up and extended in 1930 using prison labor and on 8 October 1934, Inter-Island Airways was awarded a contract to deliver airmail from Honolulu to Maui.
Maalaea Airport was a level dirt field near the sea and was unusable in wet weather. In 1935 Inter-Island Airways began adding 16-passenger Sikorsky S-43 amphibians to its fleet and although they operated from Maalaea, it was realized that the field was too small and too close to the mountains to meet desired safety criteria.
In September 1936, the Federal government conducted wind studies on a new site which was later to become known as Puunene Airport (20°48' 48"N, 156°27' 28"W) and in January 1938, Maalaea Airport was condemned. For an interim period commercial airlines were granted a temporary permit for continued operation of only the smaller types of aircraft.
Construction did not start on the new Puunene Airport until 1 June 1938. During the period 30 June 1939 to 7 December 1941, the field was gradually enlarged and improved--some areas being paved. A small naval air facility was established at the airport in June 1940. On 17 June 1940, when the civilian contractors began work on the naval facility, it was planned to develop a small base for the use of a naval experimental unit. While Army engineers improved the existing airfield and constructed a cross-runway and taxiways, the contractors built quarters and messing facilities for the 500 men attached to the unit.
This airfield was not attacked by the Japanese on 7 December 1941.
Before the work was completed, plans were altered to include facilities for one carrier group of 90 aircraft. Two 50,000 U.S. gallon (41,634 Imperial gallon or 189 kiloliter) gasoline tanks were erected and a warm-up platform was laid down. Additional personnel and training facilities were added, including bomb and ammunition magazines. Revetments were constructed and aircraft utility shops erected to service the additional planes. The work was nearly complete in March 1942, when all work was taken over by Army engineers.
The Navy commissioned this airstrip as Naval Air Station Maui on 27 January 1942. The station was renamed NAS Puunene when the larger NAS Kahului (q.v.) was commissioned 10-miles (16-kilometers) to the north in March 1943. NAS Kahului was twice as large as NAS Puunene.
In November 1942, the contractors were recalled to construct facilities for a second expansion of plans at Puunene. Four 25,000-U.S. gallon (20,817-Imperial gallon or 94.6 kiloliter) tanks and three 50,000-U.S. gallon (41,634-Imperial gallon or 189 kiloliter) tanks were erected. Work was also begun on seven reinforced-concrete arch-type magazines. A bombsight shop, four storage buildings, and additional improvements to the landing field were other projects completed by the contractors.
Plans were again expanded to permit advanced training and staging for fighter, torpedo-bomber, and dive-bomber pilots. Each airstrip was lengthened 2,000-feet (610-meters)t and paved with asphaltic concrete. Upon completion, one strip measured 6,900-feet (2.1-kilometers) and the other 6,000-feet (1.8-kilometers).
Base facilities, including an assembly and repair building, bakery, dispensary, torpedo shop, theater, and additional housing and warehouses, were constructed by the Seabees. In addition, they installed complete water and sewerage systems, including a 500,000 U.S. gallon (416,337 Imperial gallon or 1.9 megaliter) circular reinforced-concrete water-storage tank, and a power-distribution system supplied by the local company's existing transmission lines.
The existing 350,000 U.S. gallon (291,436 Imperial gallon or 1.3 megaliter) aviation-gasoline storage system was augmented by five U.S. 50,000 gallon (41,634 Imperial gallon or 189 kiloliter) and five 25,000 U.S. gallon (20,817 Imperial gallon or 94.6 kiloliter) underground reinforced-concrete tanks.
Magazine construction comprised a large portion of the work. Seven concrete arch-type magazines, two torpedo warhead magazines, and nine other magazines for fuses and detonators, ready service ammunition, and inert storage were added.
Grading and paving of roads and taxiways, installation of fences, together with additions to existing buildings, constituted the remaining work. Other projects included additional Quonset barracks, a large nose-hangar, galley expansions, shop buildings, and warehouse improvements. The fire-protection system was also extended to afford adequate security for the additional facilities.
Like NAS Kahului, the purpose of the base was to conduct final training for carrier-based squadrons that were scheduled to fight in the Pacific. Pilots honed their skills flying their aircraft and their specialities. Fighter pilots trained in air-to-air combat and supporting amphibious operations, bombing squadrons practiced level and dive bombing, torpedo squadrons practiced torpedo attacks and the gunners in bombing and torpedo squadrons practiced their craft. A total of 106 squadrons and carrier air groups passed through this station during World War II.
On 1 October 1946 Puunene Airport was taken over by the Hawaiian government under a permissive agreement with the Navy. This marked the entrance of the Territory into full-scale commercial operation of airports. In December 1948 the airport reverted to the Territory and a program to dispose of surplus buildings and materials was launched. No major improvements were made to Puunene Airport since it was planned to move commercial operations to the former NAS Kahului (q.v.), which was considered much more desirable for commercial airline operations. Airline operations were transferred from Puunene Airport to Kahului Airport on 25 May 1951.
In 2011, an old runway is used as a drag strip for Maui Raceway Park.