Ford Island

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For other uses, see Ford Island (disambiguation).
Ford Island
Native name:
Moku'ume'ume (Island of Attraction)
Poka ʻAilana (Ford Island)
A color photo of Ford Island with modern and historical building surrounding a runway overrun with grass
Ford Island
NOAA Pearl Harbor Approach Map.jpg
A water depth map of Pearl Harbor
Location Oahu, Hawaii
Coordinates 21°21′50″N 157°57′37″W / 21.36389°N 157.96028°W / 21.36389; -157.96028Coordinates: 21°21′50″N 157°57′37″W / 21.36389°N 157.96028°W / 21.36389; -157.96028
Adjacent bodies of water East, Loch, Pearl Harbor
Area 441 acres (178 ha)
Length 1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Width 0.75 mi (1.21 km)
United States
Population 368 (as of 2000)[1]

Ford Island is an islet in the center of Pearl Harbor, Oahu, in the US state of Hawaii. It has been called Rabbit Island, Marín's Island, and Little Goats Island, and its native Hawaiian name is Mokuʻumeʻume. It was 334 acres (135 ha) when surveyed in 1825 and was increased in the 1930s to 441 acres (178 ha) by the United States Navy with landfill from the dredging of Pearl Harbor.

Ford Island was the site of an ancient Hawaiian fertility ritual until the 1830s. It was converted into a sugarcane plantation, sold to the US Army for an aviation division in Hawaii in 1916, and then by 1939 it was taken over by the US Navy as a station for battleship and submarine maintenance and as a strategic base in the center of the Pacific Ocean. The island was at the center of the attacks on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese fleet on 7 December 1941. It was designated a national historic landmark in 1964, and as of 2011 the National Trust for Historic Preservation has the island listed as one of the most endangered historic sites.[2][3]

By the late 1990s, hundreds of millions of dollars had been invested in real estate development and infrastructure, including a new bridge. The island continues to serve an active role in the Pacific hosting military functions at the Pacific Warfighting center as well as civilian functions at the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. It has been featured in films such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and Pearl Harbor, and receives international tourism at the USS Arizona memorial and the USS Missouri museum.


Ford Island is in the middle of the East Loch of Pearl Harbor. It is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long and 0.75 miles (1.21 km) wide, having been enlarged from 334 acres (135 ha) to 441 acres (178 ha) between 1930 and 1940 with landfill dredged from Pearl Harbor.[4][5] The land rises between 5 feet (1.5 m) and 15 feet (4.6 m) above mean water level and slopes toward Pearl Harbor.[4] The island is mostly flat, with a 4,000-foot (1,200 m) runway down the center.[4] The island is connected to Oʻahu via a 4,672-foot (1,424 m) bridge at its northern tip, crossing east to Halawa Landing.[6]

Ford's soil is composed mostly of volcanic material, lagoonal deposits, and coralline debris, along with silty sands from the dredging.[4] The volcanic material is made of aeolian ash, weathered tuff, and basalt.[4] The island itself is a coral outcrop.[4] There are two smaller islets near Ford Island, named Mokunui and Mokuiki.[7]


In 1991, the Navy discovered nine metals, two semi-volatile organic compounds and a polychlorinated biphenyl in the soil, groundwater, and marine sediment. Suspected sources were nine 225,000-US-gallon (850,000 l; 187,000 imp gal) fuel tanks on the east central side of the island (from 1924 to 1954), a 4.4-acre (1.8 ha) landfill on the southwestern shore (from 1930 to 1960), and ordnance bunkers on the northeast side.[4] The investigation suggested covering the contaminated areas with clean soil.[4] In 1994, the Navy considered removing the contaminated soil, and installed six wells to monitor the groundwater, but went with the original recommendation in 1995, capping the contaminated soil with a new layer of topsoil and erosion-resistant vegetation, including bermuda grass.[4] The containment system was completed in 1996.[4]

Flora and fauna[edit]

Wildlife on the island is sparse, and dominated by invasive species such as the house mouse, mongoose, brown rat, black rat, house sparrow, Java sparrow, and common myna.[4] An endangered owl, the endemic Pueo (a subspecies of the short-eared owl), has been seen hunting on the island.[4] The harbor was important to ancient Hawaiians for its ample supply of fish, including the mullet, milkfish, and Hawaiian anchovy.[4] In the late 1700s, Francisco de Paula Marín introduced edible cactus to the island that he had imported from California.[8]


Ancient Hawaiians[edit]

Ancient Hawaiians called the island Mokuʻumeʻume, meaning "isle of attraction".[1][9][10][11][12] It was named after the ceremony, called ʻume, that took place during the Makahiki festival for childless couples.[9][13] In some literature, the ceremony has been considered a game.[12] The ceremony was designed to help childless couples conceive and was forbidden to virgins and unmarried Hawaiians.[9][10][11] Those selected for ʻume would participate in singing around a large bonfire while a tribal leader chanted with a wand called a maile and touched individual males and females.[9][10][11] Those touched would find a private section of the island.[9][10][11] Husbands and wives were not paired together and jealousy was strongly disapproved of.[9][11] Any children of this union became the children of the husband and not of the natural father.[9][10] By 1830, this activity was put to a stop by Christian missionaries.[14]

The island was also used for the cultivation of watermelon and for the harvesting of pili grass that the Hawaiians used for thatched roofs.[9]

The native Hawaiian people of the area were called Ke Awalau o Puʻuloa.[15] According to Hawaiian legend, the island is where the goddess Kaʻahupāhau killed a girl, and after feeling remorse, issued a law forbidding further killing.[15] Kaʻahupāhau's brother Kahiʻukā (sometimes referred to by historians as her son Kūmaninini) was said to live in a cavern underwater off Ford Island[16] with Kanekuaʻana, a great water lizard that supplied food to the people of ʻEwa Beach.[15]

18th-century settlers[edit]

Map of Mokuʻumeʻume was compiled from maps dated 1873–1915

There are no historical records to give an exact date, but researchers at the Hawaiian Historical Society believe that the island was given to Francisco de Paula Marín on 9 February 1818 and later named after him for his assistance in providing weapons that King Kamehameha I used to conquer the island of Oʻahu.[17] In Marín's journal, however, he claimed in 1809 to have been given the island and all the surrounding fishing waters as early as 1791.[5] He used the land to raise sheep, hogs, goats, and rabbits as provisions for ships,[11] and to grow plants and vegetables that he imported.[5]

In 1825, Lord Byron arrived commanding the HMS Blonde to map the Pearl River, known today as Pearl Harbor.[5] The ship's naturalist, Andrew Bloxam, spent time on Ford Island hunting rabbits and wild ducks, and the ship's surveyor Lieutenant Charles Robert Malden called the island Rabbits Island.[5] In 1826, Hiram Paulding became the first American Naval officer to visit the island.[5] Marín's claim of ownership over the island was as clear to him as he believed. Hawaiians generally refused to recognize land ownership by foreigners, King Kamehameha IV only believed he lent the island to Marín and by the 1850s the island was split between King Kamehameha IV, who owned 214 acres (87 ha), and the granddaughter of Kamehameha I, Princess Kekauōnohi, who owned 147 acres (59 ha).[18] On 28 August 1865, the island was bought at public auction for $1,040 by James L. Dowsett who then sold it to Caroline Jackson for $1 on 28 December.[5]

Dr. Seth Porter Ford arrived in 1851 from Boston and practiced medicine at the US Seamen's Hospital.[17][19] Ford married Jackson in June 1866 and assumed control of the island.[5] When Ford died, ownership of the island was transferred to his son, Seth Porter Ford, Jr.[20] The son sold the island to the John Papa Īī estate.[11][17]


An old man in a top hat with a white beard stands next to a sitting woman in a decorative dress
Charles Reed Bishop with his wife Bernice Pauahi Bishop

Sugar had been a major export from Hawaii since Captain James Cook's arrival in 1778.[21] In the 1850s, the US import tariff on sugar from Hawaii was much higher than the import tariffs Hawaiians were charging the US, and King Kamehameha III sought reciprocity.[22]

As early as 1873, a United States military commission recommended asking for Ford Island in exchange for tax-free importation of sugar to the US.[23] At that time, Major General John Schofield, US commander of the military division of the Pacific, along with Brevet Brigadier General Burton S. Alexander arrived in Hawaii to ascertain defensive capabilities. Control of Hawaii was considered vital for the defense of the Pacific West coast of the United States. They had particular interest in Pu'uloa, Pearl Harbor.[24] Hawaiian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charles Reed Bishop, who had proposed the sale of one of Hawaii's harbors and owned a country home near Pu'uloa, showed the two US officers around the area of the lochs. His wife, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, privately disagreed with the selling of lands but never spoke out against it. The Hawaiian king, William Charles Lunalilo, was content to let Bishop run almost all affairs; however, speculation on what extent the cession would include became unpopular with the native Hawaiian people. There was concern all the islands could be ceded, rather than just Pearl Harbor; as such, Hawaiians opposed any cession of land. By November 1873, Lunalilo had canceled all further negotiations. The stress from the situation may have caused the king's return to drinking against his doctors advice, attributing to a swift decline in his health. Lunalilo died February 3, 1874.[24]

Lunalilo left no heirs and the legislature elected David Kalākaua as the next monarch.[25] During the new king's reign, he was forced by American property owners to dismiss all his cabinet ministers and sign a new constitution that greatly reduced his power.[25] He was also pressured by the US government to surrender Pearl Harbor to the US Navy.[25] Kalākaua's concern was that this would lead to the complete annexation by the US which went against the traditions of the Hawaiian people who believed that the land was fertile, holy, and could not be owned by anyone.[25]

Map of Oʻahu Sugar Plantation on Ford Island, August 13, 1914

At the end of the seven years of reciprocity, the United States showed little interest in renewing the agreement.[22] But with the California's support, because the US state had profited greatly from the sugar imports, King Kalākaua again approached Congress and for several years the issue was not settled.[22][26] When the United States did not seem interested in reciprocity, Kalākaua threatened to turn his efforts to arrange better export agreements elsewhere toward Australia and New Zealand.[22] In 1875, the United States congress again agreed to reciprocity for an additional seven years, fearing that any treaty between Hawaii and Australia or New Zealand would result in annexation to one of those two countries instead of the United States, if Kalākaua would give the United States Ford Island in exchange.[22][26] Though Kalākaua greatly disliked the idea of giving any foreign country land in Hawaii, in 1887 he finally conceded and signed the treaty.[22][26]

The Oahu Sugar Company, also called the Oahu Sugar Cane Plantation, leased around 300 acres (120 ha) from the Ii estate to harvest one of Hawaii's primary sugar exports, sugar, in 1899.[11][23] The business proved successful and the company also subleased land from Benjamin Dillingham on the Waipi'o peninsula just southeast of the modern day Waipio, Hawaii to build a 12-roller mill and railroad.[27][27] Sugar cane was grown and harvested on Ford Island, using a series of aqueducts from fresh water reservoirs, and then transported by barge to Waipio, loaded onto rail and then transported to the mills.[27]

In 1902, the nearby estate of Bernice Pauahi Bishop lost a critical lawsuit brought by the United States to purchase land around Pearl Harbor for below value.[28] The Bishop estate valued the land at $600 per acre but the United States was only willing to pay $30 per acre.[28] A jury settled the case and determined that the land would by sold to the United States at $75 per acre.[28] Facing a similar lawsuit and interest in its land on Ford Island, the John Ii estate settled with the United States to deed twenty-five acres at no cost.[28] In exchange, the United States dropped the suit which had been for the whole island.[28]

The military leased small sections of the north and south sides of the island, exactly 25.83 acres (10.45 ha) for $3,000, to build large 6-inch barreled gun batteries, called Boyd and Henry Adair.[20][29] It was not until 1917, though, that the United States obtained ownership of Ford Island.[23]

Army Air Service[edit]

Earliest known aerial photo of Ford Island taken December 16, 1918

In 1917, the 6th Aero Squadron was created in Honolulu, Hawaii, with Captain John F. Currey as its Commander. Although 50 personnel were assigned,[20][23][30] only 49 arrived; one deserted en route.[30] Currey choose Ford Island as the location for the new squadron and bought the island from the John ʻĪʻī estate for $236,000, citing its access to water and winds as assets.[1][20][23][31] Currey was then given orders to Washington and command of the squadron was transferred to Captain John B. Brooks, and then Major Hugh J. Knerr who developed the island by constructing a runway and hangars.[5][32] The early soldiers had to flatten the island and remove hills and boulders.[33]

Martin MB-1 on Luke Field on August 15, 1918

All major hangars and housing were completed in 1918, including a large steel and wooden hangar, two concrete hangars for seaplanes and flying boats, a supply warehouse, a machine shop, a photography laboratory, and a powerhouse.[5] In 1919, the field was officially designated Luke Field after Frank Luke.[32][33] Introduction of aviation to Ford Island by the US Army caused a surprising expansion all over Hawaii with the development of civilian airports, the creation of the Hawaii chapter of the National Aeronautics Association and a national flying code.[33] The aviation division of the US Army was generally favorably received amongst the Hawaiians, who saw military investment in their land as a compliment.[34]

Army Air Force Aircraft at Luke Field[35]
Dates Unit Aircraft
1918–1920 6th Aero Squadron N-9, R-6, HS2L
1919–1929 394th Bomb Squadron DH-4
1920–1926 6th Fighter Squadron DH-4, HS2L, JN-6, MB-3, Fokker D-VII
1922–1939 23d Bomb Squadron NBS-1, JN-6, DH-4
1923–1939 72d Bomb Squadron DH-4, NBS-1, LB-5
1929–1937 4th Observation Squadron O-19, OA-1, B-12, P-12
1930–1936 431st Bomb Squadron O-19
Naval aircraft at Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor in 1931[5]
Unit Aircraft
Patrol Squadron 1 6x T2D
Patrol Squadron 4 12 PD-1
Patrol Squadron 6 6x T4M-1
6x T3M-2
Reconnaissance Squadron 6 2x OL-8
1x O2U
Ford Island circa 1919–1921

The US Navy decided that a base in Hawaii was a necessity and determined that the Army field at Ford Island was an ideal candidate.[36] Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor, consisting of nine officers and fifty-five men, was commissioned on 19 December 1919.[5] They attempted to move the Army off the island and designate it solely for Naval use, but United States Secretary of War Newton D. Baker instead divided the island equally between the Navy and Army.[37][38] The Army was given the west side of the island and the Navy was given the southeast side.[39] Lieutenant Commander Robert D. Kirk-Patrick was sent to established a naval station on the island with only 4 airplanes and 55 men at his command.[39][40] Kirk-Patrick's men had two Curtiss HS2L flying boats and two N-9 planes which they stored in two large canvas hangars which had been salvaged from World War I and erected across the harbor from Ford Island.[5] After the Naval hangars were commissioned on 17 January 1923 by Lieutenant Commander John Rodgers on Ford Island, the detachment moved onto the island and received Naval Aircraft Factory TS, Felixstowe F5L, Curtiss H-16, Keystone PK-1, and Douglas DT type aircraft.[5][41] To accommodate ship berthing, the Navy erected a concrete and stone quay around the entire island.[5] In 1926, the Navy received Vought FUs. Vought VE-7s, and Vought VE-9s.[5]

An island nearly three times long as it is wide with buildings scattered around the edges and grassy fields in the center
Aerial photo of Ford Island in 1930

During the 1930s, the Navy paid a $1.5 million contract to dredge Pearl Harbor to allow larger battleships and the fleet's carriers to enter the harbor.[42] Using the extra landfill, the island's size was increased from 334 acres (135 ha) to 441 acres (178 ha).[5][42] The Navy replaced the PK, F5L, and H16 models with newer aircraft (see table above).[5] In 1933, VP-8 arrived on station. In 1935, the Army's bombers had become too large to continue to be maintained and stored at Luke field.[43] Construction began on a new Army airfield, named Hickam Army Airfield after recently deceased Army pilot Lieutenant Colonel Horace Meek Hickam.[38][43] From 1936 to 1940, Pan-American flew the Clipper into Ford Island as a hub between the United States and Asia.[44][45] The Navy also installed a new boat house for $25,000, a new crew barracks for $579,565, a new fire house and water supply system, and new flood and obstruction lights.[5] In June 1936, the Navy increased the landing field by 400 feet (120 m) up to 3,000 feet (910 m).[5] In March 1937, Amelia Earhart, on her second visit to Luke Field, crashed her Lockheed Electra upon take-off.[46]

In 1939, after three years of construction, Hickam field opened and the Army transferred its operations, leaving Luke Field under Naval control.[47] Luke field was renamed to Ford Island and its former namesake was re-honored with a new base, Luke Air Force Base, and became the headquarters of Patrol Wing 2.[47][48] At the height of World War II, over 40,000 people lived or worked on the island.[1] A presidential emergency proclamation on 8 September 1939 spurred the rapid construction of new facilities to prepare the island for additional operations. This included additional barracks, a new assembly and repair hangar, administration building, a dispensary, the control tower, laundry, and theater.[5]

Attack on Pearl Harbor[edit]

Rafters and wooden structures of a bombed out hangar
Damaged hangar on Ford Island after the attacks

Ford Island, in the middle of Pearl Harbor, was headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, an important target for the first wave airborne raiders in the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.[49][50] Before dawn, the United States strategic center in the Pacific consisted of the seven battleships then moored along battleship row, the six pairs of interrupted quays located along Ford Island's eastern side.[49] Quay F-2, the southernmost, which usually hosted an aircraft carrier, was empty.[49] The flagship USS California was moored northeastward at F-3. Side by side with the USS Maryland was the USS Oklahoma outboard, and then Tennessee with USS West Virginia outboard. Behind the Tennessee was USS Arizona, alongside repair ship Vestal.[49] Closing the row was USS Nevada, alone at F-8.[49] These battleships, from eighteen to twenty-five years old, represented all but two of those available to the Pacific Fleet.[49] The fleet flagship, USS Pennsylvania, was also in Pearl Harbor, dry-docked at the nearby Navy Yard. The ninth, USS Colorado, was undergoing overhaul on the West Coast.[49] Together, these ships were one short of equaling Japan's active battle fleet, though the Japanese units were predominantly newer.[49]


1:USS California
2:USS Maryland
3:USS Oklahoma
4:USS Tennessee
5:USS West Virginia
6:USS Arizona
7:USS Nevada
8:USS Pennsylvania
9:Ford Island NAS
10:Hickam field

A:Oil storage tanks
C:Submarine base
D:Naval yard


The initial bombs of the attack burst at 0757 on the island, prompting the historical dispatch: "Air Raid, Pearl Harbor—this is no drill."[49][50][51] The battleships ringing Ford Island were the Japanese attackers' main target at Pear Harbor.[49] Twenty-four of the forty Japanese torpedo planes were assigned to attack "Battleship Row", plus 5 more came over to that side of Ford Island after unsuccessfully looking for battleships in other parts of the harbor.[49] The planes carried 29 Type 91 aerial torpedoes, each carrying high explosive payload of 450 pounds (200 kg), of which 21 are thought to have found their targets: 2 in California, 1 in Nevada and possibly 9 combined in Oklahoma and West Virginia; the latter two ships sank within minutes of torpedo impact.[49]

Horizontal bomber aircraft, delivering armor-piercing bombs, attacked as the last torpedo planes finished, and other horizontal and dive bombers came in later.[49] Together, all these aircraft registered many direct hits and damaging near-misses including two on the California, Maryland and Tennessee each, as well as several more on West Virginia.[49] Fresh water supply to the island was cut off after the Arizona rested on and severed the main line and the auxiliary line was destroyed on the Pearl Harbor end.[5]

A burning hangar with destroyed planes scattered in front
Hangar 6 in flames after the attack on Ford Island

On the island, a bomb meant for the California hit Hangar 6, causing it to catch fire.[5] Additional bombs hit Hangar 38, which was a dud, the dispensary courtyard, leaving a large crater, and on the roadway outside the repair and assembly hangar.[5] Only one man, Theodore Wheeler Croft, was killed on the island while standing guard duty.[5]

The bombers' most notable success was the Arizona.[49] One bomb exploded close to forward magazines, causing a catastrophic explosion and immediately sinking the ship.[49] Nevada, which eventually got underway while attacked, was hit repeatedly by dive bombers concentrating their attention on a moving ship getting away from Ford Island. So that she would not sink between Ford Island and the Navy Yard, blocking the whole harbor calamitously, the Nevada had to be run ashore.[52]

Several planes from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which was approaching Hawaii after a mission to Wake Island, arrived in the midst of the attack and four were shot down by the Japanese and American air defense friendly fire.[49] The commander of the air group from the Enterprise reported that once he was on Ford Island, he attempted to take over communications on Ford Island to try to reach the Enterprise by radio but the communications systems were too inadequate or too damaged to be of any use.[53][54] He attributed responsibility for the friendly fire on the radio equipment.[53][54] After making attempts to notify as many ships and anti-aircraft batteries as possible, several of planes from the Enterprise on Ford Island, and others from Ford Island's own complement, were airborne again within a few hours and sent out to search for the enemy.[49][54] Some of these search plans were shot down, once again, by friendly fire upon return by Ford Island defenders already on high alert.[49]

In addition to battleship row and the island’s naval field, the fixed moorings on the western side of Ford Island, which were capable of holding battleships or aircraft carriers, were priority targets.[49] Also damaged just west of Ford Island, the seaplane tender USS Curtiss was hit by a crashing dive bomber, a bomb and fragments of another bomb then was unsuccessfully attacked by a Japanese midget submarine which fired a torpedo at her, but the sub itself was sunk by the destroyer USS Monaghan.[49] Several patrol seaplanes and other aircraft were destroyed on Ford Island, and Hangar 6 was destroyed. In all, more than half of Ford Island's planes, 33 out of 70 total, were destroyed.[55]


A ship on its side halfway underwater with cables strung to winches on the island behind it.
Ship righted to about 30 degrees, on 29 March 1943, while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese disabled all seven battleships present on battleship row. Maryland and Tennessee were repaired in only a few weeks, as was the Pennsylvania.[49] However, it took at least a year and sometimes much more to repair three others.[49] Oklahoma and Arizona were complete losses. Even with the Atlantic battleships added to the Pacific Fleet, three in all, the Japanese battleships had absolute superiority; this held until the sinking of the Japanese battleship Yamato late in the war.[49]

The USS Enterprise launched aircraft to patrol Ford Island and search for the Japanese carriers.[56] Five American pilots who were returning from missions to hunt down the Japanese fleet were mistakenly shot down by anti-air gunners on Ford Island while the airplanes were attempting to land.[57] The commanding officer of Ford Island said of the friendly losses, "Somebody let fly and I never saw so many bullets in the air in my life and never expect to ... all tracer bullets at night."[56]

After the attack, ROTC cadets at the University of Hawaii were brought to active duty and assigned to guard strategic buildings.[57] Because of the lack of fresh water to the island, and because power had been knocked out to the dispensary, a temporary hospital had to be set up at the #2 barracks.[5] The island's gas tank was emptied of gas and filled with water.[5] Trenches were dug and the buildings were camouflaged.[5] The runway had to be cleared immediately of over three tons of scrap metal and took sailors and soldiers no more than two hours.[58] The task of feeding and clothing men fell to the Marine barracks whose own men had taken rifles and were performing guard duty.[58] Twenty prisoners from the island's brig were marched to the barracks and put to work without causing trouble.[58] For some of those prisoners, their hard work earned them commuted sentences.[58] That evening, Hawaii islanders were instructed to turn out their lights and not turn them on for any reason whatsoever.[56] They were told not to use their telephones, keep extra buckets of water available for fighting fires, and keep cars off the streets and park them on lawns if necessary.[56]

Sixty concrete revetments were constructed to protect the planes from another attack.[5] The Navy also laid down a new 16-inch (410 mm) water main from across the harbor.[5] The new control tower was commissioned on 1 May 1942.[5] The Navy also constructed new bomb shelters and gas decontamination chambers.[5] Due to a need to provide better control of the US Pacific Fleet, PACFLT headquarters moved to Ford Island.[5]

Over the next few weeks, the Navy set up twenty-one large winches on Ford Island to turn the Oklahoma upright so it could be re-floated and patched before being sent to the scrapyard.[59] Coral was piled between the ship and Ford Island to ensure the ship would roll upright instead of sliding toward the shore.[59] The ship sank in the middle of the Pacific in a storm during towing to the scrapyard.[59] The Navy was able to re-float and salvage the Nevada, the California, the West Virginia, and the mine-layer USS Oglala.[60] The entire salvage operation took 20,000 man-hours underwater and 5,000 dives to recover human remains, weapons, ammunition, and other artifacts of historical or military importance.[60]

Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Ford Island[edit]

Two large ferries docked on an Island on a clear day.
Oblique view of one end and side from harbor – US Naval Base, Pearl Harbor

As the Vietnam war picked up, the US Pacific Fleet required an intelligence branch other than the one in Guam.[61] The Fleet Intelligence Center, Pacific (FICPAC) opened on Ford Island in 1955, though the new office had little to do with Admiral Nimitz earlier Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Area which had been formed a decade earlier and then moved to Guam.[61][62] In 1962, the Navy decommissioned Naval Station Ford Island though the island continued to be controlled by the Navy as a sub-component of Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor.[39][63] In 1970, the island's runway was opened up to civilian aircraft for flight training.[23] The State of Hawaii, which achieved statehood in 1959, contracted with the US Navy to allow touch and go landings until 1972, when the airfield was opened to students performing their first solo flights.[23] The use of the island as a training center helped relieve congestion at the nearby Honolulu International Airport.[23][64] After coming to full active duty status on 1 February 1973, the Third Fleet moved its headquarters onto Ford Island where it stayed until moving to San Diego in 1991.[65] The island remained home to Naval officers and several Naval headquarters remained on the island.[66] Civilian operations at Ford Island ended in 1999 when the state acquired Kalaeloa Airport.[23]

Ford Island Air Traffic Statistics[67]
1970s Year 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
Operations N/A 176,811 173,908 157,621 177,767 177,767
1980s Year 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
Operations 142,438 123,419 108,828 84,857 71,542 85,102 75,429 62,406 77,456 29,128
1990s Year 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Operations 80,193 69,468 62,184 62,184 54,277 51,942 52,731 39,671 39,992 50,441

Prior to the completion of the Admiral Clarey Bridge, access to Ford Island was provided via ferryboat.[64] Two diesel-powered ferries served the island, Waa Hele Honoa (YFB-83) and Moko Holo Hele (YFB-87).[64] The Waa Hele Honoa, meaning "Canoe go to land", was purchased in 1959 for $274,000.[64] Later, the ferry was pressed into service by the Navy on 3 March 1961.[64] It is the older and larger of the two ferries at 181 feet (55 m).[64] It could carry 750 people and 33 vehicles.[64] The other, Moko Holo Hele, meaning "boat go back and forth", was purchased for $1.1 million on 25 May 1970.[64] It is 162 feet (49 m) and held 750 people and 42 vehicles.[64] Both ferries were operated by US Navy personnel.[64] Access to the island was restricted to US military personnel, their dependents, and invited guests.[64] In addition to the two car ferries, there were several smaller "foot ferries" that allowed pedestrians to transit between Ford Island and several alternate landings around Pearl Harbor.[64]


An island with building on the left and right. Center is a conceptual design of the runway covered in solar panels.
A conceptual design for photovoltaic panels covering the historic runway on Ford Island

Initially termed "the bridge to nowhere", the Admiral Clarey Bridge was instrumental in Senator Daniel Inouye's "rebirth" of Ford Island and enabled over $500,000,000 in development on the island through special legislation 2814 U. S. Code.[68][69][70][71] It connected 45 families and 3,000 civilian workers to Kamehameha Highway.[64] In addition, visitor access to the island with the bridge enabled the construction of the $50,000,000 16-acre (6.5 ha) Pacific Aviation Museum.[72] The plan included 500 new homes for Navy personnel, a new child development center, and a new Navy lodge.[69][73]

The Navy's development plan for the island took consideration for both the operational needs of the Navy and the historical value of the island.[74] Despite that, the National Trust for Historic Preservation felt that the Navy's communication style was more directive than bi-directional and in 2001 they designated the island as one of its 11 most endangered sites.[74] The Navy's plans includes preserving important hangars, the control tower, and seaplane ramps but failed to protect the existing runway, housing from the 1920s, and did not directly state the preservation status of the bullet holes on the seaplane ramps.[74] After the designation, and as hoped by the trust, the Navy agreed to delay the development of some of these items until a joint plan could be agreed upon.[74]

To accommodate the added facilities and housing, the Navy needed to upgrade the infrastructure of the island.[75] The sewage system upgraded with the installation in 2001 of a 6,000 feet (1,800 m) 20 inches (510 mm) sewage main from the island to Pearl Harbor and an update sewage pumping station.[76] In 2005, the Navy contracted the drilling of primary and auxiliary conduits to run parallel to the bridge 20 feet (6.1 m) away from the Halawa landing site and installed 5,045 feet (1,538 m) long, 24 inches (610 mm) in diameter carbon steel high magnetic casing coming up on the island's golf course.[75] 46kV power lines were then fed into the conduits, to supply the island's electrical needs, as well as fiber optic communications cable.[75] Using the bridge for transiting the cable across the loch was impossible due to the bridge's unique floating design.[75]

In June 2013, the US Navy planned to install 60,000 photovoltaic panels over 28 acres (11 ha) on the Ford Island runway.[77] The Navy had intended to comply with Congressional and Defense Department mandates to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and offset the cost of Hawaiian energy costs, which are the highest in the United States.[77] The plan deviated from a 2009 proposal which would use the panels to define the historic runway, in favor of panels which would produce twice the power.[78] The Navy offered the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor $250,000 toward renovation of the control tower's elevator in exchange for their support of the plan, which the museum declined.[78] It organized an internet campaign to oppose the plan based on the historical significance of the runway, highlighting both Ford Island's role in Pearl Harbor and Amelia Earhart's historic visit.[77] Instead, the Navy decided to install the panels on existing structures around Pearl Harbor.[77]

Present-day use[edit]

The island continues to serve functions for the United States Navy. It hosts the Pacific Warfighting Center, a 34,000 square feet (3,200 m2) two story complex, to simulate real world conditions for battlefield commanders.[79] The completion of the bridge also enabled the Navy to further develop the island to include a new $331,000,000 Pacific Tsunami warning center, named after Senator Daniel Inouye, replacing the aging facility on ʻEwa Beach.[80][81][82] The location of the tsunami warning center has been controversial both because it itself is in a tsunami vulnerable location and because the Navy's tsunami evacuation plan calls for the island's only access point, the Admiral Clarey Bridge, to be opened for Naval ship evacuation – thus making the bridge inaccessible to land vehicles.[83] The island also continues to host a military brig.[3]

Intended to be based on Alaska, Sea-based X-band Radar came to Ford Island in 2006 for maintenance and repairs and has remained there ever since.[84] The radar is primarily used as a warhead detection radar system on a self-propelled floating platform in the Pacific Ocean but has become a controversial as poorly planned.[85] Critics argue that the platform's has poor emergency preparedness, disrupts cellular and Wi-Fi signals when it's in home port, and some conspiracy theorists argue that the platform is a replacement for HAARP.[85]

In 2013, the Navy unveiled a $4 million facility for training using simulators and virtual reality at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport on Ford Island.[86] The Fleet Integrated Synthetic Training/Testing Facility (FIST2FAC) was developed to save on costs for training by developing a reusable facility that could emulate electronic, mine and anti-air warfare scenarios instead of creating real world training scenarios that would require fuel, logistics, and deployment costs for ships.[87]

Memorials and museums[edit]

A blue plaque with the names of several museums and memorials at the Pearl Harbor Historic sites.
Sign out in front of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites at Halawa Landing on Oʻahu, Hawaii

Early after the attack on Pearl harbor, it was decided that the USS Arizona would remain at the bottom of the harbor as a final resting place for those lost.[88] In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the construction of a memorial over the vessel.[88] The USS Arizona memorial was dedicated in 1962 where the ship sank off the coast of Ford Island.[88][89] The memorial includes a complex at the Halawa landing opposite Ford Island as well as a structure, erected over the USS Arizona, which receives visitors via ferry boat.[90] The complex is staffed by the National Park Service, though the ferries are still operated by US Navy personnel.[90]

The mistaken aircraft carrier which was actually a test dummy, USS Utah, remains submerged off the coast of the island.[63] After the successful salvage of the capsized USS Oklahoma using winching cables, the Navy attempted to recover the USS Utah using the same technique but failed.[91] In 1972, the remains of the USS Utah were dedicated as a memorial on the northwest side of the island to the fifty-eight men still inside.[63][92]

Despite concerns that it would detract from the USS Arizona memorial, in 1998 the USS Missouri was transferred from Washington state to Ford Island.[93] After a year of conversion to a museum, the ship opened for visitors on 29 January 1999.[94][95] On 7 December 2006, the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl harbor and after over ten years of planning, the aviation museum opened in hangar 37 to visitors.[96] On 7 December 2007, a joint ceremony was held by the National Park Service and the USS Oklahoma memorial committee to dedicate a memorial to the ship just outside the entrance to the USS Missouri museum on the northeast side of the island.[97] On 2 September 2010, the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor signed a lease with the US Navy to the Ford Island control tower and began restoration; the tower had sent the first radio alert of the attack in 1941.[98]

Film and television[edit]

A 1965 film, In Harm's Way, starring actor John Wayne was filmed on Ford Island.[3] A fictional scene before the attack, in which officers and their wives enjoyed a pool party, was still reenacted by island residents on the anniversary of the attacks as late as 2001.[3]

In 1970, the Ford Island control tower was repainted for the filming of Tora! Tora! Tora!.[99] One of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress used for production during filming suffered a landing gear malfunction and was forced to make a crash landing on Ford Island.[100] The crash was included in the final production of the film.[100]

A golden plaque on stone on the shore of Ford Island with a white memorial bridge floating over the USS Arizona
Memorial plaque on Ford Island facing the USS Arizona memorial

In April 2000, filming began for the Michael Bay film Pearl Harbor.[101] Before filming, the crew and actors gathered on the USS Arizona memorial for a wreath laying by a representative of Touchstone Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Bay. The production brought fifteen vintage planes to Ford Island and placed them all in one hangar for filming.[102] In addition, the film brought fifteen naval vessels back to Pearl Harbor for live bombardment without sinking the ships.[102] The operations room of the control tower was converted into barracks for the filming.[99] The Pacific Aviation Museum hoped that the film would bring added public awareness of the tower and spur public support for the control tower's restoration.[103] Michael Bay reflected on the historical significance of Ford Island, saying "I have a vivid memory of showing the crew around Ford Island during pre-production. We came upon a plaque directly across from the sunken Arizona, marking the spot where a torpedo hit nearly six decades ago. My crew stood in silence for three minutes at the sight of this small monument. It was a solemn moment for all of us, and I think it helped the crew appreciate the undertaking were about to begin."[104] During the filming, a Vultee BT-13 Valiant used for production as a torpedo plane crashed on the island.[100]

In 2010, the television series Hawaii Five-0 choose Battleship Cove, a housing community just outside the dock of the USS Missouri museum, as the location for an episode.[105] The production featured a number of Ford Island resident's homes and some of those residents served as extras in the episode.[105] The episode featured police cars racing down Tennessee and Nevada streets.[105] Also in 2010, Peter Berg featured the USS Missouri in the movie Battleship.[106] The ship was towed off Ford Island for maintenance and was brought out to sea between completion of the maintenance and its return to the dock for filming.[106] The memorial hoped the film would bring a spike in visitors to the museum on Ford Island.[106]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]