Ford Island

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Ford Island
Native name:
Moku'ume'ume (Island of Attraction)
Poka ʻAilana (Ford Island)
A color photo of Ford Island with modern and historical buildings surrounding a runway overrun with grass
Ford Island
NOAA Pearl Harbor Approach Map.jpg
Water-depth map of Pearl Harbor
LocationOahu, Hawaii
Coordinates21°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 waterEast, Loch, Pearl Harbor
Area441 acres (178 ha)
Length1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Width0.75 mi (1.21 km)
United States
Population368 (as of 2000)[1]
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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 buildings surrounding a runway overrun with grass
Ford Island
NOAA Pearl Harbor Approach Map.jpg
Water-depth map of Pearl Harbor
LocationOahu, Hawaii
Coordinates21°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 waterEast, Loch, Pearl Harbor
Area441 acres (178 ha)
Length1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Width0.75 mi (1.21 km)
United States
Population368 (as of 2000)[1]

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

It was the site of an ancient Hawaiian fertility ritual, which was stopped by Christian missionaries during the 1830s. The island was given by King Kamehameha to Spanish deserter Francisco de Paula Marín, and later returned to the king. After the island was bought at auction by James L. Dowsett and sold to Caroline Jackson, it became the property of Dr. Seth Porter Ford by marriage and was renamed Ford Island. After Ford's death, his son sold the island to the John Papa Īī estate and it was converted into a sugarcane plantation.

In 1916 part of Ford island was sold to the US Army for use by an aviation division in Hawaii, and by 1939 it was taken over by the US Navy as a station for battleship and submarine maintenance. From the 1910s to the 1940s, the island continued to grow as a strategic center of operations for the US Navy in the Pacific Ocean. Japan feared an attack by the United States, and Ford 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 listed the island as one of the US's most-endangered historic sites.[2][3] Although most U.S. airports use the same three-letter location identifier for the FAA and IATA, this airport was assigned NPS by the FAA[4] but has no designation from the IATA.[5]

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


Ford Island is in the center of the East Loch of Pearl Harbor. It is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long and 0.75 miles (1.21 km) wide, and was enlarged from 334 to 441 acres (135 to 178 ha) between 1930 and 1940 with landfill dredged from Pearl Harbor.[6][7] The land rises between 5 to 15 feet (1.5 to 4.6 m) above mean water level, and slopes toward Pearl Harbor.[6] The island is mostly flat, with a 4,000-foot (1,200 m) runway down its center.[6] It connects to Oʻahu, the larger island surrounding Pearl Harbor, via a 4,672-foot (1,424 m) bridge at its northern tip which crosses east to Halawa Landing.[8]

The island's soil is composed primarily of volcanic material, lagoonal deposits and coralline debris, with silty sand from the dredging.[6] Its volcanic material is Aeolian ash, weathered tuff and basalt.[6] Ford Island proper is a coral outcrop.[6] There are two smaller islets near the island: Mokunui and Mokuiki.[9]


In 1991 the Navy discovered nine metals, two semi-volatile organic compounds and a polychlorinated biphenyl in Ford Island's 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 northeastern side.[6] An investigation suggested covering the contaminated areas with clean soil.[6] In 1994 the Navy considered removing the contaminated soil and installed six wells to monitor groundwater, but decided to follow the original recommendation in 1995 and capped the contaminated soil with topsoil and erosion-resistant vegetation (including Bermuda grass).[6] The containment system was completed in 1996.[6]

Flora and fauna[edit]

Wildlife on Ford 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.[6] An endangered owl, the endemic pueo (a subspecies of the short-eared owl), has been seen hunting on the island.[6] Its harbor was important to ancient Hawaiians for its ample supply of fish, including mullet, milkfish and Hawaiian anchovy.[6] During the late 1700s, Francisco de Paula Marín introduced edible cacti from California to the island.[10]


Ancient Hawaiians[edit]

Ancient Hawaiians called the island Mokuʻumeʻume ("isle of attraction"),[1][11][12][13][14] after the ceremony for childless couples (ʻume) held during the Makahiki festival.[11][15] In some literature, the ceremony is considered a game.[14] Designed to help childless couples conceive, it was forbidden to virgins and unmarried Hawaiians.[11][12][13] Those selected for ʻume would sing around a large bonfire while a tribal leader with a maile (wand) chanted, touching individual men and women.[11][12][13] Those who were touched would find a secluded part of the island to have sex.[11][12][13] Husbands and wives were not paired, and jealousy was discouraged.[11][13] Children born of these unions were considered children of the husband, not the biological father.[11][12] By 1830, this activity was forbidden by Christian missionaries.[16]

The island was also used for the cultivation of watermelon and the harvesting of pili grass, which the Hawaiians used for thatched roofs.[11]

The native Hawaiian people of the area were called Ke Awalau o Puʻuloa.[17] According to Hawaiian legend, the goddess Kaʻahupāhau killed a girl on the island; remorseful, she then proclaimed a law forbidding further killing.[17] Kaʻahupāhau's brother Kahiʻukā (sometimes referred to by historians as her son, Kūmaninini) was said to live in an underwater cavern off Ford Island[18] with Kanekuaʻana, a giant water lizard which supplied food to the people of ʻEwa Beach.[17]

18th-century settlers[edit]

Hand-drawn map of Ford Island and surrounding area
Map of Mokuʻumeʻume, compiled from maps dated 1873 to 1915

Although no historical records provide an exact date, 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 used by King Kamehameha I to conquer the island of Oʻahu.[19] However, Marín wrote in an 1809 journal entry that he was given the island and its adjacent fishing waters as early as 1791.[7] He used the land to raise sheep, hogs, goats and rabbits as provisions for ships,[13] growing plants and vegetables which he had imported.[7]

In 1825 Lord Byron arrived, commanding the HMS Blonde, to map the Pearl River (known today as Pearl Harbor).[7] The ship's naturalist, Andrew Bloxam, spent time on Ford Island hunting rabbits and wild ducks; its surveyor, Lieutenant Charles Robert Malden, called it Rabbits Island.[7] In 1826, Hiram Paulding became the first American naval officer to visit the island.[7] Marín's ownership claim to the island was cloudy; Hawaiians generally refused to recognize land ownership by foreigners, King Kamehameha IV believed that he had loaned the island to Marín and by the 1850s the island was split between King Kamehameha IV— who owned 214 acres (87 ha)—and Princess Kekauōnohi, granddaughter of Kamehameha I, who owned 147 acres (59 ha).[20] On 28 August 1865 the island was bought at public auction for $1,040 by James L. Dowsett, who sold it to Caroline Jackson for $1 on 28 December.[7]

Dr. Seth Porter Ford arrived in 1851 from Boston, and practiced medicine at the US Seamen's Hospital.[19][21] Ford married Jackson in June 1866, taking control of the island and changing its name from Marín Island to Ford Island.[7] When Ford died it was transferred to his son, Seth Porter Ford, Jr.,[22] who sold the island to the John Papa Īī land trust.[13][19]


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.[23] During 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.[24]

As early as 1873, a United States military commission recommended attempting to obtain Ford Island in exchange for the tax-free importation of sugar to the US.[25] At that time Major General John Schofield, US commander of the military division of the Pacific, and Brevet Brigadier General Burton S. Alexander arrived in Hawaii to ascertain its defensive capabilities. US control of Hawaii was considered vital for the defense of the west coast of the United States and they were especially interested in Pu'uloa, Pearl Harbor.[26] 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 lochs. His wife, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, privately disagreed with the selling of Hawaiian lands but remained silent. The Hawaiian king, William Charles Lunalilo, was content to let Bishop run almost all business affairs but the cession would became unpopular with the native Hawaiians. Since they thought that all the islands, rather than just Pearl Harbor, might be lost they opposed any cession of land. By November 1873, Lunalilo canceled negotiations. The king returned to drinking, against his doctor's advice; his health declined swiftly, and he died on February 3, 1874.[26]

Lunalilo left no heirs, and the legislature elected David Kalākaua the next monarch.[27] He was forced by American property owners to dismiss his cabinet ministers and sign a new constitution which greatly lessened his power.[27] Kalākaua was also pressured by the US government to surrender Pearl Harbor to the Navy.[27] The king was concerned that this would lead to total annexation by the US, opposing the traditions of the Hawaiian people (who believed that the land was fertile, sacred and could not be owned by anyone).[27]

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

At the end of the seven-year reciprocity agreement, the United States showed little interest in renewal.[24] However, with Californian support (because the state had profited from the import of sugar) King Kalākaua again approached Congress.[24][28] When the United States still seemed uninterested in reciprocity, he threatened to forge more favorable export agreements with Australia or New Zealand.[24] In 1875, the United States Congress agreed to an additional seven years of reciprocity in exchange for Ford Island.[24][28] Congress feared that a treaty between Hawaii and Australia or New Zealand would result in annexation by one of those countries instead of the United States.[24][28] Although Kalākaua was loath to give any foreign country land in Hawaii, in 1887 he signed the treaty.[24][28]

The Oahu Sugar Company (also known as the Oahu Sugar Cane Plantation) leased about 300 acres (120 ha) from the John Papa Īī estate to harvest sugar in 1899.[13][25] The business was successful, and the company sublet land from Benjamin Dillingham on the Waipi'o peninsula (southeast of present Waipio) to build a 12-roller mill and railroad.[29][29] Sugarcane was grown and harvested on Ford Island with a network of aqueducts from freshwater reservoirs, transported to Waipio by barge and then by rail to the mills.[29]

In 1902, the nearby estate of Bernice Pauahi Bishop lost a crucial lawsuit brought by the United States to purchase land around Pearl Harbor for below its market value.[30] Although the Bishop estate valued the land at $600 per acre, the United States was only willing to pay $30 per acre.[30] A jury determined that the land would be sold to the United States at $75 per acre.[30] Facing a similar lawsuit and interest in its land on Ford Island, the John Papa Īī estate settled with the United States to deed twenty-five acres at no cost.[30] In exchange, the US dropped its suit for the entire island.[30]

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

The military leased sections of the north and south sides of the island—25.83 acres (10.45 ha) for $3,000—to build 6-inch (15 cm) gun batteries: Battery Boyd and Battery Henry Adair.[22][31] The United States purchased the island in 1917.[25]

Army Air Service[edit]

Two biplanes on a runway: a twin-engine in the foreground and a single-engine in the background
Martin MB-1 on Luke Field on August 15, 1918

In 1917 the 6th Aero Squadron was created in Honolulu, with Captain John F. Currey as its commander. Although 50 personnel were assigned,[22][25][32] only 49 arrived; one deserted en route.[32] Currey chose Ford Island as the location for the new squadron and bought it from the John Papa Īī land trust for $236,000, citing its access to water and winds as assets.[1][22][25][33] When Currey was transferred to Washington command of the squadron was given to Captain John B. Brooks and then Major Hugh J. Knerr, who built hangars and a runway.[7][34] Early soldiers had to level the island, removing hills and boulders.[35]

All major hangars and housing were completed in 1918, including a large steel-and-wood hangar, two concrete hangars for seaplanes and flying boats, a supply warehouse, a machine shop, a photography laboratory and a powerhouse.[7] In 1919 the field was named Luke Field, after Frank Luke.[34][35] The US Army's introduction of aviation to Ford Island triggered expansion throughout Hawaii with the development of civilian airports, the creation of the Hawaii chapter of the National Aeronautics Association and a national flying code.[35] The army's aviation division was generally favorably received by the Hawaiians, who took the military's investment in their land as a compliment.[36]

Army Air Force Aircraft at Luke Field[37]
1919–422nd Group (Observation) later 5th Group (Observation)
1918–276th Aero Squadron later 6th Persuit SquadronN-9, R-6, HS2L, DH-4, JN-6, MB-3, Fokker D-VII
1924–2719th Pursuit SquadronJN-6, MB-3, S.E.5, DH-4
1920–22, 1927–394th Aero Squadron later 4th Observation SquadronDH-4, O-19, OA-1, B-12, P-12
1922–3923d Squadron later 23d Bombardment SquadronNBS-1, JN-6, DH-4
1923–3972d Bombardment SquadronDH-4, NBS-1, LB-5
1930–3950th Observation Squadron later 50th Reconnaissance SquadronO-19
Naval aircraft at Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor in 1931[7]
Patrol Squadron 16x T2D
Patrol Squadron 412 PD-1
Patrol Squadron 66x T4M-1
6x T3M-2
Reconnaissance Squadron 62x OL-8
1x O2U
Aerial photo of shoreline buildings and docks
Ford Island, circa 1919–21

The Navy decided that a Hawaiian base was a necessity, considering the Army field at Ford Island an ideal candidate.[38] Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor, consisting of nine officers and fifty-five men, was commissioned on 19 December 1919.[7] Although the Navy attempted to displace the Army from the island and designate it solely for naval use, United States Secretary of War Newton D. Baker divided the island equally between the military branches.[39][40] The Army received the west side of the island, and the Navy the southeastern side.[41] Lieutenant Commander Robert D. Kirk-Patrick was sent to establish a naval station on the island with four airplanes and fifty-five men.[41][42] Kirk-Patrick's men had two Curtiss HS2L flying boats and two N-9 planes, which they stored in two large canvas World War I salvage hangars across the harbor from the island.[7] After the naval hangars were commissioned on 17 January 1923 by Lieutenant Commander John Rodgers, the detachment moved onto Ford Island and received Naval Aircraft Factory TS, Felixstowe F5L, Curtiss H-16, Keystone PK-1 and Douglas DT type aircraft.[7][43] To accommodate ship berthing the Navy built a concrete-and-stone quay around the entire island,[7] and in 1926 they received Vought FU, Vought VE-7 and Vought VE-9 biplanes.[7]

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 contracted a $1.5 million dredging of Pearl Harbor to allow larger battleships and the fleet's carriers to enter it.[44] With dredged material used as landfill, the island's size was increased from 334 acres (135 ha) to 441 acres (178 ha).[7][44] The Navy replaced its PK, F5L, and H16 aircraft with newer models (see table above).[7] In 1933 VP-8 arrived on station, and in 1935 the army bombers had become too large to be maintained and stored at Luke Field.[45] Construction began on a new Army airfield, Hickam Army Airfield, named after recently-deceased Army pilot Lieutenant Colonel Horace Meek Hickam.[40][45] From 1936 to 1940 Pan American flew its Clipper service into Ford Island, using it as a refueling stop between the United States and Asia.[46][47] The Navy built a $25,000 boathouse, spent $579,565 on a new crew barracks and built a firehouse and water-supply and lighting systems.[7] In June 1936 the Navy lengthened the island's landing field by 400 feet (120 m), to 3,000 feet (910 m).[7] In March 1937 Amelia Earhart, on her second visit to Luke Field, crashed her Lockheed Electra on takeoff.[48]

In 1939, after three years of construction, Hickam Field opened. The Army transferred its operations there, leaving Luke Field under Navy control.[49] The latter was renamed Naval Air Station Ford Island, and became the headquarters of Patrol Wing 2; its former namesake was re-honored with a new base, Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.[49][50] At the height of World War II, over 40,000 people lived or worked on the island.[1] An 8 September 1939 presidential emergency proclamation spurred the rapid construction of new facilities to prepare the island for additional operations. This included additional barracks, a new assembly and repair hangar, an administration building, a dispensary, a control tower, a laundry and a theater.[7]

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 center 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.[51][52] Before dawn, the US' strategic center in the Pacific consisted of the seven battleships moored along Battleship Row: the six pairs of interrupted quays along the east side of Ford Island.[51] Quay F-2 (the southernmost), which usually hosted an aircraft carrier, was empty.[51] The flagship USS California was moored northeastward, at F-3. Side-by-side with the USS Maryland was the USS Oklahoma (outboard), followed by the Tennessee with the USS West Virginia outboard. Behind the Tennessee was the USS Arizona alongside the repair ship Vestal.[51] Closing the row was the USS Nevada, alone at F-8.[51] These battleships, from eighteen to twenty-five years old, represented all but two of those available to the Pacific Fleet.[51] The fleet flagship (the USS Pennsylvania) was also in Pearl Harbor, dry-docked at the nearby Navy Yard. The ninth battleship, the USS Colorado, was being overhauled on the West Coast.[51] These ships were one short of equaling Japan's active battle fleet, although most of the Japanese vessels were newer.[51]

Pearl Harbor during the attack
Map of Pearl Harbor, with locations of battleships and facilities

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 struck the island at 07:57 local time, prompting the historic dispatch: "Air Raid, Pearl Harbor—this is no drill."[51][52][53] The battleships ringing Ford Island were the Japanese attackers' primary targets.[51] Twenty-four of the forty Japanese torpedo planes were assigned to attack Battleship Row, and five more came over to that side of Ford Island after failing to find battleships in other parts of the harbor.[51] The planes carried 29 Type 91 aerial torpedoes, each with a high-explosive payload of 450 pounds (200 kg), of which 12 are thought to have found their targets: two in the California, one in the Nevada and a possible total of nine in the Oklahoma and the West Virginia; the latter two ships sank within minutes of torpedo impact.[51]

Horizontal bomber aircraft delivering armor-piercing bombs attacked as the last torpedo planes finished, and other horizontal and dive bombers came in later.[51] The aircraft registered many direct hits and damaging near-misses, including two each on the California, the Maryland and the Tennessee and several more on the West Virginia.[51] The island's freshwater supply was cut off when the Arizona severed the main water line and the auxiliary line was destroyed at the Pearl Harbor end.[7]

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

A bomb meant for the California hit Hangar 6 on the island, igniting it.[7] Additional bombs hit Hangar 38 (a dud), the dispensary courtyard (leaving a large crater) and the road outside the repair-and-assembly hangar.[7] Only one man, Theodore Wheeler Croft, was killed on the island while standing guard duty.[7]

The bombers' most-notable success was the Arizona.[51] A bomb exploded near the forward magazines, triggering a catastrophic explosion which immediately sank the ship.[51] The Nevada, which eventually got underway while under attack, was hit repeatedly by dive bombers who spotted a ship escaping from Ford Island. So she would not sink between the island and the Navy Yard (blocking the entire harbor), the Nevada was run aground.[54]

Several planes from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, near Hawaii after a mission to Wake Island, arrived in the midst of the attack; four were shot down by American air-defense friendly fire.[51] H. L. Young, commander of the Enterprise air group, reported that although he attempted to communicate with the Enterprise by radio from Ford Island the communications systems there were inadequate[55][56] and attributed the friendly fire to ineffective radio communications.[55][56] After attempting to notify as many ships and anti-aircraft batteries as possible, several planes from the Enterprise and others from Ford Island's complement were again airborne within hours to search for the attackers.[51][56] Some of these search planes were again shot down on their return by friendly fire from the Ford Island defense, which was on high alert.[51]

In addition to Battleship Row and the island’s naval field, the fixed moorings on the western side of Ford Island (capable of securing battleships or aircraft carriers) were high-priority targets.[51] Just west of the island, the seaplane tender USS Curtiss was hit by a crashing dive bomber, a bomb and fragments of another bomb. She was then unsuccessfully attacked by a Japanese midget submarine, which fired a torpedo before being sunk by the destroyer USS Monaghan.[51] Hangar 6 and several patrol seaplanes and other aircraft on Ford Island (about half the island's planes: 33 out of 70) were destroyed.[57]


A ship on its side halfway underwater with cables strung to winches on the island behind it.
The Oklahoma, righted to about 30 degrees on 29 March 1943 during salvage at Pearl Harbor

Although the Japanese disabled all seven battleships on Battleship Row, the Maryland, the Tennessee and the Pennsylvania were repaired in only a few weeks.[51] However, it took at least a year to repair three others[51] and the Oklahoma and the Arizona were total losses. Even with three Atlantic battleships added to the Pacific Fleet, Japanese battleships held absolute superiority until the sinking of the Yamato late in the war.[51]

The USS Enterprise launched aircraft to patrol Ford Island and search for Japanese carriers.[58] Five American pilots returning from missions to hunt down the Japanese fleet were mistakenly shot down by Ford Island anti-aircraft gunners while attempting to land.[59] The island's commanding officer said about the friendly-fire 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."[58]

After the attack, ROTC cadets from the University of Hawaii were assigned to active duty guarding strategic buildings.[59] Because of the island's lack of fresh water and electric power to the dispensary, a temporary hospital had to be set up at the #2 barracks.[7] The island's gasoline tank was emptied and refilled with water; trenches were dug, and buildings camouflaged.[7] Its runway was cleared of over three tons of scrap metal in two hours.[60] The Marines, who had picked up rifles for guard duty, were tasked with feeding and clothing the soldiers and sailors.[60] Twenty prisoners from the island's brig were marched to the Marine barracks and put to work without incident;[60] some received commuted sentences for their efforts.[60] That evening, Hawaiians were instructed to observe an indoor blackout,[58] stay off the telephone, keep extra buckets of water available for fighting fires and keep cars off the streets (parking them on lawns, if necessary).[58]

Sixty concrete revetments were constructed to protect aircraft from another attack,[7] and the Navy laid down a 16-inch (410 mm) water main from across the harbor.[7] A new control tower was commissioned on 1 May 1942,[7] and the Navy built bomb shelters and gas-decontamination chambers.[7] Due to the need for better control of the US Pacific Fleet, its headquarters moved to Ford Island.[7]

During the next few weeks, the Navy set up twenty-one large winches on the island to turn the Oklahoma upright so it could be re-floated and patched before being scrapped.[61] Coral was piled between the ship and the island so the ship would roll upright, instead of sliding toward the shore.[61] The Oklahoma sank during a mid-Pacific storm while it was being towed to the scrapyard.[61] The Nevada, the California, the West Virginia and the minelayer USS Oglala were re-floated and salvaged by the Navy.[62] The entire salvage operation took 20,000 man-hours underwater and 5,000 dives to recover human remains, weapons, ammunition and artifacts of historic or military importance.[62]

Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Ford Island[edit]

Two large ferries docked on an island on a clear day
Moko Holo Hele (left) and Waa Hele Honoa, ferries serving Ford Island

As the Vietnam War escalated, the US Pacific Fleet required an intelligence branch in addition to the one in Guam.[63] The Fleet Intelligence Center, Pacific (FICPAC) opened on Ford Island in 1955, although the new office had little to do with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz's Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Area (which had been formed a decade earlier and then moved to Guam).[63][64] In 1962 the Navy decommissioned Naval Station Ford Island, although the island continued to be controlled by the Navy as a sub-component of Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor.[41][65]

On 20 February 1970 the 4,000-foot (1,200 m) runway at NALF Ford Island was opened to civilian flight training operations, primarily local Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps flying clubs.[25] Itinerant military helicopter training activities also continued at NALF Ford Island during this period. 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 making their first solo flights.[25] The island's use as a training center helped relieve congestion at nearby Honolulu International Airport.[25][66] After its active-duty commission on 1 February 1973 the Third Fleet moved its headquarters to Ford Island, where it remained until its 1991 move to San Diego.[67] The island remained home to Navy officers and several naval headquarters.[68]

Ford Island Air Traffic Statistics[69]

For the 12-month period ending 4 March 1998 the airport had 39,992 aircraft operations, an average of 110 per day: 98 percent general aviation and two percent military.[4] On 1 July 1999 all military and civilian general-aviation activity at NALF Ford Island ended when NAS Barbers Point was closed in a BRAC action, becoming the present civilian Kalaeloa Airport and Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.[25]

Before the completion of the Admiral Clarey Bridge, access to Ford Island was by ferry.[66] Two diesel-powered ferries, Waa Hele Honoa (YFB-83) and Moko Holo Hele (YFB-87), served the island.[66] The Waa Hele Honoa (meaning "canoe go to land") was purchased in 1959 for $274,000,[66] and pressed into service by the Navy on 3 March 1961.[66] It is the older and larger of the two ferries, at 181 feet (55 m),[66] with a capacity of 750 people and 33 vehicles.[66] The other, Moko Holo Hele (meaning "boat go back and forth") was purchased for $1.1 million on 25 May 1970.[66] At 162 feet (49 m), its capacity was 750 people and 42 vehicles.[66] Both ferries were operated by US Navy personnel,[66] and access to the island was restricted to US military personnel, their dependents and invited guests.[66] In addition to the two car ferries, there were several smaller "foot ferries" allowing pedestrians to travel between Ford Island and alternate landings around Pearl Harbor.[66]


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

Initially called "the bridge to nowhere", the Admiral Clarey Bridge was instrumental in Senator Daniel Inouye's "rebirth" of Ford Island and enabled over $500 million in development with special legislation (2814 U.S. Code).[70][71][72][73] It connected 45 families and 3,000 civilian workers to Kamehameha Highway,[66] and visitor access enabled construction of the $50 million 16-acre (6.5 ha) Pacific Aviation Museum.[74] Plans included 500 homes for Navy personnel, a child-development center and a Navy lodge.[71][75]

In planning the island's development, the Navy considered its operational needs and the island's historic value.[76] However, the National Trust for Historic Preservation considered the Navy's communication style more directive than bi-directional and in 2001 designated Ford Island one of its 11 most-endangered sites.[76] Although the Navy's plans included preserving important hangars, the control tower and seaplane ramps, they failed to protect the existing runway and 1920s housing and did not address preserving bullet holes on the seaplane ramps.[76] As hoped by the trust, after the designation the Navy agreed to delay development of some of these items until an agreement could be reached.[76]

To accommodate additional facilities and housing, the Navy needed to upgrade the island's infrastructure.[77] Its sewage system was upgraded with the 2001 installation of a 6,000-foot (1,800 m), 20-inch (510 mm) sewage main from the island to Pearl Harbor and improvements to the sewage-pumping station.[78] Due to the bridge's unique design, which includes a floating section, it was impossible to use it to transit cable across the loch.[77] In 2005 the Navy contracted drilling for primary and auxiliary conduits 20 feet (6.1 m) apart and parallel to the bridge from Halawa Landing to the Ford Island golf course. The contractor installed 5,045-foot (1,538 m)-long, 24-inch (610 mm)-thick carbon-steel high-magnetic casing conduits,[77] and fiber-optic communications cables and 46kV power lines were fed through them.[77]

In June 2013 the Navy planned to install 60,000 photovoltaic panels over 28 acres (11 ha) on the Ford Island runway,[79] to comply with Congressional and Defense Department mandates to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and offset the cost of Hawaiian energy (the highest in the United States).[79] This plan deviated from a 2009 proposal (using the panels to define the runway) in favor of panels producing twice the power.[80] The Navy offered the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor $250,000 toward renovation of the control tower's elevator in exchange for its support of the plan. The museum declined,[80] organizing an internet campaign opposing the plan based on the runway's historic significance and highlighting Ford Island's role in the attack on Pearl Harbor and Amelia Earhart's visit.[79] In response, the Navy decided to install the panels on existing structures around Pearl Harbor.[79]

Present use[edit]

Ford Island continues to be used by the US Navy. It hosts the Pacific Warfighting Center, a 34,000-square-foot (3,200 m2), two-story complex, to simulate real-world conditions for battlefield commanders.[81] The Admiral Clarey Bridge enabled the Navy to develop a $331 million Pacific tsunami warning center named after Senator Daniel Inouye, replacing the aging facility on ʻEwa Beach.[82][83][84] The center's location is controversial because of its location in a tsunami-vulnerable area and the Navy's tsunami-evacuation plan calls for the island's only access point—the Admiral Clarey Bridge—to be opened for ship evacuation (making the bridge inaccessible to land vehicles).[85] The island also continues to host a military brig.[3]

Nominally based in Alaska, the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX-1) arrived on Ford Island in 2006 for maintenance and repairs and has returned several times since.[86] Primarily used as a warhead-detection radar system on a self-propelled floating platform in the Pacific, its presence on the island has been controversial.[87] Critics say that the platform has poor emergency preparedness and conspiracy theorists argue that the platform is a mobile version of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program.[87][88]

In 2013 the Navy unveiled a $4-million training facility, using simulators and virtual reality, at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport on Ford Island.[89] The Fleet Integrated Synthetic Training/Testing Facility (FIST2FAC) was developed to save on training costs with a reusable facility which could emulate electronic, mine and anti-air warfare scenarios instead of real-world training requiring fuel, logistics and deployment costs for ships.[90]

Memorials and museums[edit]

Blue plaque with the names of museums and memorials at the Pearl Harbor historic sites
Sign in front of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites at Halawa Landing on Oʻahu

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was decided that the USS Arizona would remain at the bottom of the harbor as the final resting place for those lost.[91] In 1958 President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the construction of a memorial over the vessel[91] and the USS Arizona memorial was dedicated in 1962.[91][92] It includes a complex at Halawa Landing (opposite Ford Island) and a structure over the Arizona which receives visitors by ferry.[93] Although the ferries are operated by US Navy personnel, the complex is staffed by the National Park Service.[93]

The aircraft carrier which was actually a test dummy, the USS Utah, remains submerged off the island.[65] After salvaging the capsized USS Oklahoma with winching cables, the Navy unsuccessfully tried to recover the Utah using the same technique.[94] In 1972, the remains of the Utah (on the northwest side of the island) were dedicated as a memorial to the fifty-eight men still inside.[65][95]

Despite concern that it would detract from the Arizona memorial, in 1998 the USS Missouri was transferred from Washington State to Ford Island.[96] After a year of conversion into a museum, the ship opened for visitors on 29 January 1999.[97][98] On 7 December 2006, the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the aviation museum opened to visitors in Hangar 37 after more than ten years of planning.[99] 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.[100] The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor signed a lease with the US Navy on 2 September 2010 for the Ford Island control tower, which sent the first radio alert of the attack, and began its restoration.[101]

Film and television[edit]

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

In 1970, the island's control tower was repainted for the filming of Tora! Tora! Tora!.[102] A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress used in the production experienced a landing-gear malfunction and crash-landed on Ford Island, and the crash landing was included in the film.[103]

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 on the Michael Bay film Pearl Harbor.[104] Before the filming, the cast and crew gathered on the USS Arizona memorial for a wreath-laying by a representative of Touchstone Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer and Bay. The producers brought fifteen vintage planes to Ford Island, placing them in one hangar for the filming.[105] In addition, they brought fifteen ships back to Pearl Harbor for live bombardment (without sinking them).[105] The operations room of the control tower was converted into a barracks for the filming.[102] The Pacific Aviation Museum hoped that the film would increase public awareness of the tower and spur support for its restoration.[106] Bay reflected on the historic significance of Ford Island: "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."[107] During filming, a Vultee BT-13 Valiant used as a torpedo bomber crashed on the island.[103]

In 2010 the television series Hawaii Five-0 chose Battleship Cove, a housing community just outside the dock of the USS Missouri museum, as the location for an episode.[108] The episode, with police cars racing down Tennessee and Nevada Streets, featured a number of Ford Island homes and some residents appeared as extras.[108] That year, Peter Berg featured the USS Missouri in the film Battleship.[109] The ship, which was towed off Ford Island for maintenance, was brought out to sea between completion of the maintenance and its return to the dock for filming.[109] Michael Carr, president of the Battleship Missouri Memorial, hoped that the film would spike the number of visitors to the Ford Island museum.[109]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]