Hawaii September 06, 2017
You’ll Want To Visit This Tiny Hawaii Island Overflowing With History
The Hawaiian Islands are steeped in history, though there is perhaps no place more integral to United States’ history than Pearl Harbor. While the U.S. Government did not obtain exclusive use of the area – and the right to maintain a repair station for ships – at Pearl Harbor until 1887, it has since become one of the country’s most well-known historic landmarks. This, of course, is due to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, the fateful event which was the immediate cause of America’s entry into World War II.
Today, Pearl Harbor is one of two main bases for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, as well as a living piece of history, with several museums and memorials open to the public. And though, as a whole, Pearl Harbor is extremely historic, there is nowhere in the harbor more historic than Ford Island.
An islet in the center of Pearl Harbor, Ford Island measures in at more than 400 acres. The island was sold to the U.S. Army in 1916 for use by an aviation division, and later taken over by the U.S. Navy in 1939 as a station for battleship and submarine maintenance.
The entire island was designated as a U.S. National Historical Landmark in 1964, as well as listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and it’s easy to see why. The island is accessible by members of the Armed Forces and DoD cardholders, as well as by those who visit the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites as part of a tour group.
Ford Island’s history doesn’t begin with the United States military.
Native Hawaiians referred to this island as Mokuʻumeʻume, meaning "isle of attraction" or "island of strife" after the ceremony (‘ume) held during the Makahiki festival for married couples who were having trouble conceiving.
Those selected for ‘ume would sing around a large bonfire while a tribal leader chanted, touching individual men and women. Husbands and wives were not paired together, and Individuals who were touched would find a secluded part of the island to have sex. Jealousy was discouraged. Children born of these unions were considered children of the husband, rather than the biological father. The activity was forbidden by Christian missionaries around 1830, though there are various other legends about what happened on this island in relation to Hawaii’s gods and goddesses.
On the small island, you will find five major points of historical interest:
1. USS Battleship Missouri
The USS Missouri was the last battleship commissioned by the United States Navy, and is a stunning piece of military history. The "Mighty Mo," as it is affectionately referred to, the USS Missouri is an awe-inspiring behemoth of a ship. The ship weighs more than 58,000 tons and measures in at approximately 900 feet from bow to stern, 100 feet wide, and more than 200 feet tall. She was a true force to be reckoned with during her heyday, and now stands as a silent guard over Pearl Harbor. Proudly docked in Pearl Harbor, the USS Battleship Missouri resides near the USS Arizona Memorial, the pair marking both the beginning and end of the United States' involvement in the second World War.
2. USS Oklahoma Memorial
On the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 2007, a memorial for the 429 crew members who made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country was dedicated on Ford Island, just outside the entrance to where the USS Battleship Missouri is docked. You see, the USS Oklahoma was moored where the USS Missouri is currently docked when she sunk. Only 35 of the 429 sailors and marines were ever identified in the years following the attack, though effort began in 2015 to identify these brave service members.
3. Pacific Aviation Museum
A world-class aviation museum founded within the walls of the two hangars that survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this historic site is a must visit for military, history, and aviation enthusiasts. Shuttles leave the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center for Ford Island every 15 minutes, and visitors can expect to spend two hours exploring the battle-damaged airfield and control tower, as well as two World War II-era hangars that house an impressive collection of vintage aircraft.
4. USS Utah Memorial
Constructed in 1972, the USS Utah Memorial consists of a 70-foot walkway made of white concrete, which extends from Ford Island out to a 40 by 15 ft platform in front of the ship, where a brass plaque and a flagpole are located. The wreck lays offshore, is the final resting place for the 64 men who were killed during the attack, and was added to the National Historic Landmark registry in 1989. As of 2008, eight former crewmembers who were aboard the ship when it sunk have died and had their ashes interred in the wreck. Relics from the ship, as well as its bell, are on display at both the Utah State Capitol Building and the University of Utah.
5. Luke Field
Named in honor of World War I aviator Frank Luke, Luke Field is no longer used as a runway because it is too small for modern jets. However, several airplane hangars and the control tower remain standing and are sometimes seen in films about Pearl Harbor.
Even the bridge to access Ford Island is historic.
Formally known as the Admiral Clarey Bridge, this structure provides access to Ford Island, a United States Naval Installation in the middle of Pearl Harbor. The floating concrete drawbridge is more than 4,600 feet in length, with a 930-foot pontoon section that can be retracted under the fixed bridge in order to accommodate the Navy’s largest battleships and aircraft carriers to pass through.
For more information about Ford Island, and to arrange a tour without base access, visit the
Discover Hawaii Tours website. Never forget to be respectful while visiting these somber memorials as they mark the graves of thousands who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States of America.
Though visible from Ford Island, the
USS Arizona Memorial is not accessible from the island but is still a fascinating historical landmark and memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.