Hiking Hawaiian History


History has always been a major interest of mine. I received my bachelor’s degree in history from Chico state in 2011, and went on to gain a masters in historic preservation at University of Oregon, intending to apply my knowledge of history to preserving the raw material of our heritage. My internship at Pearl Harbor has allowed me to explore different ways to channel my knowledge of history and historic preservation through social media. In a way, social media can be like a web-based museum, where you interpret photos and stories for an online audience, wherever they happen to be.<p>Yet this is not the only way I have been able to apply my interest in history since starting my SCA internship. Researching for my projects has provided me with a background in how WWII affected Hawaii, and O’ahu in particular. O’ahu, known as the gathering place, became a military stronghold in the years leading up to World War II. There are reminders of this World War II history located all over the island, and exploring these places has been one of my favorite hobbies during my free time as an SCA intern.


Of course, WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument contains many of these sites, including the sites on Ford Island. Visitors can take a tour bus across the bridge to Ford Island and visit the USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum. As an SCA intern I’ve gotten to visit both of those sites as well as see some rehabilitated 1930s military housing, and the USS Utah Memorial. The feeling of 1930s Hawaii created by the presence of the 1930s structures immediately shows how important the preservation efforts on Ford Island are. As an air field on December 7, 1941 Ford Island was heavily attacked, and most of the airplanes on the island were destroyed preventing pilots from fighting back. Yet there were two pilots on the North Shore of O’ahu who were able to access planes and fight back.

1930s Military Housing

The two pilots George Welch and Kenneth Taylor took off from Haleiwa Air Strip located about 30 to 40 minutes north of Pearl Harbor. I have yet to explore the Haleiwa Air Strip, but was able to visit the beach Papailoa just across from the air field where I encountered numerous turtles and only a few people. Known for large waves, and famous surfers, the North Shore waters are in fact calm and placid in the summer.

Turtle at Papailoa Beach

Kaneohe and Bellows Military Bases, both located on the east side of O’ahu, were also targets on the morning of December 7, 1941. Prior to World War II, military infrastructure, such as bunkhouses for lookouts, was built along the eastern side of the island, including structures at Lanikai, and Makapu’u. Popular hikes lead to what remains of the military heritage at these sites. It has been many years since I completed the Lanikai pillbox hike, but the hike to Makapu’u lighthouse continues to be one of my favorites.

Exploring Along the Hike Up to Makapu’u Lighthouse

Tourists to the islands that focus only on beaches and resorts often miss what makes Hawaii so important and unique: its culture and history. The islands are home to a complex, multilayered history, with World War II as only one chapter in a long story. Historic sites across the islands tell these stories amid a backdrop of the islands’ beautiful environment.