HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – It was the "ultimate disrespect" that left their "blood boiling." That is how organizers of a ceremony for World War II veterans at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl describe the conduct of a production crew from the hit television series Hawaii Five-O.
Twenty-four WWII veterans, 23 of them Pearl Harbor survivors, were at Punchbowl cemetery Friday, December 9. Their visit to the cemetery was part of a trip organized by the Denver based The Greatest Generations Foundation to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
While at Punchbowl the vets were honored for their service and given time to visit grave markers of comrades killed in combat.
As the vets entered the cemetery they saw a team from Hawaii Five-O preparing to shoot a scene for an upcoming episode.
"They were on the graves, and that rubbed some of the Veterans the wrong way with all of the camera equipment and the audio and the people walking over the graves. But we did our ceremony, and just as the day progressed last Friday just disrespect after disrespect," said Steffan Tubbs, a member of the board at The Greatest Generations Foundation.
Tubbs said people on the TV production crew were noisy and kept moving about while the national anthem and taps were played. Worse yet according to Tubbs is that Five-O workers stopped vets from placing roses on the graves of unknown soldiers.
"There was a production guy with a back pack and an ear piece kind of walking at various points close to a vet and then he'd go away and then he come back through the group and he was hushing them and telling them to 'hurry it up' … in other words because the production was going on. I saw it. I couldn't believe it. It was the ultimate disrespect and it got everybody's blood boiling," Tubbs told Hawaii News Now.
"We were consistently pushed back and told to be quiet. And you can't walk here and you can't walk there and it got to the boiling point where I was told at least half a dozen times, 'You guys need to be quiet.' And they way they spoke to our survivors really upset me the most," added Timothy Davis, founder of The Greatest Generations Foundation.
"I don't think they had any jurisdiction to tell us to move. You can't move buddies that are buried there, you know," said Walter Maciejowski, a Pearl Harbor survivor.
Hawaii Five-O airs on CBS. The network issued the following statement Monday.
"We were surprised to hear this report and are looking into the matter.
Our veterans deserve the highest level of respect and reverence for their service, particularly during a ceremony honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice," the CBS statement said.
"We've worked with Hawaii 5-0 on three other filmings and we've worked with Paramount Pictures on the movie Battleship," cemetery director Gene Castagnetti told Hawaii News Now.
Castagnetti is a retired Marine Corps Colonel. He welcomes television and movie productions as a way to invoke patriotism and recognize the sacrifice of those interred at Punchbowl.
"If somebody was offended, that is a concern of ours. And if there is some way we can do better by still allowing people to conduct filming and movies and television, which tells the stories about veterans, we're open to those suggestions," Castagnetti said.
Castagnetti said the vets' ceremony and the Five-O filming were scheduled an hour apart. It apparently wasn't the actual filming but the set-up that clashed with the veterans' activities.
The veterans' ceremony and the Five-O site were a couple hundred yards apart. But as the WWII veterans visited and tried to visit grave sites they got closer to the television crew.
"One of the vets wanted to visit Ernie Pyle's grave there close to where the set was. We couldn't even get within 50 feet of it. We were told, 'We rented this space and we have full control so therefore you need to move away.' So we politely moved away," Davis said.
"There were not treated like heroes. They were not thanked for their service. They were hurried along. Some of them were told to stop at a certain point, or don't stand here or move along or even hushed during the time when we laid roses at the grave sites. It was just the ultimate disrespect," Tubbs noted. "It got to a point where a lot of the veterans were fairly upset as they left Punchbowl," he said.
"The damage has been done. The veterans have been upset," added Davis. "We left with a sour taste in our mouths." Davis told Hawaii News Now the veterans would like an apology and ask that veterans be treated with proper respect in the future.
"If Hawaii 5-0 continues to film in that cemetery, they need to understand that cemetery is a national shrine for many of those who fought and served in the Pacific and you just can't come in and bring two tons of equipment and place it over the tops of the graves knowing that someone is underneath that equipment that fought for our freedom," Davis concluded.