Veterans, historians mark Ewa Field's first Memorial Day on National Register
KALAELOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last year, about 175 acres of what was the Marine Corps Air Station in Ewa was listed on the National Historic Register.
And on Monday, a rifle salute by the Hickam Honor Guard and a recitation of names honored the Marines, sailors and soldiers killed on the site on Dec. 7, 1941.
"It was 16 (killed), as far as the military goes, and I believe there were two civilians that were killed in the Ewa area," retired Air Force Col. Garry Van Der Veer said.
Before Japan zeroed in on Pearl Harbor, Japanese fighter pilots attacked the Ewa airfield and destroyed American planes.
"The tail gunner with his 7.7-millimeter gun would shoot the airplanes right between the tie-downs," retired Marine Corps Cpl. Tom Schmidt said.
Weeds now cover the tarmac but you can still see the bullet marks.
"They actually had some of the soldiers use some of the aircraft guns, turning around trying to shoot at the Japanese airplanes," military historian Ross Stephenson said. "One of the men who did that was mortally wounded in that action right here on this concrete."
The property belongs to the Navy. It's leased to developer Hunt Companies.
Ewa historian John Bond says the site needs more protection.
"Basically, the entire 1941 airfield has been put on the national registry," he said. "The National Register nomination doesn't truly prevent anyone from bulldozing it. It could still be done."
But he adds that since the government owns it, changes to Ewa Field must first clear an involved process.
Stephenson wants an archaeological survey done. American Veterans Hawaii wants to establish a permanent memorial.
"So I'd like it to be not only a memorial for those that we commemorate but also a living memorial for people to come and learn about our history." said Ron Lam, the organization's executive director.
Bond believes the landmark could eventually be designated a National Historic Landmark and made a part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
"Ewa field was largely forgotten," he said.
But on Memorial Day, it was remembered as hallowed ground where Americans lived and died.
Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.