Ford Island is located in the center of Pearl Harbor surrounded by water deep enough for large ships to pass. Purchased in 1918 by the US War Department, it was understood that both the Army and the Navy could use Ford Island for the defense of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor. The Army Air Corp occupied Ford Island until Hickam Field, located across the bay, was completed in 1940. Ford Island then became exclusive property of the US Navy. This island was the epicenter of the December 7th, 1941 attack where the bulk of the Pacific Fleet was anchored. Ships were not the only things attacked that day, nearly all the airplanes in and around Ford Island were damaged or destroyed.
Two World War II vintage airplane hangers (#37 & #79), located on Ford Island, and still bearing battle scars from the December 7th, 1941 attack, contain the Pacific Aviation Museum displays and the restoration shop. Our Pearl Harbor Survivors spent part of their time on Oahu going through this museum and recalling their experiences with similar planes. They had opportunities to meet with museum staff as well as other visitors and have a little “hangar talk,” (that’s pilot story telling).
Pearl Harbor Honor Flight Salutes USS Utah
The USS Utah, a World War I vintage ship, was being used as a bombing target while in Pearl Harbor in 1941. This ship took two torpedoes to the port side and listed severely. The crew were used to being “bombed” by the Army and Navy everyday, so when the alarm clanged a few strokes and stopped, they headed below deck to take cover. The most senior officer, sensing the ship would not last long, had the deck officer order all hands topside. In a matter of minutes the last mooring lines broke and the ship rolled over entombing 58 men. A memorial to honor the Crew of the Utah was dedicated in 1972 on Ford Island adjacent to the ship’s wreck. Since that time, the remains of a number of Pearl Harbor Survivors have been interred with their shipmates. One such ceremony occurred while we were in Pearl.