One of the things I like to do on Pearl Harbor is to explore locations linked to its World War II past. The latest location I found was the remains of a US Army coastal artillery battery that shot down one of the Japanese Zero planes during the 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing. This old US Army base is called Fort Kamehameha after the first Hawaiian king to unify the Hawaiian islands. The remains of Fort Kamehameha can be found along the shoreline of the present day Hickam AFB in Honolulu:
The fort was built in 1916 as part of a system of similar forts around Oahu to secure it from a naval attack known as the “Ring of Steel”. Here is a historic picture of Fort Kamehameha from 1932 where near the beaches the letter “E” shaped gun batteries can be seen:
Another example of these coastal artillery batteries can be seen at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki which has been fully restored and serves as the US Army Museum of Hawaii. Unlike Fort DeRussy, Fort Kamehameha is located on an active Air Force Base which means it is not open to the public. Visitors will need to have a military identification card or request base access at the Hickam Air Force Base visitor center. Since the fort closed in 1951, much of the land Fort Kamehameha sat on has been used by the Hawaii Air National Guard who flies America’s most advanced aircraft, the F-22 Raptor:
Adjacent to the modern buildings and equipment of the Air National Guard complex are a few of the old buildings of Fort Kamehameha that have survived demolition over the years:
Most of the remaining buildings are old houses that are no longer in use and have been abandoned. There are 33 of these homes left and they have not been demolished like most of the rest of the fort because they were added to the Register of Historic Places in 1984. There is also a church that remains that appeared to be in pretty good shape and may still be in use from what I could tell:
While walking around I also spotted this marker in memory of Corporal Claude Bryant, Private Eugene Bubb, Private First Class Oreste Datorre, and Private Donat Duquette Jr. from the Charlie Battery, 41st Coastal Artillery and Private Edward Sullivan from Charlie Battery, 55th Coastal Artillery. All five of these soldiers were killed defending Fort Kamehameha during the bombing of Pearl Harbor:
There is a signboard near the marker that explains the history of Oahu’s “Ring of Steel” which Fort Kamehameha was part of:
As explained on the marker, the five soldiers killed at Fort Kamehameha was by an incidental strafing since the fort was not considered a target by the Japanese. This demonstrates how insignificant the coastal artillery guns were by World War II when aircraft had become the preferred choice of projecting power over ships. Despite the inadequacy of its coastal artillery guns the soldiers at Fort Kamehameha did attempt to shoot down the attacking Japanese aircraft with a few of the anti-aircraft guns they had and were successful in shooting down one Japanese Zero:
Today the remains of Battery Hawkins which was one of the five batteries at Fort Kamehameha can still be seen:
The name Battery Hawkins can still be seen on the structure after all these years:
I had a much better appreciation of how this battery looked due to my prior visit to Fort DeRussy because today Hawkins Battery is largely overgrown with vegetation:
My favorite part of Fort Kamehameha is the beautiful beach In front of Hawkins Battery:
Even this beach has an interesting history, the beach was once part of the lands of Hawaiian Queen Emma who used the land as a beach front estate. She died in 1885 and after Hawaii’s annexation to the United States in 1898 the land was eventually acquired from Queen Emma’s heirs to use for military purposes in 1907. This is why this beach is known as Queen Emma’s Point.
For most people a visit to Fort Kamehameha would be quite boring and not worth the time and trouble to get on to Hickam Air Force Base. However, for real World War II history buffs like myself, Fort Kamehameha is a little known part of the Pearl Harbor bombing that I found interesting to take some time to check out.