World War II memorial to be erected at Kane'ohe
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
Efforts have been made here since shortly after the end of World War II to erect a memorial to the sacrifices of all services in the Pacific.
A 6,000-pound bronze re-creation of Joe Rosenthal's famous Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph perhaps the best-known icon of American fighting spirit, sacrifice and determination of the Pacific war is receiving finishing touches in New York and next week will begin a two-week rail and ship journey to Marine Corps Base Hawai'i in Kane'ohe.
For Alice Clark, Pacific War Memorial Association chairwoman, it's long overdue for service members and for Hawai'i.
"Men trained on Maui and the Big Island (for Iwo Jima)," she said. "Hawai'i has everything to do with Iwo Jima."
The 36-day siege of dug-in Japanese forces on the eight-square-mile Pacific island in 1945 was likened to "throwing human flesh against reinforced concrete."
About 6,800 Americans lost their lives and another 19,200 were injured.
But winning the island, which provided a strategic bomber link in the Pacific, symbolized American determination and meant that the invasion of Okinawa and Japan was not far off.
Rosenthal captured on film what would become one of the most reproduced photos of all time: five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi.
Since 1998, the grassroots Pacific War Memorial Association has raised or received in-kind contributions of more than $450,000 toward the memorial's $600,000 cost enough for Sculpture House Casting in New York to complete the bronze, a duplicate of a memorial in Newington, Conn. The group is trying to raise the remainder.
About one-third the size of the Iwo Jima Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington Ridge in Virginia, the Kane'ohe version, which will be placed near the H-3 gate and flanked by military aircraft, is expected to arrive in Hawai'i in mid-January.
A circular "walkway of honor" inscribed with the names of veterans and supporters will surround the base. Four benches will be next to the monument to allow visitors to reflect, read the base's inscriptions and look out across Kane'ohe Bay.
Concrete for the foundation of the sculpture's black granite base was poured last week. A March 16 dedication is scheduled. Among those expected to attend is Gen. James Jones, commandant of the Marine Corps.
Marines of the 3rd, 4th and 5th divisions bore the brunt of the ground attack that began on Feb. 19, 1945, to rout 20,000 Japanese defenders from miles of fortified caves, concrete blockhouses and pillboxes on Iwo Jima, 660 miles south of Tokyo.
But it was all the services and a key role played by Hawai'i and places such as Parker Ranch on the Big Island that also figured into the victory.
Parker Ranch owner Richard Smart agreed to lease 40,000 acres to the Marines for $1 per year for what became Camp Tarawa. Two volcanic peaks served as a training ground for the 28th Marine Regiment's later siege of Mount Suribachi.
More than 50,000 Marines lived and trained at Camp Tarawa.
Fred Haynes, who would later land on Iwo Jima as a 24-year-old Marine with the 28th Regiment, recalls the friendliness of local residents, and sugar cane plantation managers from Kamuela to Hilo regularly inviting Marines to dinner.
Among memories Haynes has of Hawai'i is of "Roscoe," a lion who was the 28th's mascot at Camp Tarawa. Parker Ranch staff would provide meat for the oversized mascot, a parade favorite.
"During the war, the hospitality shown to us ... on Maui and the Big Island, was tremendously heartwarming," said Haynes, a retired Marine major general and Pacific War Memorial Association board member who lives in Virginia. "We felt a huge affinity for the people of Hawai'i when we were training, and when we came back from Iwo the hospitality was probably at a double level."
An organization established by the Territory of Hawai'i in 1949 the Pacific War Memorial Commission considered but was not able to mount a successful campaign for an Iwo Jima memorial in Hawai'i.
Goals for backers include noting contributions of Hawai'i and its residents to Pacific battles such as Iwo Jima, and recognizing the contributions of all services the Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl accomplishes some of that goal, war memorial association members said.
But memorials such as the USS Arizona are thought of primarily in terms of the Navy, Haynes said.
"The idea here was to put something in that is an icon in the eyes of most Americans, which will be dedicated not just to the Marines, but all the services," Haynes said.
Reach William Cole at email@example.com or 525-5459.