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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 29, 2002

Vandals leaving their mark on WWII memorial fence

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Just two months after a permanent fence was erected to protect a World War II memorial at King and Punchbowl streets — homage to a generation that "saved the world" — the wrought-iron barricade is being vandalized.

A number of plastic "spear points" have been snapped off from the fence surrounding the war memorial at King and Punchbowl streets. The fence is 2 months old.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

A subcontractor on the state renovation project installed 650 decorative plastic "spear points" all along the 3-foot-tall fence, and already 39 of them have been snapped off, leaving the fence looking like a smile with teeth missing.

"When the families see something like that, you are slapping them in the face," said Bill Daves, president of the O'ahu Veterans Council. "Those people that are on that memorial died for our country."

Veterans advocates applaud the state's effort to care for the memorial built in 1944 as a "temporary" place to honor Hawai'i's service members killed in the war, but they are disappointed that plastic was used on the fence decorations.

Daves said the locked fence was installed to keep people from trashing the memorial, but proximity to a busy King Street bus stop and use of what he called cheap materials still left it vulnerable to vandals.

The $80,000 project began in May and includes improvements to the sidewalks, sprinkler systems, lighting, fencing, landscaping as well as the repainting of the monument, according to Mary Alice Evans, comptroller for the state Department of Accounting and General Services.

Evans said the work is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Except for the fence, the work is being done by state crews, she said.

"We didn't specify plastic tips for the fencing and will be following up with the fencing contractor to fix it," Evans said. "We wanted the whole fence to be wrought iron, similar to the one surrounding the 'Iolani Palace."

Fencing contractor Miller Welding did not return calls for this story.

Fred Ballard, public affairs officer for Veterans Affairs in Honolulu, said it is just a fence around the memorial and perhaps not a big deal, but it is irritating nonetheless.

"Anytime anything is vandalized somebody has to fix it and expend money," Ballard said. "It is just a waste. If there is no money to repair it, it just stays that way and looks terrible. It shows a lack of respect."

Ballard said the memorial — consisting of a wooden frame and a stucco-like exterior — was built before the war ended, so many of the war dead are not even listed on the marker. There are many war memorials around O'ahu, he said, but none with a complete listing of all service members who died during the war.

"(The memorial) needs to have some work done to make it permanent and update it with all the names," Ballard said.

Frank Lamsen, Hawai'i's national councilman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, agrees that a permanent memorial is needed.

"They need to do something much better for our World War II veterans," Lamsen said. "I'd like to see all the names of all the Hawai'i people that died placed on the memorial and have a much more respectful area around it. They shouldn't put plastic things so that kids can break it off. That is stupid. It should be made of stone."

Lamsen said a new memorial should be financed by the state.

"We really need to show our respect for our greatest generation," he said. "They went out there and saved the world. They deserve a decent memorial."

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.