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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 28, 2010

Navy pilots trained at old fort

 •  Suicides still big problem

By William Cole

Fort Barrette in Kapolei has had a few incarnations since it was completed in 1935.

At the time, the fort's two 16-inch guns could hurl a 2,240-pound shell 25 miles. The big guns were intended to defend against an enemy navy that never appeared over the horizon.

Now, it's a weedy place owned by the city Parks Department and is used by an archery club.

Harry Kooyman remembers another use.

Fort Barrette was used for escape and evasion training for Navy fliers at nearby Barbers Point Naval Air Station.

Kooyman, who was based at Barbers Point from 1963 to 1965, remembers a POW containment area surrounded by barbed wire outside and Soviet role players inside the tunnels and rooms behind the gun emplacements.

The Grand Rapids, Mich., man recalls being interrogated, having a chair kicked out from under him, being placed in a coffin with a hole the size of a dime to breathe through, and having a gun placed to the back of his head. There was even waterboarding.

"They would wear Russian uniforms," Kooyman said. "They weren't nice to us, obviously. They wanted the training to be as exacting as possible."

Kooyman, now 65, was part of an EC-121 squadron at Barbers Point. The "Warning Star" was an early warning radar surveillance aircraft and military version of the famous Lockheed Constellation.

The planes deployed from Hawai'i to Midway Atoll and up to the Aleutian Islands, he said. Survival training, now called SERE, or Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, was conducted at different locations on O'ahu.

"We did everything from surviving on the beach they showed us how to survive if we were downed and then we did our escape and evasion up in the moun-tains, up in the Wai'anae Range," Kooyman said. "Then we came back down and had our POW phase in the bunkers at Fort Barrette."

The communists from the Soviet Union were the big threat at the time, and there was anti-American propaganda painted on the walls inside the tunnels.

The faint outline of a large red star can still be made out on one door, even though it's been painted over.

Kooyman, whose daughter lives at Ko Olina, recalls that the role players used all kinds of techniques.

"I had a friend of mine who was waterboarded there before he knew what waterboarding was," Kooyman said. "When he heard about what was going on at Guantanamo, he said, 'Hey, that happened to me.' He didn't seem to think it was very effective at all, but it felt like torture to him."