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OT, Fort Island's Future

 
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OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 2:53:22 PM   
dr.hal


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As the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack is coming up, I thought folks might want to read this news:

Wall Street Journal
November 6, 2012

Past And Future Clash At Pearl Harbor
By Jim Carlton

HONOLULU—The Navy base on Ford Island, the bull's-eye of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor seven decades ago, still bears scars from that day of infamy: The tarmac shows pockmarks from shrapnel, hangar windows contain bullet holes and the airstrip where the Japanese bombed U.S. planes remains eerily intact despite encroaching weeds.

Now, to the consternation of some retired military officers and history buffs, the U.S. Navy wants to cover up some of that history. The Navy wants to install 60,000 solar panels on the tarmac and surround them with a 7-foot-high fence.

The goal is to generate 11 megawatts of power from clean energy—the kind of energy that is supposed to comprise 25% of the Armed Forces' total electricity use by 2025, according to a 2007 target set by Congress.

The installation would make it harder for visitors to see the rare remaining scars of war on the field, which previously gained fame in 1937 when Amelia Earhart damaged her Lockheed Electra there on an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Whereas visitors can now walk on the airstrip, the solar panels would cover it entirely and make it inaccessible.

"This is sacred ground," said Burl Burlingame, curator of the Pacific Aviation Museum on the island, as he stepped out of a car onto the weed-covered tarmac. "We have almost a religious obligation to preserve it."

Many tourists aren't aware of Ford Island and its airstrip, formerly called Luke Field, Mr. Burlingame said. The main focus of visitors touring the Pearl Harbor battlefield memorial is on well-known artifacts like the sunken USS Arizona. The memorial's creators deliberately set it up so visitors can be close enough to almost touch the ship—where more than 1,000 sailors remain entombed—and get a literal feel for the human toll.

Ford Island also offers tangible marks of history that leave a visceral impact on tourists, say those who oppose the Navy plan. On a recent day, Richard "Scotty" Scott, operations director of the museum and a retired Navy fighter pilot, pointed at a visible white line that airmen used to help navigate the 4,000-foot airstrip.

"For a couple hours 71 years ago, this was the most dangerous place in the world," Mr. Scott said as the Hawaii trade winds ruffled the grass.

Ford Island is also home to "Battleship Row," where the Arizona and seven other American ships were bombarded. (The hulk of the Arizona, remains.) Visitors can walk around the hangars as well as see the recently restored airstrip control tower: the red-and-white landmark seen in movies such as "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Pearl Harbor."

The solar project emerged from a 2007 industry forum the Navy hosted in Hawaii to assess how it and other military branches could reduce their dependence on petroleum-based energy, said Capt. Mike Williamson, commanding officer of Hawaii's Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

In 2009, he said, Ford Island was considered part of a potential area to put solar panels, using the airstrip that was decommissioned in 1999. The Navy said it also is considering two other sites at its Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam complex for solar panels, but it has yet to decide if one or all will get solar panels.

"Our idea was to preserve the airfield and yet take a step forward in reaching the Navy's energy security goals," Capt. Williamson said.

Aviation-museum officials said they didn't learn until earlier this year the Navy planned to cover the airfield with panels.

In July, the museum's board, which includes many retired military pilots, voted to oppose the project. Since then, the museum has enlisted retired military members and other aviation enthusiasts from around the country to weigh in against it.

Former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill A. McPeak sent a letter in September to the Navy saying its proposal "baffles" him. "Why we should decide to deface what should be a national monument is a mystery," wrote Mr. McPeak, a retired four-star general living in Lake Oswego, Ore. "Surely there is much other real estate at which sunlight can be gathered in Hawaii."

The museum's Mr. Scott said the museum isn't against green energy, but that there are thousands of other acres of military-owned land in Hawaii the Navy could use. "The bottom line is there are options," he said.

The public comments period for the proposed project ended Sept. 27. The Navy's Mr. Williamson said an environmental assessment is under way and the Navy plans to consider the opposing views before making a final decision, which is expected soon. "I think here's a way to get to a solution that satisfies all parties," he said.

But any solution that changes the airfield will rob visitors of the chance to feel history, said Mr. Burlingame. "Look at this," he said, standing outside a hangar and waving a hand toward the deserted airfield with its mountain backdrop. "You can see the same landscape you could on Dec. 7, 1941. That has value."
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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 3:53:55 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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They should build the panels.


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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 3:54:06 PM   
Chickenboy


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Yeah, I read this this morning too, Hal. I'm honestly torn on this one...

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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 4:03:16 PM   
John 3rd


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I'm not. The history should remain.


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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 4:17:34 PM   
castor troy


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quote:

ORIGINAL: John 3rd

I'm not. The history should remain.





It would be a nogo to lift the Arizona or something like that but to build solar panels on an airfield that was bombed 70 years ago? Sorry, but why not? The German have bombed dozen of airfields in England, have bombed London. Anybody thinking the English should not have restored London because of history?

I may miss something as I may not have read the article closely enough but if it's just about an airfield, they should have repaired everthing 69,5 years ago. There was a war, a big war. There were many wars in the last five thousand years of mankind and to be honest, no matter how bad things were and no matter how much it should be remembered, life goes on and one can not keep every bomb crater, shrapnels, damaged buildings or whatever collateral damage for decades just because of showing there was a war.

< Message edited by castor troy -- 11/6/2012 4:19:59 PM >


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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 4:34:08 PM   
bradfordkay

 

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I say that they should set aside a section of the pockmarked runway for visitors and build the solar panels above the rest. The section set aside should be easily accessible to people going to visit the USS Missouri. Since the airstrip is apparently no longer in use, we can't afford to keep the whole runway preserved for this purpose.

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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 4:57:59 PM   
dr.hal


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I agree with you Chickenboy, I'm torn. Since I posted this, I should explain some things that divide me. First I was stationed at Pearl for 2 and 1/2 years. I did go to the Arizona a few times but I never even thought to go to Ford Island let along actually go! So it was not high on my "hit parade". Second I did my undergrad degree at the University of South Carolina, and thus passed the state capitol many times... and there they are bronze stars by each and every cannon ball hit on the capitol building as Sherman marched to the sea... So like the responses to this post, there are clearly those for and against... I suspect there is room for compromise as Brad suggests... Hal

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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 5:42:10 PM   
Hiltibrant

 

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I never really understood why there are so many initiatives in America to preserve battlefields to such an extent. I can understand preserving some more famous ones, like Gettysburg, Antietam or Yorktown in their entirety, but in most cases I would think that a memorial centered around a part of the battlefield does the job of preserving the past just fine. Neither in Germany nor Norway have I seen any attempts to preserve battlefields to such an extent, and there are plenty famous ones. On the other hand, there are many wonderful museums and memorials that do a wonderful ob of preserving the memory of certain wars or battles, so that I haven't really felt the urge to see with my own eyes what the place as it had been "back in the day".

In this case I think Arizona is a wonderful example of a memorial that more than serves the purpose to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor. As some of you already pointed out - many visitors to Pearl Harbor haven't even heard of Ford Island - what most associate with the attack on Pearl Harbor is Battleship Row and maybe Hickham and Wheeler Field. Preserving those in some form does more than enough to create a worthy memorial imo. But bulletholes in hangars or damaged tarmac? I don't see the emotional attachment here (save for those who have a personal connection to the men who served there).

One memorial I'd love to see come true (but which certainly won't due to environmental hazards), would be Bikini Atoll.

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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 5:53:49 PM   
fodder


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My first thought was NO don't let them do it. Then I remembered back about a little over a decade or so when I lived in Virginia. Disney wanted to build a new theme park called Disney Americana. It would have created thousands of new jobs (sorely needed at the time) and been a boon to the local economy. The state of Virginia shot down the plans for this park because part of it would be built on a civil war battle field. I thought that that was a big mistake, considering that most of Virginia is a civil was battle field.

You can't preserve everything.

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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/6/2012 6:17:51 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: dr.hal

I agree with you Chickenboy, I'm torn. Since I posted this, I should explain some things that divide me. First I was stationed at Pearl for 2 and 1/2 years. I did go to the Arizona a few times but I never even thought to go to Ford Island let along actually go! So it was not high on my "hit parade". Second I did my undergrad degree at the University of South Carolina, and thus passed the state capitol many times... and there they are bronze stars by each and every cannon ball hit on the capitol building as Sherman marched to the sea... So like the responses to this post, there are clearly those for and against... I suspect there is room for compromise as Brad suggests... Hal


I lived as a child at PH, and I lived as a man overlooking it for two years. From my 25th floor lanai in Pearl Ridge the Arizona Memorial was framed in my sliding glass door. I saw the USS New Jersey circumnavigate Ford Island one Saturday morning while sipping my coffee. I have pictures.

As above, in two times living there and several visits to the A. Mem. I have never set foot on Ford Island. I had PCS orders to a top secret command on the island for about five minutes until my relief on the boat flunked out of sub schoool and I got sent out on another patrol, but I never went out there. I never saw any tourists do so either. I understand the Missouri is a big attraction now, but even so it's the ship not the asphalt people are riding a boat to see.

Conversely, did you look at the megawattage? OMG. And it's RIGHT THERE, with no transmission loss. Do you realize how rare pieces of empty real estate, flat real estate, of that size are on Oahu today? And it's security and safety isolated by a harbor's worth of water.

The initative to make DoD energy independent is the real deal. Look around the Web. Already whole CVBGs have operated on a demonstration basis on biofuel. There will be more projects. This one is especially worthy because petroleum for electricy in Hawaii also has to be hauled 2000 miles by oil-burning ships just to get to the plant. And for anyone who has lived on Oahu they know that the sun shines 364.5 days a year at a near vertical and there are few clouds. Solar power is a no-brainer there.

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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/7/2012 9:25:33 PM   
CaptDave

 

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I'm torn, as well. I agree with the viewpoint that we (Americans) tend to over-preserve history, although my grousing usually comes when yet another building is being put up for historical status, making it half-useless for productive purposes.

On the other hand, how long has Ford Island been accessible to the public? My last visit to that area was, I think, in 2006 -- and if I'd known I could go see the field I would have. My impression, though, was that it was open only to military members or by invitation.

If it's truly open to the public, then I'd say we should find some compromise. If it's not, then it's a waste of government-owned property and the solar farm should be built.

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RE: OT, Fort Island's Future - 11/7/2012 9:42:41 PM   
dr.hal


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Dave, we DO have the luxury as Americans to set aside space for historical purposes. Because we HAVE the space... Europe doesn't! But I think this option should be exercised judiciously, and not overkill. Someone above mentioned (not by name but by Walt Disney's attempt at a park!) the Manassas (Bull Run) battlefield. I've been there a number of times and it is fantastic! Of all the civil war battlefields, it is ALMOST exactly as it was in 1861. Oh sure the trees have grown or been cut down... but Henry's house (reworked) is still there and the famous Jackson ridge. It is eerie walking there, it is like you could feel the battle (especially in July with that heat) and I really really appreciate the fact that I can get close to what so many died for. So I see the appeal, it is real... but I guess it must be balanced with the cost. Gettysburg is similar except it has WAY to many monuments. But the wheat-field is there... and you can walk the charge... so, as I've said, I'm torn... but for Manassas, I think the locals did the brave and right thing to say no. I'm sorry I have to disagree with one of our members, but to me, it was a walk back into history like no other. Hal

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