From: Covington LA via Montreal!
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."