RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A new memorial honoring four Marines killed on Dec. 7, 1941, was dedicated outside the clubhouse at the Barbers Point Golf Course on Friday.
Remember the Fallen
Memorial honors Marines killed on the Day of Infamy at Kalaeloa
Minutes before the Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor was nearly destroyed, 89 Japanese fighters bombed and strafed the Marine Corps Air Station at Kalealoa, killing four.
"They were probably the first people killed in the war," said Al Shoehigh, historian for the Barbers Point Navy League.
He said 89 Mitsubishi Zeroes "streaked as low as 20 feet to strike the 49 Marine Corps planes parked on the runway. It was like shooting ducks in a shooting gallery. It came as a complete surprise."
For years Shoehigh's Navy organization has maintained a memorial honoring the five Marines killed on Dec. 7, 1941, erecting four monuments at what began as Marine Corps Air Station Ewa and later was redesignated as Naval Station Barbers Point until the Pentagon closed it eight years ago.
Friday, the National Park Service and the Barbers Point Navy League dedicated the fifth memorial , located between the 18th Green and the clubhouse of the Barbers Point Golf Course. The golf course covers much of what once was the home of Marine Corps P-40 Warhawk and P-39 Air Cobra fighters.
The memorial contains a picture of the base that was built in 1941, a history of the Dec. 7 attack and the names of the four Marines killed there.
Retired Navy Capt. John Peters, president of the Barbers Point Navy League, said much of Barbers Point Golf Course covers what were once airstrips.
The Marine Corps facility was officially closed on June 18, 1952, and its property assumed by Naval Air Station Barbers Point.
In the history maintained by Shoehigh, the Navy signed a lease with Campbell Estate in 1933 and built a mast for a dirigible. However, the program was halted by the explosion of the dirigible Hindenburg that resulted in the death of 37 people.
Construction on the Marine Corps facility began in September 1940 and on Feb. 3, 1941, it was commissioned Marine Corps Air Station Ewa.
In early 1941, 800 Marines were sent to Oahu to construct the four airstrips near Renton Road, Shoehigh said.
"The construction work was done by hand," he added. "They had no power tools. They only had pick and shovels."
By Dec. 7, 1941, the construction was nearly done.
On Dec. 7, 1941, many of the Marines were in uniform preparing for morning colors and liberty.
"Many were preparing to attend a luau at the Ewa Villages Community Center.
"It never took place."
Shoehigh said "confusion reigned" as the Japanese planes struck the airstrip.
"No one could locate the keys to the armory," he said.
One of the Marines ran to a SBD-2 Dauntless plane parked on the runway and fired back using the .50-caliber machine gun mounted in the rear cockpit.
After attacking Pearl Harbor, some of the Japanese fighters returned to again strafe the airstrip on the Ewa Plain.
Thirty-three of the 48 Marine Corps fighter planes parked at the Ewa airstrip were destroyed during the two-hour attack.
Besides the four Marines who were killed, 13 were wounded.
Shoehigh said the buildings built by the first contingent of Marines near the Renton Road gate were later destroyed as the base grew.
The Barbers Point exhibit panel and memorial is maintained by the National Park Service, which also is responsible for other exhibits dealing with the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. These include the USS Arizona Memorial, a plaque at Turtle Bay explaining the Opana radar station and the USS Oklahoma Memorial, which was mandated last year by Congress and dedicated on Friday.
The Oklahoma represents the second greatest loss of life -- 429 sailors and Marines -- among the ships struck at Pearl Harbor. Only the USS Arizona suffered more casualties.