Pacific Aviation Museum is strafed with history
To KT Budde-Jones, the bullet-scarred ground at Ford Island on which the Pacific Aviation Museum stands is as significant a site in American history as Gettysburg and the Alamo.
"Ford Island is a National Historic Landmark," she said. "When you look at those bullet holes, you are there on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese warplanes strafed and dropped the first bombs at Pearl Harbor. You are there when America awoke and united as a nation. You are there when boys became men and bravery overcame fear."
PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM
» Location: Hangar 37, Ford Island, Pearl Harbor
» Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
» Admission: $14, $7 children, $10 kamaaina and military, $5 kamaaina and military youngsters. Military personnel in uniform and museum members are free.
» Call: 441-1000
» E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
» On the Net: www.pacificaviationmuseum.org
» To donate: Make checks to Pacific Aviation Museum-Pearl Harbor, 319 Lexington Blvd., Ford Island, Honolulu 96818.
Regular admission prices apply; reservations required. Call 441-1008. Optional buffet dinner is $12.
Bernice "Bee" Haydu will share her experiences as a member of the World War II Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) at 2 p.m. next Sunday and 7 p.m. Sept. 22. She'll also sign copies of her book, "Letters Home 1944-1945." Haydu was one of 1,074 women who earned their WASP wings and flew aircraft from factories to airfields and shipping ports across the United States during the war, freeing up male pilots for combat. RSVP by Wednesday.
Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson, author of "Pearl Harbor Child: A Child's View of Pearl Harbor from Attack to Peace," speaks and signs her book at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 and 2 p.m. Nov. 29. Nicholson was a 6-year-old living on Pearl City peninsula, a few hundred yards from Battleship Row, on Dec. 7, 1941. She remembers Japanese warplanes flying so low over her house that she could see the pilots' goggles as they passed. Now a resident of Kansas City, Mo., Nicholson will talk about the attack as well as the subsequent martial law, rationing, blackouts, air raid drills and curfews. RSVP by Nov. 24.
Budde-Jones is the education director and volunteer supervisor for the museum, the first phase of which, Hangar 37, opened on Dec. 7, 2006, to mark the 65th anniversary of the tragic event that catapulted the United States into World War II.
The 42,000-square-foot hangar was undamaged in the attack that, in less than two hours, sunk or crippled 21 ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, destroyed 188 aircraft and impaired 159 more, and claimed the lives of 2,403 Americans.
"The aim of the Pacific Aviation Museum is to chronicle the patriotism, valor and sacrifices made by the military and civilian men and women in the Pacific theater," said Budde-Jones. "It not only spotlights the achievements of those who flew the planes on the front lines, but also the heroes on the home front who designed, built and repaired them."
Hangar 37's exhibits represent the period from Dec. 7, 1941, through 1942. Featured are flight simulators that enable you to "pilot" an F4F Wildcat, Japanese Zero, P-51 Mustang or P-38 Lightning; a 10-minute film about the bombing that includes actual footage; and displays of eight vintage aircraft.
Among those planes are the remains of a Zero that crashed on Niihau during the 1941 attack; an orange Aeronca that attorney Roy Vitousek and his son Martin, a Punahou School senior, were flying when Japanese planes started shooting at them that day; and the Stearman biplane in which former President George H.W. Bush first soloed in Minnesota in December 1942.
Budde-Jones and her husband, Syd Jones, who has been overseeing the restoration of the 15 planes in the museum's collection, are both licensed pilots with a passion for history.
"The planes are displayed in settings that are similar to what they operated in during the war," said Budde-Jones. "For example, we (re-)created the deck of the USS Hornet for the B-25 Mitchell bomber. It's the type of plane that Doolittle's Raiders used to bomb Tokyo in April 1942."
In the past two months, two aircraft have been added: an F-14 Tomcat (the model that appeared in the 1986 film "Top Gun") and an F-15 Eagle (which can travel 2.5 times the speed of sound).
Courtesy R. Costick / Pacific Aviation Museum
A Japanese Zero that crashed on Niihau in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor is on display.
Courtesy R. Costick / Pacific Aviation Museum
The Pacific Aviation Museum lets visitors walk under and around restored planes in Hangar 37 on Ford Island.
On the guided 90-minute Aviator's Tour (an additional $7), you'll enter the yet-to-be-restored Hangar 79 to view the two jets and the restoration shop where Jones and six volunteers are bringing other venerable planes to their original glory.
"There's no better place for visitors to learn about aviation history than under the wings of an airplane. In Hawaii, that place is here at Pearl Harbor, where history was made."
Executive director, Pacific Aviation Museum
"The arrival of the F-14 and F-15 marked the beginning of Phase 2 of our development plans," said Ken DeHoff, the museum's executive director. "It involves the restoration of Hangar 79, built in 1941, and initial repair work on Ford Island's landmark 1941 red-and-white control tower. Phase 2's time frame will cover 1943 to 1945, the final years of World War II in the Pacific."
During Phase 3, Hangar 54, built in 1935, will be restored. Its exhibits will spotlight the Korean, Vietnam and Cold wars as they relate to the Pacific theater.
An $85 million capital campaign has been launched to complete the last two phases. When all the work is done (dependent on when funds are raised), the museum will encompass 16 acres, including five acres of covered displays.
"There's no better place for visitors to learn about aviation history than under the wings of an airplane," said DeHoff. "In Hawaii, that place is here at Pearl Harbor, where history was made."
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.