Strange things you see and say ...

Monday, August 5, 1996

Some soldiers on Natatorium memorial are listed under Great Britain. Photo by George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin

Natatorium mystery solved

Art Freedman of Honolulu was curious about a bronze plaque facing the dilapidated Natatorium in Waikiki. It has the names of U.S. soldiers and sailors upon it, but, curiously, several are listed as British. Huh? thought Freedman, and he quite rightly checked with WatDat? for an explanation.

The Natatorium was built during a national craze for natural-water swimming during the 1920s, and when it was dedicated in 1927, it also became a memorial to Hawaii citizens lost in World War I.

Even though the Great War largely occurred in Europe, there was plenty of action here in the Pacific. The Japanese invented aerial bombing against the Germans in China, the Germans shot up Tahiti and sank civilian shipping in the South Pacific, and the first American shots of the war were across the bow of Kormoran, a German warship at Guam (and now on the bottom of Apra harbor).

In the Territory of Hawaii, some 10,000 citizens signed up to take a crack at Kaiser Bill, one of the largest percentages in the country. More than a third were Japanese residents. Of these, 101 died, and these are the ones memorialized on the plaque.

Because the U.S. didn't enter the war until 1917, some of these citizens enlisted with other Allied powers to get into the fight. Songwriter Alex Anderson, for example, aviated with the British Royal Flying Corps, while Lanikai resident Carl Dolan flew with the French Lafayette Escadrille. Of the 101 names on the plaque, 79 died serving with American forces, and the other 22 with Commonwealth troops.

But they were all citizens of Hawaii. This sacrifice should be remembered if and when the Natatorium is restored.

Send WatDat? questions, Making-A stories or any other story ideas or comments to: Features, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, HI 96802 or send a fax to 523-8509 or E-mail to Please include your phone number.

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