Other Views

By Adm. John W. Townes III

Saturday, November 27, 1999

Navy preserves its
historic role in Hawaii

I was disappointed to read a subjective comment in a Nov. 1 Star-Bulletin feature story that mentioned the Navy's lack of a historic preservation program.

The remark, that the Navy is "clueless" about historic preservation, was unfounded. The Navy has an ongoing and successful program to preserve our nation's and Navy's historic resources in Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor is recognized worldwide not only as a body of water, but also as the location of the Japanese surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

The U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor was designated as a National Historical Landmark in 1964 not only for its place in the history of World War II, but for its historic and continuing role in projecting the United States' power and maintaining stability throughout the Pacific.

In addition to being the U.S. Navy's most strategic island base in the Pacific and providing upkeep and maintenance services for our 34 homeported ships and submarines, Pearl Harbor also supports three public historic sites along its shores: the National Park Service's USS Arizona Memorial; the USS Missouri Memorial Association's battleship Missouri; and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association's Bowfin submarine museum and park. Other historic resources preserved on the Pearl Harbor base include:

Bullet Memorials to the USS Utah, the USS Nevada, the USS Parche and the 52 submarines lost during World War II.

Bullet Scores of plaques honoring our sailors and civilian employees for their accomplishments during WWII from those who cracked the Japanese code allowing the Navy to win the battle of Midway to those men who lost their lives at West Loch as they loaded ammunition headed for battle in the Pacific.

Bullet Historic homes from the early 1900s and a memorial chapel.

Bullet A contemporary memorial fountain honoring the battleships attacked on Dec. 7 and the workers from the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard who worked endless hours to salvage and repair those damaged ships so they could rejoin the fight in the Pacific.

Millions of tourists, veterans and schoolchildren visit Pearl Harbor each year to learn, to reflect, and for some, to remember. These historic resources facilitate this experience and I believe the Navy, with the assistance of many veteran's organizations, and state and federal agencies, has done the right thing in preserving these resources so that current and future generations will have a sense of the important role Pearl Harbor has played, and continues to play, in the defense of our great nation.

Today, as in the past, the men and women, civilian and active duty, of the United States Navy proudly preserve and protect this historic landscape at Pearl Harbor through an active historic preservation program. This program has been carried out for many years in cooperation with the state of Hawaii, the federal government's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Park Service.

This year we have asked the Historic Hawaii Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to join with us as we develop a management plan for our historic properties. In addition, we have invited them to join us as invited signatories on an innovative agreement that will improve and streamline management of the cultural landscape in and around Pearl Harbor. Our goal, as we approach the centennial of the opening of Pearl Harbor, is to ensure that our available infrastructure dollars preserve the historic resources that best tell the collective "story" of the Navy in Hawaii.

Our record is admirable and stands on its own merits. With the help of local firms with expertise in historic preservation, the Navy has developed award-winning plans for several historic facilities. Earlier this year, the Historic Hawaii Foundation presented the Navy with a 1998-99 Preservation Honor Award for the Marine Barracks and Puller Hall complex on Pearl Harbor.

Our newest bachelor quarters building, Garbrunas Hall, won an award for a design that reflects its surroundings, enhancing rather than conflicting with the existing environment.

WE will continue this partnership of active historic preservation with state and federal agencies as we develop Ford Island. As we have gone throughout the community, alerting business and civic leaders regarding this upcoming development, we have emphasized that all plans must consider the historic character of this important site. The Navy "sense of place" on Ford Island will be preserved and reflected in any resulting development.

With the help of the agencies listed above, and with input from individual veterans, cultural experts and historic preservation specialists, the Navy continues to preserve the important historic character of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base for the benefit of many generations to come.

Rear Adm. John W. Townes III is
commander of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base.

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