As a kid growing up in central Oahu near historic Wheeler Air Field and hiking throughout the Koolau and Waianae ranges, I was treated to first hand exploration of wartime sites. I was able to climb all over the trenches with log and sod pillboxes near Pupukea, tank traps at Dillingham Air Field, historic Marconi buildings at Kahuku, airstrips at Kualoa and many others. One of the most interesting discoveries was the unexpected surprise when I came across the coastal artillery gun emplacement at Opaeula in the hills above the North Shore. I had been hiking along the road and near a clearing in some trees was a large concrete structure. I entered the opening and in a large room was the enormous turret ring but no gun. The teeth of the ring were huge indicating a very large gun had been used in the structure. In another room were still wooden bunk beds and even a map of Oahu on the wall. I left things alone but knew I had been offered a glimpse into the vast military buildup after the attack on December7th, 1941. I was a fascinated wondering what it must have been like for the soldiers, sailors, marines and civilians during the years after the attack.
My father was stationed at Wheeler AFB when I was in high school. We had access to a number of areas normally off limits to civilians. We would go to Ford Island by car ferry and picnic near the abandoned airfield and hangars. We had the place to our selves. Bomb racks were still piled up along the sides of the historic hangars; the seaplane ramps and other structures were ours to explore. We were also routinely treated to flight line visits to the Barbers Point NAS during the filming of the iconic Pearl Harbor movie Tora, Tora, Tora. We roamed around admiring the B-17s and “Japanese” airplanes parked on the historic ramp. It was during this period I read Walter Lord’s account of the attack in Day of Infamy. I was not a great student of history in the classroom, but for everything Pearl Harbor; I was hooked.
Later, as a military pilot on Oahu I found and climbed on a number of aircraft wrecks from that era including a Hawaii Air National Guard P-47 upside down in a ravine in the Koolau mountains. I was also fortunate to be able to visit a number of tunnels which honeycomb Oahu built during the war which included the “rubber tunnel” in the training area east of Wahiawa. This tunnel was used solely for the purpose of storing tires and still had signs hanging overhead indicating the location, size and purpose of the stored tires. When it was a military base for an Army Signal unit, I went underground in the tunnel below what is now the Waiau Prison near Pearl City. At that time it was a designated Civil Defense shelter and there were thousands of “C” ration boxes piled in small alcoves held in by large cargo nets and two of the largest locomotive style generators I have ever seen. I was also able to visit the multi-story facility in Kunia, now a major military installation. These sites were all part of the war effort and played a large role in shaping the island state as a strategic location.
I have been in the air tour business since 1980. I started flying air tours (rides) in a small three seat Hughes 300C helicopter. I flew from the Waikiki Hilton helipad which was made famous when Elvis arrived by helicopter on his Hawaiian tour. The rides were $11 and about 10 minutes long. Since that time, the air tour industry has changed dramatically. Having flown airplane and helicopter air tours on all the islands I have unique insight into the prospect of joining air tours with the historic sites from the December 7th attack.
Over the years it often occurred to me that it would be great to be able to show these historic sites to the general public. I felt if people saw what I had seen over the years that the importance of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu would be worthwhile and beneficial. As it turns out my good friends at The Home of the Brave Museum in historic downtown Kakaako do an excellent job of this today. I also thought it would be wonderful to be able to show people what Oahu looked like from the air to the attackers and defenders on December 7th. I never knew these musings would become reality.
I purchased a World War II airplane in 1999. Since the purchase, I have used the airplane to provide rides for nonprofit museums, air shows, fly-in events and at The National Championship Air Races in Reno. After my employer went out of business, I was unable to fly the airplane much until a unique opportunity arose. The Thunderbirds were to perform in Hawaii in September of 2009 and an invitation was offered to bring my airplane to Hawaii to support the show. I agreed and before I knew it, my airplane was providing rides around Hawaii. That is when Pacific Warbirds was created.
Pacific Warbirds is not about “rides”. Most warbird ride businesses around the country do a fine job of offering customers an airplane ride in the spirit of the barnstorming era. Here in Hawaii, Pacific Warbirds has a unique opportunity, if not obligation, to combine the history of this hallowed battleground with the authenticity of flight in an example of the period. My comprehensive research into the historical record of the December 7th attack on Oahu, my experience as a warbird pilot and access to the battle sites combine to offer visitors an altogether entertaining, educational and memorable look at this fascinating slice of history.
The Pearl Harbor Experience is a historical immersion, first-person encounter with the events of the morning of December 7, 1941. For the customer, the Pearl Harbor Experience offers an unforgettable perspective of the aerial attack on Oahu. The Pearl Harbor Experience is analogous to walking through the hallowed battlefield at Gettysburg and relate to Union cavalry defending McPherson’s Ridge and Seminary Ridge, or walking near Angle’s stone wall near the grove of trees during Pickett’s Charge. These historic sites are national treasures and provide profound understanding of our national character. An immersion such as The Pearl Harbor Experience offers this extraordinary insight.