Beachfront lifestyle, distinctive animals, and plenty of aloha pride for the US military are all part of Hawaiian culture.
There are various memorials and monuments recognizing the sacrifice of heroes throughout the island of Oahu, which was the site of the Pearl Harbor attack on America well over 80 years ago, which ultimately led to America’s engagement in WWII.
Jay Hidano, a 94-year-old ex-Korean War POW from Honolulu, praised the Punchbowl memorial as “one of the best in the world” in an interview with Fox News. He also mentioned that the monuments in Hawaii “bring back a lot of memories.” He said, “Most of my friends are all gone, here and on the mainland too. But memories come back every night.”
While many of these memorials and war sites are famous and have been seen by many, others are not so easy to find. They are the ‘hidden treasures’ of Hawaii.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
On the island of Oahu, there are a few secret and unique military memorials, as well as information regarding their origin and where to find them.
WWII pillbox bunkers
The Pillbox Hike on Oahu’s North Shore is a great place to look for signs of WWII courage. You’ll need to enter at Sunset Elementary School and trek up a difficult route for around 30 minutes to reach pillbox no. 1. Exploring the bunker will transport you to another time and place, putting you in the shoes of veterans.
A short hike will lead you to the second pillbox, which offers even more breathtaking views of the vivid blue Pacific Ocean.
Hale’Iwa War monument
The oceanside obelisk, which is adorned in white, pays honor to dead soldiers from the Waialua-Kahuku area. The names of WWII warriors, as well as those who died in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, are inscribed into the statue, which stands above the beautiful Hale’Iwa Beach Park.
Pacific War/Iwo Jima Memorial
The statue commemorating the end of WWII is a must-see for Americans who can make the journey. It is an exact reproduction of the memorial in Newington, Conn., and portrays the image recorded by the famed Joe Rosenthal photo of the flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945.
The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial
On Aug. 24, 1927, the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial in Honolulu was erected to honor the 10,000 Hawaiians who served in WWI. The unusual contemporary memorial has a big saltwater swimming pool where Olympic gold winner and “father of modern surfing” Duke Kahanamoku reportedly went for an opening day swim.
The historic architectural marvel, which is now closed to the public, is one of just a few ocean-water natatoriums existing in the world. It’s also the only one of its sort in the United States, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The structure began to degrade after WWII ended, and it was declared hazardous in 1979. The natatorium was named one of America’s 11 most endangered places by the National Trust in 1995.
The Eternal Flame of the Armed Forces
The Eternal Flame monument commemorates the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and honors Hawaii’s men and women who have served in the US Armed Forces. Since its dedication in 1944, the memorial’s bright flame has burnt continuously. In 1974, it was replaced with the bronze and copper artwork.
In Honolulu, the sculpture stands across the street from the Hawaii State Capitol building.
Korean War and Vietnam War memorials
This million-dollar Honolulu memorial, dedicated in 1994, honors those killed or missing in action during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The two separate walls symbolize both wars, and the terraced, granite pedestals are each inscribed with the names of Hawaiian-born veterans.
According to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau website, the design concept allows visitors to develop a personal connection with each fallen hero. Throughout the twists and turns of the stone-wall memorial complex, a vast list of troops are honored.