Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Ford Island at Pearl Harbor
Ford Island is about 1.4 miles long and just under 1 mile wide with a surface area of roughly 400 acres. It stands nearly a half mile across the lagoon from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and has had several names throughout its history. It is most famously known as the central target for the Japanese attack in 1941 and today houses several important WW2 memorials and museums including the Battleship USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
The ancient Hawaiian name for the islet in the middle of what was then the Pearl River lagoon is Moku’ume’ume. It was the site of an ancient Hawaiian fertility ritual and game of mate swapping.
It was also known to be a place where chiefs from the nearby Ewa and Waipio districts held gatherings to discuss politics and social strategies. These are the only known districts in the island chain where ruling ali’i (royalty) were voted for by district chiefs. The lagoon itself was said to be the home of a shark goddess who protected the people from roving sharks who might seek to do harm.
After Kamehameha conquered Oahu in 1795 the island became one of several staging grounds for oyster gathering in the search for pearls (the river leading into the lagoon, the Pearl River, had plentiful oysters) which Kamehameha traded for western goods. This is how it came to be called Pearl Harbor.
Kamehameha eventually gave the island to one of his foreign friends and advisors, Francisco de Paula Marin, a Spanish explorer, in 1810. “Marin Island” became a ranch of sorts as Marin raised sheep, goats, hogs and rabbits to supply his profitable ship-provisioning business. Marin was also known for planting some of Hawaii’s first introduced crops such as pineapple, coffee and grapes. Vineyard street in Honolulu is named for his vineyard and bar located along this street.
The island was later given back to the Hawaiian Monarchy and changed ownership several times before becoming the property of Dr Seth Porter Ford by marriage. Dr Ford was a founding member of the Hawaiian Medical Association in 1856 and was renamed “Ford Island”.
In 1873 U.S. Major General John M Schofield surveyed Oahu for potential military stations and reported back to the Secretary of War recommending Pearl Harbor be acquired as he believed Ford Island would be excellent as a depot for naval vessels. In 1887 King David Kalakaua granted the U.S. exclusive rights to enter the “Pearl River Harbor” and the U.S. established a coaling and repair station at Ford Island. The U.S. improved the island and harbor in exchange for Hawaiian sugar to enter the U.S. duty free.
In 1891 Dr Ford’s son sold the land to the Judge John Papa Li Estate. Papa Li was a native Hawaiian of noble lineage who had served under Kamehameha I,II,III and IV. The island would be converted into a sugar plantation.
Kalakaua died in 1891 and within 2 years the Hawaiian Monarchy would be overthrown. The invasion of the Philippines by the U.S. during the 1898 Spanish-American War would use Pearl Harbor as its staging ground for invading the Philippines. This made the harbor an important Naval station in the Pacific for the United States. The establishment of a military foothold in the Pacific and Southeast Asia would lead the U.S. to annex Hawaii by 1900.
Part of Ford Island was sold to the Army in 1916 for use as its aviation division. The 6th Aero Squadron was created and 49 biplanes would be stationed at a new airfield cleared on the island titled “Luke Field” after WWI fighter pilot ace and Medal of Honor recipient Frank Luke. By 1919 the Army would also erect two seaplane hangars, a warehouse, a machine shop and seaplane ramps.
Through the 1920’s and early 1930’s the island would continue to grow as a center of operations for the U.S. Navy. By 1939 the island was entirely taken over by the Navy and became a Naval Station for battleships and submarine maintenance. Officer quarters and housing were also expanded as well as the seaplane facilities and communication installations. Repair and maintenance duties would expand to include aircraft based on ships and aircraft carriers.
World War 2 in the Pacific
Conquest of Japan
at Ford Island
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum was founded in 1999 and resides in several historic hangars on Ford Island. Visitors to the museum gain access via a designated tour bus from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The museum opened on December 7th 2006 and hosts a variety of aviation exhibits including important planes and relics of the War in the Pacific.
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum