Saturday, December 20, 2014

Historic Event: US Navy Returns To MCAS Ewa - NAS Barbers Point For December 7 Commemoration

Historic Event: US Navy Returns To MCAS Ewa - NAS Barbers Point For Annual Save Ewa Field December 7 Commemoration

by John Bond   Ewa Field Historian

US Navy Mooring Mast Field  1925-1941
MCAS Ewa Field  1941-1952
Annex of Naval Air Station Barbers Point 1952-1999

Great News!

Ewa Field Battlefield Determination of Eligibility (DOE)

 by the National Park Service in Washington, DC

LCDR Don Rogers, Chaplain from Marine Corps Base Hawaii

50 Cal. bullet shell casing fired on December 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor Historian Emeritus Ray Emory was on the USS Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941 

U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point provided a ceremonial event fly-over with MH-65

Pacific Air Force Honor Guard provided three volley rifle salute

Pacific Fleet Band plays the National Anthem

US Navy flag and American flag are presented at the start of the Ewa Field Commemoration

The Ewa Field Commemoration was also supported by various local cadet organizations

Taps is played for the Marines, civilians and Naval airmen killed at or near Ewa Field on Dec. 7

Ewa Field attendees and commemoration supporters

Ewa Field Commemoration honoree John Hughes in center of photo 

Some of the many Ewa Field ramp bullet strafing marks still very visible today

The Pacific Fleet Band provided commemoration theme music before and after the Ewa event

US Navy Color Guard posts colors at the start of the Ewa Commemoration event

Mo Radke, USN Ret. provided Master of Ceremonies support at the historic event

Local Civil Air Patrol, Naval Sea Cadets and Kapolei Marine Corps JROTC all participated

WW-II Valor in the Pacific National Monument historian Daniel Martinez

This was the first US Navy Pacific Fleet band performance at this historic site in many decades

Historian and Navy veteran Ray Emory wowed the crowd with astonishing Dec. 7 details

Ewa Field veteran John Hughes, USMC Ret. describes the Imperial Japanese Navy air attack

US Navy veteran and 7 year Vietnam POW Jerry Coffee remembers living on the base

Somewhat ironically, Jerry Coffee was standing less than 200 yards from Building 972 which was the headquarters of the Joint Casualty Resolution Center POW-MIA mission office in the 1980's. 

NAS Barbers Point holds a special place in Cold War - Vietnam Era history with the JCRC POW-MIA mission office located at then Navy Patrol Wing Two headquarters Facility 972.

The Joint Casualty Resolution Center was a unique organization in the annals of American military history and in 1976 was moved to Hawaii after Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to North Vietnamese troops.

Vietnam War POW-MIA Joint Casualty Resolution Center Located At
NAS Barbers Point Patrol Wing Two Headquarters

89 Year Old Ewa Aviation Site, Battlefield and Top Secret Cold War Mission Control

Saturday, January 11, 2014

89 Year Old Ewa Aviation Site, Battlefield and Top Secret Cold War Mission Control

89 Year Old Ewa Aviation Site, Battlefield and Top Secret 

Cold War Mission Control

By John Bond

Great News!

Ewa Field Battlefield Determination of Eligibility (DOE)

 by the National Park Service in Washington, DC

One of Hawaii's least known very historic sites is the former Ewa Gate (Gate Two) of former NAS Barbers Point. It has a history going back to 1925 as the entrance to US Navy Ewa Mooring Mast Field, and later as the front gate of Ewa Field attacked on December 7, 1941. Then later even more history as it became the entrance gate to a very important top secret Cold War project area, a story which has only become declassified in the past decade.

A February 1957 photo shows the Ewa Gate as NAS Barbers Point. Note the blue haze, most likely from the nearby burning sugarcane fields of Ewa Plantation.

Somewhat ironically you would never know that this historic site is primarily known today as a place for birthday parties and train rides. If you drive down to the end of Renton Road and cross the narrow gauge railway tracks, you are at the site of the Hawaiian Railway Society's Ewa Train Museum.

Ewa Gate Two is now where the Hawaiian Railway Society has their museum and overflow parking area.

When MCAS Ewa closed in 1952, this became "Ewa Gate" or "Gate Two" for NAS Barbers Point which absorbed the former Marine air base into the Navy land holdings. This is likely why most local residents today know this area as "Barbers Point," which actually isn't historically correct, as this area is Ewa and quite far from the actual Barbers Point. However, the Cold War Era came along and this area was needed for some very special top secret Navy projects.

Using a big yellow truck and Photoshop I have recreated how the NAS Barbers Point front gate might look today if it was still there. All we would need now is to add some landscaped plants.

In 1925 this was near the location of the original entrance to the Ewa Mooring Mast construction site and an earlier turn of the century sisal plantation- one of Benjamin Dillingham's many, but not always successful, business ventures. 

In the 1920's the Ewa Mooring Mast was a 100 foot tall airship mooring tower and work platform that was very likely the highest man made work place in the entire Hawaiian Islands. It was a real marvel and landmark in it's day and a top visitor attraction for riders on the narrow gauge Oahu Railway which ran along the treeline in the mid distance.

After constructing a roadway into the Navy airship base, two Navy non-commissioned officer quarters were constructed diagonally across from the location of the future Ewa Gate. The Navy Mooring Mast facility was later upgraded again in 1932 with a circular railway and landing strip.

One of the most unusual railways ever constructed in Hawaii was this huge circle railway around the circumference of Ewa Mooring Mast Field. The rail and ties were brought in on the Oahu Railway narrow gauge to build this wide "standard" gauge track, which was made for a single small rail car that would secure the tail section of a large US Navy airship. However it was never actually used for Navy airships because of a series of mainland airship crashes, ending the "Lighter Than Air" program.

In October 1941 after USMC Marine Air Group 21 had arrived and Ewa Field was under construction as a fighter and scout bomber airfield the two original Navy quarters were used as the headquarters and administration building for the Marine Corps airfield. On December 7, 1941 this area was repeatedly strafed by Japanese planes, killing four Marines and two Ewa civilians. Many wounded were taken to nearby Ewa Plantation hospital and most of the aircraft were destroyed in the very effective Imperial Japanese Navy air attack.

A US Navy Base Realignment and Closure survey of NAS Barbers Point Cold War Era facilities (page 176, 1997 Tuggle, etc., Colt Denfield, Ph.D.) says that a PFC Melvin Thompson was at the Ewa Field front gate on December 7, 1941 and was the person firing a 45 pistol at a Japanese Zero, as depicted in the Tom Freeman Pearl Harbor Attack painting series. The incident was preserved in the reminiscences of Lieutenant Yoshio Shiga, the leader of the 1st wave IJN fighter unit from the aircraft carrier KAGA.  

Not a big fan of Americans, it is particularly significant that Shiga found in this lone Marine gate guard a spirit of dogged tenacity that, from the Japanese viewpoint, was the very embodiment of bravery and valor.  He clearly was NOT expecting such and related the story in a 1950's interview.

By 1958 the new Patrol Wing Two headquarters building (Facility 972) was constructed across from the Ewa Gate for the top secret Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line patrol operations which consisted of a very large squadron of four engine EC-121 "Willy Victor" Lockheed Constellations, all tied into the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado.  

The wing headquarters and intelligence side of the DEW line squadron was intentionally kept separate from the large aircraft parking ramp and maintenance hangar area by Coral Sea Road.

In the 70's the Ewa gate area saw Facility 972 become the headquarters for the Lockheed P3 Orion - Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) program along with the top secret Navy Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) buildings being constructed nearby. Facility 972 was also used as the headquarters for the Vietnam POW-MIA Joint Casualty Resolution Center in the 1970's to 1990's. (the early JPAC).

In 1983 a P-3 Orion crew of 14 were killed in a crash on Kauai. A major and very emotional ceremony was held on the large front lawn area of Patrol Wing Two headquarters (Facility 972) which is directly across from the Ewa Gate Two location. (See video link further below)


In 1999 Naval Air Station Barbers Point closed and a poorly managed civilian transition began. 

Fortunately the historic narrow gauge Oahu Railway-US Navy railway was preserved! 

Hawaiian Railway Society, a non-profit 501-c-3, obtained operational and maintenance control of the historic railway after the US Navy gave it up in 1971 and the remaining narrow gauge railway line from Ewa to Nanakuli was placed on the National Historic Register. Later the Hawaiian Railway yard was placed on the Hawaii State Historic Register. This is really a major historic preservation success story in Hawaii.

An additional claim to historic fame for the Hawaiian Railway Museum is that the already historic Oahu Railway line was a Cold War Era US Navy railway used to haul 16 inch battleship shells and powder bags from Lualualei Naval Ammunition Depot to the West Loch Naval Ammunition Depot ordinance loading pier during the Vietnam War. 

Today the Hawaiian Railway Society works to restore historic Oahu Railway steam locomotives as well as the very practical and efficient diesel locomotives that are the mainstay of popular train rides down to Kahe Point and back.

The 65 ton Navy 174 Whitcomb diesel under restoration in the Hawaiian Railway "train barn." This locomotive has since been painted in Navy gray and has been undergoing a series of test runs, which visitors to the Ewa railway museum are always invited to inspect and photograph the progress.

Number 302 after a new coat of paint in colors intended to revive the old Oahu railway era, however this is one of two 45 ton 1940's era Whitcomb Navy diesel locomotives that are the reliable workhorses of the Hawaiian Railway Society.

Visit the Ewa train museum and take a ride back into some real great history!


The crash of Patrol Squadron One (VP-1) Yankee Bravo Zero Six, on June 16, 1983. 
Local news coverage of the crash and memorial service for the 14 crewmen who perished.

Vietnam POW-MIA Joint Casualty Resolution Center at Facility 972

Pacific Cold War Patrol Museum for Facility 972 - Barbers Point,

Royal Navy Mapped 1825 Malden Trail On University of Hawaii West Oahu Campus

Monday, January 6, 2014

Vietnam War POW-MIA Joint Casualty Resolution Center Located At Barbers Point Patrol Wing Two Headquarters

Vietnam War POW-MIA Joint Casualty Resolution Center Located At
NAS Barbers Point Patrol Wing Two Headquarters
by John Bond

Great News!

Ewa Field Battlefield Determination of Eligibility (DOE)

 by the National Park Service in Washington, DC

NAS Barbers Point holds a special place in Cold War - Vietnam Era history with the JCRC POW-MIA mission office located at then Navy Patrol Wing Two headquarters Facility 972.
The Joint Casualty Resolution Center was a unique organization in the annals of American military history and in 1976 was moved to Hawaii after Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to North Vietnamese troops.

This quiet, peaceful looking building was actually secret Facility 972 at NAS Barbers Point.

Today the area is known as Kalaeloa under HCDA State administration and the still Navy owned historic building has been left empty for use by thieves and homeless to loot and graffiti up.

The JCRC operated from Building 972, Patrol Wing Two HQ, NAS Barbers Point, under the command of US Army Special Forces which had begun the process of becoming a joint force military and civilian operation that would attempt to account for and settle for many American families one of the most contentious issues of the Vietnam War: Was every American Prisoner of War or Missing In Action remains held in South East Asian POW camps being located and returned as soon as possible?

High level communications traffic between the Defense Intelligence Agency, JCRC, Secretary of State, CIA, CinCPac, Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council, now declassified, shows the special importance and political sensitivity the POW-MIA issue had for decades.  

Many books and popular movies, especially during the 1980's, kept the POW-MIA question very much alive, and most especially so by families and relatives of lost military combatants still not accounted for. To this very day the resolution of MIA (Missing in Action) remains a sometimes heated topic and with investigations that question the expense and effectiveness of the agencies involved. 

Books, articles, blogs and studies range in opinions from a largely accomplished mission to a complete cover up of what may have really happened after the war officially ended.

Why was the JCRC operation moved to Facility 972 at NAS Barbers Point?
The answer is apparently that Building 972, headquarters for US Navy Patrol Wing Two, was already set up as a very secure, Top Secret Cold War facility and the JCRC could remain low-key in an office area on the first floor of the building with direct secure and encrypted communications to the White House, CinCPac and still on going operations in South East Asian countries. It was also a very good location to deploy special teams from and communicate with them based on time and distance.
The now very historic Cold War Patrol Wing headquarters building was constructed in 1958 in an area that had once been the headquarters of Ewa Mooring Mast Field, attacked on December 7, 1941 by Japanese planes. A now famous painting shows a front gate MP firing at a Mitsubishi Zero very near where Facility 972 was built. The flag pole location of the original Marine Corps airfield was duplicated about 25 yards away in front of the 1958 built Patrol Wing headquarters.   

Patrol Wing headquarters in 1958 was a vital part of a direct link with NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) that connected the US Navy commander of the EC-121 Pacific Distant Early Warning squadron during one of the most intense periods of the 1960's Cold War era. The subsequent Navy Cold War mission at Facility 972 was for P3 Orion Anti-Submarine Warfare – Intel patrol squadrons of the 60’s through 90’s at NAS Barbers Point.
The Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) operations, which had a first floor window view looking directly out at the patrol wing headquarters flagpole was of top importance to several US presidents and many members of congress in the 70's through 90's. The Barbers Point JCRC command post in Facility 972 was directly linked to CinCPac, the White House and special operations teams in SE Asia.
Entire national political campaigns, as well as local campaigns, were greatly influenced by the POW-MIA issue during that period of time. This was a huge emotional and somewhat divisive national political issue as well, and of deep personal interest to President Ronald Reagan. The subsequent progress made by JCRC was cited as a reason to normalize relations with North Vietnam which he supported. President Bill Clinton in 2000 made the first ever visit to North Vietnam and gave a speech at a MIA crash excavation site in Hanoi. Many Vietnam veterans also came back on tours.
Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, marking the final end of the Vietnam War and forcing JCRC to leave.
Lt. Col. Charles Beckwith, a US Army Special Forces officer served as Commander, Control Team "B" with the Joint Casualty Resolution Center from 1973 to 1974, seen in the above photo inset. He is credited with the creation of Delta Force, the premier special operations unit of the U.S. Army in November 1977. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was established in 1980 on his recommendation to ensure joint forces interoperability and tactics.

The public's 70's weariness with the Vietnam War changed into a politically charged 80's issue.
Hollywood chimed in on the POW-MIA issue with not critically acclaimed but none the less very popular 80’s action movie hits with Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo (with additional sequels) and Chuck Norris’ Missing in Action, (with additional sequels) which featured heroic Vietnam vets returning on special missions to liberate POW’s that “America has forgotten.”
The Background History of the Joint Casualty Resolution Center
In 1973, there were approximately 1,500 Americans still unaccounted for in Vietnam, more than 500 in Laos, and about 80 in Cambodia. Another 425 were lost over water off the Vietnamese coast. Unfortunately, not since the release of 591 American prisoners of war during "Operation Homecoming" in 1973 has an American -- whose fate was unknown to the U.S. -returned alive from Southeast Asia.

American POW's celebrate aboard a USAF C-141 after being released from Hanoi prisons.
The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 intended to establish peace in Vietnam and end to the Vietnam War. The agreement was signed on January 27, 1973. One of the protocols to the Paris Peace Accords made provision for a Four-Party Joint Military Team (FPJMT) to carry on the search and accounting for missing individuals and came into existence in early 1973. The FPJMT remained in place in Saigon until the eventual fall of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam on April 30, 1975, at which time all special US operations were withdrawn to Thailand.
The US delegation of the FPJMT was a group of less than twenty military personnel from all services, including specialists in international law and history, individuals familiar with negotiation techniques, plus an array of interpreters, translators, and support personnel. While the FPJMT constituted the negotiating element of the US effort, another entity, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC), was created as the operational element.

American remains being transported from Hanoi airport back to Hawaii in 2003
The JCRC was a unique organization in the annals of American military history.
Activated in Saigon on 23 January 1973, its first commander was Brigadier General Robert Kingston, a hard-driving US Army infantry officer with considerable background experience in special operations who wanted JCRC field teams to be US Army Special Forces.

The JCRC field unit was to have a predominantly operational role -- carrying out field searches, excavation, recovery, and repatriation activities negotiated through the politically oriented FPJMT.
The JCRC mission was to assist the Secretaries of the Armed Services to resolve the fate of those servicemen, approximately 2600,  still missing and unaccounted for as a result of the hostilities throughout Indochina.

This JCRC field unit was commanded by Lt. Col. Sully Fontaine a WW-II OSS veteran

Kingston personally interviewed each volunteer, accepting those whose talents matched a list of personnel skills previously drawn up by planners at CINCPAC in Hawaii as the Paris negotiations were concluding. The JCRC roster, with an initial authorization of approximately 140 troops, was heavily loaded on the side of field search teams that Kingston knew could deploy quickly. 

Brig. Gen. Kingston described the fourfold JCRC mission as:
“peaceful, open, and humanitarian in nature: Resolve the status of U.S. personnel missing in action; Resolve the status of U.S. personnel declared dead whose bodies have not been recovered; Locate and investigate crash and grave sites; and, Recover and identify remains."

Captain Richard Rees, a JCRC field team leader killed in an ambush while leading an MIA recovery
After South Vietnam military force reductions the headquarters was moved to Bangkok, Thailand and Brig Gen. Kingston returned home in December 1973. The Joint Casualty Resolution Center conducted no more ground operations in South Vietnam and his immediate successor was mainly tasked with the retrieval of the remains of U.S. POWs who died during captivity in North Vietnam.
In May 1976, JCRC moved to Building 972, PatWing 2 HQ, NAS Barbers Point, Hi
After the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, JCRC initiated moving their Bangkok headquarters to Building 972, Patrol Wing Two Headquarters, NAS Barbers Point in May, 1976 and began a close relationship with the US Army Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) which had also been relocated from Thailand. Army Lt. Colonel Joe Harvey was in command of JCRC at this time.
The JCRC case records were inherited from another little-known military unit in Vietnam which was the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC). The JPRC, which was a SOG element (MACV Studies and Observations Group -SOG), was a highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit which conducted covert operations prior to and during the Vietnam War. They were responsible for recovering downed airmen and allied prisoners from enemy territory and had collected considerable information and numerous files on those individuals who had disappeared. SOG missions were so sensitive that they weren't declassified until the 1990's.
With the establishment of the Joint Casualty Resolution Center, the old JPRC files constituted a logical starting point for JCRC to expand and update these files, beginning immediately with the debriefing of all POWs released during Operation Homecoming in February and March of 1973.
As of July 1973, approximately 1,300 men were officially missing in action throughout Indochina (the two Vietnams, Laos, and Cambodia). More than 1,100 more were officially declared dead. Those figures changed constantly in response to new information.
Another name change- JCRC becomes JTF-FA and moves to Camp Smith, HI

Undergoing various changes in name and budgets, JCRC evolved to JTF-FA and finally JPAC
In Jan. 23, 1992 JCRC became Joint Task Force – Full Accounting (JTF-FA). With a much larger budget due to continuous public and congressional demands, JTF-FA was established to systematically seek out information related to the more than 2,000 Americans missing in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and China. Based at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii, the unit's Detachment 2 (Det 2) established in late 1991 in Hanoi was the only American government agency in Vietnam at that time.
As JTF-FA came into existence, a covert operation run by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) revealed that the North Vietnamese had thousands of pictures of U.S. POWs and MIAs in the archives of the military museum in Hanoi. Many of those pictures were of dead last-known-alive individuals that either died at the incident site or in the captivity of the North Vietnamese.
Confronting the Vietnamese with the pictures somewhat surprisingly resulted in the beginning of more open cooperation by them, ultimately leading to the lifting of the trade embargo on Vietnam, establishment of full diplomatic relations and reforms in the Vietnamese economy which benefited the all of Vietnam and Saigon, renamed Ho Chi Minh City under the North Vietnamese.
Yet Another name change- JTF-FA becomes JPAC and moves to Hickam AFB, HI
In 2002, the Department of Defense decided that accounting efforts for all past conflicts would be best served by combining JTF-FA and CILHI into a single, cohesive organization. Thus, on October 1st, 2003, the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, better known as JPAC, was established and headquartered on Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii in the old Fort Kamehameha Army coast artillery area of the air base.
 Special detachments are sent out to investigate crash sites and look for any possible MIA remains.
 Investigations also continue into WW-II crashes such as this B-24 in New Guinea.
 A helicopter crash site in Laos being investigated with the help of local assistance.
 Laos site with a very careful sifting of dirt to look for very small objects that may be ID clues.
 If successful, a family may finally have the satisfaction of having their loved one's remains recovered and sent back home from a foreign battlefield where they died many decades ago.
JPAC is currently having a new facility built at Hickam AFB (JBPHH)

SOME JCRC NOTES (There are many on the web):
Kingston at the JCRC, Thailand 1973
Full Accounting