Pacific Cold War Patrol Museum for Facility 972 - Barbers Point, Ewa-Kapolei, Hawaii
By John Bond
Ewa Field Battlefield Determination of Eligibility (DOE)
by the National Park Service in Washington, DC
A Pacific Cold War Patrol Museum is proposed for a very historic area of former Naval Air Station Barbers Point, which was then the command, control and communications area for most of the 1946 to 1991 NAS Barbers Point Cold War Era, (as officially defined by naval historians.)
There is a lot of very important history of this era that relatively few people know about today because most of the activity was shrouded in a great deal of Cold War secrecy. Only in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union has the extent of the stories and programs begun to emerge.
Background History of Naval Air Station Barbers Point
The former Naval Air Station Barbers Point was actually two large military airports, which consists of the main 1942 built Naval Air Station and the older 1941-45 MCAS Ewa, which was originally the 1925 Navy Ewa Mooring Mast Field for the "Lighter Than Air" airship program of the 20's and 30's.
Prior to the US Marines arriving in January, 1941, the US Navy's Ewa Mooring Mast Field was a large round circle, ringed by a railway track designed for the mooring of airships. It also featured a ground coral air strip for use as an auxiliary field by Army and Navy planes in the 1930's. Airships never actually moored there because of a series of Navy airship crashes on the mainland.
On December 7, 1941, Ewa Mooring Mast Field and the nearby Ewa Plantation Community was attacked by Imperial Japanese planes in three waves as part of the air raid on Pearl Harbor. The Pacific War caused a great deal of expansion of the original Marine Corps airfield until by 1945 this was a very large multi-use military airport for fighter and bomber training as well as large air transport aircraft. Large concrete aircraft revetments were built and Navy SeaBees also based there.
In 1942 work began on NAS Barbers Point and during the Pacific War "Barbers" was one of the most active military airports in the world, hosting a large variety of carrier aircraft, patrol bombers and transports. By 1946, just as the Cold War was beginning, the base was fairly inactive until the Korean War began, and a large new surge of activity began for carrier jet aircraft, transports and helicopters.
The former MCAS Ewa had closed in 1952, moving Marine Corps aircraft to the former WW-II NAS Kaneohe, while NAS Barbers Point absorbed the Marine Corps Air Station airport area. A key decision was made in the late 1950's to construct a major new Navy patrol wing headquarters away from the naval air station aircraft operational areas and at the location of the former MCAS Ewa base where the main gate and Ewa Field mooring mast MAG-21 headquarters had been in 1941.
By 1958, when the above photo was taken showing the former MCAS Ewa area, the naval air station began entering an entirely new phase of construction for a major squadron of Lockheed EC-121 "Willy Victor" high performance planes to patrol the Pacific Distant Early Warning "barrier" to guard against a surprise Soviet bomber attack. This became the largest squadron in US Navy aviation history. The planes patrolled from Hawaii up to Alaska in tandem with surface Navy "picket" ships and the patrol wing HQ building was linked directly to the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).
Above is a photo of the NAS Barbers Point "Ewa Gate" around 1960 when it connected the base to the local Ewa Plantation community. The adjacent US Navy Lualualei to West Loch ammunition railway that ran along the northern perimeter of the base was transferred to the State, placed on the National Historic Register, and today this gate location area is where the non-profit Hawaiian Railway Society maintains an operational railway museum with three former Navy diesels.
The location of the Navy Patrol Wing Two headquarters across from the Ewa gate, known today as Facility 972, was away from the operational aircraft side of NAS Barbers Point and was apparently constructed there because of available expansion space and the location of two nearby large circular antenna arrays. The result was a new Cold War command, control and communications area that continued to evolve from the Willy Victor patrol program to the P3 Orion patrol program with the addition of microwave towers and a satellite communications dish.
By 1969 a decision was made to add an additional adjacent new high security Cold War complex for the Navy Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) to track Soviet ballistic missile submarines. When that program ended the building was transferred to the Pacific Fleet Imaging command up until the closing of NAS Barbers Point. These buildings are all still there today.
By 1993 a decision was made to close NAS Barbers Point and in 1999 the P3 Orions were moved over to the Kaneohe Marine Corps air base. The former naval base was placed under State of Hawaii administration and unfortunately underwent afterwards a long period of major decline with vandalism and looting that still continues to this day.
Completely neglected and boarded up, the former Patrol Wing Two headquarters has been repeatedly broken into recently and vandalized due to nearly non-existent local area security. Large amounts of damage and theft have continued all over the former base with extensive amounts of destruction, but recently the very historic Patrol Wing headquarters Facility 972 has become a major target.
This area was where the former Top Secret command, control and communications vans were located. During the P3 era this was known as the ASWOC - Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Center. This was where P3 Orion flight crews received their Top Secret mission briefs, picked up their "crypto" for their radios and were subsequently debriefed after they returned from their very long flights. Some did not, because of crashes, but also because some planes were shot down by Soviet and North Korean MIG fighters. At the time the public usually wasn't told the real reason.
An adjacent utility building to Facility 972 which contained backup power systems, electrical and secure telephone switching racks has been nearly totally gutted today. Around six years ago this building and Facility 972 were in very good condition with no apparent damage or vandalism. At the time the base closed, contractors had apparently already removed the main classified systems.
Strewn around the floor of the vandalized Patrol Wing Two utility building are 90's era computerprint outs of building telephone circuits and other electrical and electronic control board systems.
A little piece of COMPATWINGSPAC history remains- a box that once contained 1 of 4 of something. Looters have by now taken nearly everything of any value that were in the Patrol Wing Two building and ripped apart nearly everything that could have been saved with some basic area security. Unfortunately, that's not how things are done at what is now called "Kalaeloa."
The main, abandoned Facility 972 building remains and could become the future site for the Pacific Cold War Patrol museum with photo gallery and other preserved equipment that is still available.
It would require a partnership with some corporations and organizations that could see a museum and educational learning center at this historic location.
There is already the Hawaiian Railway attraction nearby and the Ewa Field area will also likely become a recognized National American battlefield in 2014, making it an historic visitor attraction. Eventually the City plans to locate a major elevated railway station in conjunction with a large shopping center nearby, creating an additional tourist railway attraction to the area. Also close by are two major high schools and the University of West Oahu campus. An educational component of the Pacific Cold War Museum could be in areas of radio physics, cryptography and acoustic analysis, which has numerous real world applications.
There are many additional aspects to the Pacific Cold War Patrol Museum that will be covered in future blog posts. There is much MORE to this whole story- this is only the beginning chapter.
Below is a link to the US Navy Cold War Era Gallery, located in historic Washington Navy Yard,
in Washington, D.C.
Below are some more photos of Facility 972 with insets from a news video from 1983:
Video Link to P3 Orion Crash Tragedy On Kauai, June 16, 1983
with subsequent commemoration held at Facility 972, Patrol Wing 2 HQ
About the Pacific Cold War Museum "Outer Space" Masthead Design And
Those Large Ewa Mooring Mast Circles