“The Hawaiian Islands are to be created into a military department headquarters as soon as the new plans of the war department are carried into effect for the concentration of troops in the city of Honolulu.”
“(T)he District of Hawaiʻi is to have twelve thousand men stationed on the Island of Oʻahu and with a third of that number of troops here Hawaiʻi would have a right to the designation of a department headquarters.” (Hawaiian Gazette, May 23, 1911)
After Hawaiʻi became a territory of the United States, the first Naval Station in the islands was established in 1899 at Honolulu Harbor, as there were no facilities and no navigable channel at Pearl Harbor.
The property was transferred to the US by the Republic of Hawaiʻi under the joint resolution of annexation and, to protect the mouth of Honolulu Harbor, the US Army filled a submerged coral reef on the ‘Ewa side of Kaʻākaukukui for a gun emplacement.
The first permanent Marines arrived at Honolulu on board the Army transport Sheridan on February 9, 1904. For four years, the Marines lived in an empty coal shed at the Honolulu Naval Station. (PACNAVFACENGCOM)
In January 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt instructed Secretary of War William H Taft to convene the National Coast Defense Board (Taft Board) “to consider and report upon the coast defenses of the United States and the insular possessions (including Hawai‘i.)”
In 1906 the Taft Board recommended a system of Coast Artillery batteries to protect Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Between 1909-1921, the Hawaiian Coast Artillery Command had its headquarters at Fort Ruger and defenses included artillery regiments stationed at Fort Armstrong, Fort Barrette, Fort DeRussy, Diamond Head, Fort Kamehameha, Kuwa‘aohe Military Reservation (Fort Hase – later known as Marine Corps Base Hawaiʻi) and Fort Weaver.
Fort Armstrong, built in 1907, was named for Brigadier General Samuel C Armstrong. His father, Reverend Richard Armstrong (1805-1860,) had arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1832 and later replaced Hiram Bingham as pastor at Kawaiahaʻo Church (1840-1843.) In 1848, Armstrong (the father) left the mission and became Hawaiʻi’s minister of public education.
From 1908 until about 1913, the Marines lived in tents at nearby Camp Very (named in honor of Captain Samuel W Very, Commandant of the Naval Station) “a site which was later known as Fort Armstrong”. (PACNAVFACENGCOM)
The complement of Marines in Hawaiʻi comprised some 2,000-men who are distributed between Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.
Training facilities at Camp Very included a small-arms practice range consisting of 6 targets with the ranges from 200 to 500-yards, and at the Army ranges. (Navy Department, 1913)
“The sea-soldiers are well taken care of, they have their own rending and billiard rooms and at the post exchange, formerly called the canteen, they can buy almost anything the heart of man could wish.” (Evening Bulletin, May 6, 1911)
The original garrison at Fort Armstrong was the 1st Coast Artillery Company, followed by the 104th Mine Co. operating the harbor mines. Also stationed there was the 185th Coast Artillery Company.
In 1914, temporary barracks were built – wooden structures that were continually occupied since January, 1914. Buildings are constructed of 1 x 12 rough boards, with tar-paper roofs.
The facility later had a barracks, 4 officers’ quarters, 3 noncommissioned officers’ quarters, administration building and post exchange, guardhouse, fire apparatus house, quartermaster storehouse, gymnasium and related infrastructure; the standard strength was 109 men.
Battery Tiernon at Fort Armstrong was armed with two pedestal mounted 3-inch Guns from 1911 to 1943.
The Army mission in Hawaiʻi was defined in 1920 as “the defense of Pearl Harbor Naval Base against damage from naval or aerial bombardment or by enemy sympathizers and attack by enemy expeditionary force or forces, supported or unsupported by an enemy fleet or fleets.”
Fort Armstrong continued under the Coast Artillery program until September 15, 1922. It was reserved for military purposes by a series of Executive Orders in 1930 and was described as the Fort Armstrong Military Reservation.
The present seawall was constructed 500-feet out from the original shoreline in 1948, and the area was backfilled. The Army Corps of Engineers took over the post in 1949. Kakaʻako Park was created over the landfill area.
On December 13, 1951, because the site was no longer needed by the military and was needed by the Territory of Hawaiʻi for harbor improvements, President Truman transferred the land to the Territory of Hawaiʻi.
The image shows the tents the Marines were housed in at Camp Very in 1910. In addition, I have added other images and maps of this area in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook page.
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