Moku‘ume‘ume (meaning “island of strife”) is a small island located in Pearl Harbor on the Island of O’ahu. It is entirely surrounded by water deep enough to accommodate deep draft ocean-going vessels.
The island measures about 1.4 miles long and 0.70 miles wide in a roughly elliptical shape. It has a land area of approximately 500 acres.
Don Francisco de Paula Marin, took possession of the island around 1810. He raised sheep, hogs, goats and rabbits on the island to supply his profitable ship provisioning business.
In 1885, Dr. Seth Porter Ford (namesake for the present reference to the island) took ownership and possession of the island. He sold it in 1891.
Ford Island is roughly translated as “Poka Ailana” in Hawaiian and some native Hawaiians did refer to the island by that name.
In 1899, the O‘ahu Sugar Company leased Ford Island and planted about 300-acres of sugarcane on the island. Docks were built on the island and on Waipi‘o Peninsula to facilitate transfer of cane harvests by barge on the way to the mill at Waipahu.
With the coming of World War I, the US War Department was concerned about the defenses of the large and growing U.S. Navy establishment at Pearl Harbor. Ford Island was selected as a site for land-based guns to defend the harbor.
In 1916, the War Department acquired two small parcels of land on Ford Island to be used as casements for two batteries of six-inch rifled guns. One of the sites, on the northeast corner of the island, was named Battery Adair (or First Lt. Henry Adair, 10th US Cavalry, who died in Mexico in 1916.)
The sites were completed in mid-1917 and were the first presence of military on Ford Island. The batteries were used by the U.S. Army until 1925 by which time they were deactivated and the guns removed.
In 1917, the War Department negotiated the purchase of the island. The O’ahu Sugar Company surrendered its leasehold and the War Department finalized the sale in late-1917 and established the first independent Army air station in Hawai‘i.
In 1919, the new station was officially designated “Luke Field.” The station was named for World War I ace Frank Luke, a U.S. Army fighter pilot who was killed in action over the Western Front.
Luke Field developed into a sizeable base. However, with growing Navy use, in 1935, it was apparent that the island was becoming too crowded for joint Army and Navy operations so a deal was made.
The Army would take possession of the Navy’s field near Sunnyvale, California and in return it would give North Island in San Diego and Ford Island to the Navy.
In 1937, the Army purchased land to construct a new air base that would become Hickam Field.
By 1940 the move of Luke Field’s personnel and buildings to Hickam Field was complete and the Army’s presence on Ford Island had ended. Ford Island was now the exclusive property of the U.S. Navy.
Ford Island played an important role in the attack on Pearl Harbor because the bulk of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was anchored near the island.
The swift, surprise attack by hundreds of Japanese airplanes came in two waves. The first began at 7:55 a.m. and the second ended two hours later.
Two thousand, four hundred and three soldiers, sailors, marines and civilians were killed during the Pearl Harbor attack. Eighteen ships were sunk or seriously damaged. Aircraft were scattered in pieces next to burning hangars on Ford Island’s airfield.
World War II was the busiest time for Ford Island. At least one squadron of flying boats was stationed there, as were numerous other types of Navy aircraft. The runway grew until it covered the entire center of the island. Hangars and auxiliary buildings filled almost all available space.
With the advent of earth satellites and improvements in range and speed of modern aircraft after the war, it wasn’t necessary to have a large Navy air base near Pearl Harbor and Ford Island Naval Air Station became obsolete.
In 1962, the Navy officially deactivated Ford Island as an air base; it is also a National Historic Landmark.
The island is home for a growing number of military residents, with expanded military housing on the island. Likewise, the Pacific Aviation Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial, monuments for other battle ships and other Pearl Harbor Historic Sites are nearby.
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