In ancient times, the central plateau, particularly the area called Lihue on the southwestern part of the plateau, was a center of island political power.
Even after the royal center had shifted to Waikiki during the time of chief Maʻilikukahi, this central area continued to play a role in chiefly activities, especially related to Kukaniloko, the site where chiefs came for the birth of their royal children. (Army)
As late as 1797, Kamehameha is said to have “made every arrangement to have the accouchement (birth of his successor) take place at Kūkaniloko; but the illness of Queen Keōpūolani frustrated the design”. (Fornander)
The central plateau was also a sanctuary for refugee chiefs. In 1783, the Maui chief Kahekili invaded and conquered Oahu, chasing the Oahu chief Kahahana and his wife into hiding in “the thickets of Wahiawa”.
The larger gulches of the central plateau and the gulches on the higher slopes of the Waiʻanae and Koʻolau Ranges were probably cultivated with irrigated taro. Handy writes “there are terraced areas watered by Kioea and Waikoloa (the north boundary of the Schofield Barracks cantonment) Streams. Kalena Gulch (in the Schofield West Range) had some terraces”. (army-mil)
A network of trails connected the central plateau with other parts of the island. The northern leg of the Waialua trail extended to the north shore; the southern leg reached to the rich estuaries of Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor) on the south shore. The Kolekole trail pointed west to the crest of the Waianae Range and across to the leeward coast.
Fast forward to modern times, the first naval ammunition depot in the Islands consisted of seven above-ground magazines located on Kuahua Island, Pearl Harbor, in the vicinity of the Naval Shipyard.
Kuahua was used from 1916 until April of 1934, when it was decommissioned because of its unsafe location and limited area available for expansion. In 1929, the Navy purchased 8,184 acres of the McCandless estate at Lualualei; on May 1, 1934 the US Naval Ammunition Depot was commissioned. (Oahu Detonator)
As WW II approached, portable storage units were replaced with extensive underground rooms and tunnels for ammunition storage at many locations on Oahu. One worker commented that the Engineers had built so many tunnels, if placed end to end– the entrance would be at Koko Head, the exit at Moanalua. (ACE)
A major defense project of the mid-1930s was the construction of ammunition tunnels into the sides of Aliamanu Crater, called Aliamanu Ammunition Storage Depot (now Aliamanu Military Reservation.)
Intended for centralized storage of Army ammunition, eight tunnels were dug in 1934 and additional 35 magazines were completed in 1937. (Army)
At the onset of World War II, the Army was importing ammunition in huge quantities, requiring construction of ammunition storage facilities. Small facilities were built above ground, but the bulk of the ammunition was stored in massive underground storage facilities.
The first to be developed was in Waikakalaua Gulch just south of Wheeler Field, as well as at Kipapa Gulch.
“Tunnels driven into the almost vertical walls of the two gorges would have entrances invisible from the air. To keep out bomb fragments, passageways to the storage chambers would be dog-legged or provided with baffles.”
“The only drawbacks to these sites were lava formations and cinder pockets which would necessitate timbering or concreting considerable portions of the chambers.” (DOD; army-mil)
Waikakalaua consisted of 52 tunnels built into the hillside and used for ammunition storage. The mission of Waikakalaua was to provide ammunition storage for the Army during and after World War II. Ordnance storage tunnels and underground fuel storage tanks are reported to have been constructed between 1942 and 1945, and the installation was active until the 1950s.
This system of tunnels was the location of the primary storage for ordinance for B-17s and other bombers stationed just above at the Kipapa Army Airfield. The site was also used to store anti-tank and rifle fragmentation grenades. (army-mil)
According to Army-Navy Explosives Safety Board Abstract Number 28, tunnel #24A exploded in 1946 blowing large pieces of the concrete baffle out of the tunnel and across the gulch with such force that it destroyed a railroad track 300 feet away and caused a 20-foot depression to form above the tunnel.
Kipapa Ammunition Storage Site, located in Kipapa Gulch, was comprised of three sections. The lower unit is accessed from the south side of the Kamehameha Highway Bridge and extends south to the Kipapa Navy Ammunition Storage Area. The other two units are in the gulch to the east of Mililani Town.
Army construction during this period also included “The Hole” (now the Kunia Field Station,) a facility originally intended for airplane assembly (with a runway connection to Wheeler Field to the east.)
“The entrance appeared to lead only to a small dugout in a rolling hill, but at the end of a quarter-mile tunnel two elevators – one big enough for 20 passengers and the other able to carry four ½-ton trucks – gave access to a three-floor structure, self-sufficient even to a cafeteria that could serve 6,000 meals a day.”
“’The Hole’ was intended for plane assembly, but since it was not needed for such use, it proved ideal for the reproduction of maps and charts. Its huge air conditioning and ventilating systems provided easy control of temperature and humidity, and its fluorescent lighting furnished a flood of shadowless illumination.” (Allen; army-mil)
In October 1941, work was started to convert the storage facility in the rim of Aliamanu Crater into a joint Army-Navy command post; although not completed at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the post was shortly after put into service by the island command.
To alleviate continued housing shortages in the early-1970s, the Army, Navy, and Marines developed a joint project at Āliamanu Military Reservation, once a World War II era Navy-Army command post and important ammunition storage facility.
The ammunition was moved to the Lualualei storage depot and the crater was transformed into a 2,600-unit housing development.
Other tunnel complexes were built, including Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Field, Fort Shafter and Fort Ruger. The tunnels at Wheeler Field and Fort Ruger were for ammunition storage. The tunnels at Fort Shafter included a bombproof radio station, an underground cold storage facility, an anti-aircraft command radio transmitter tunnel, and the Air Defense Command Post. (army-mil)
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