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National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
November 2002
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          The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and the Honolulu Memorial, covering 116 acres, are located in Puowaina Crater, an extinct volcano referred to in Hawaii as "Punchbowl" because of its shape. Roughly translated, "Puowaina" means "Consecrated Hill" or "Hill of Sacrifice." The Punchbowl was the site of many secret "alii" (royal) burials. It was also the place where offenders of certain "kapus" (taboos) were sacrificed.
          By the end of World War II, several hundred temporary cemeteries had been established by the American Graves Registration Service of the U.S. Army. Puowaina Crater was selected as a permanent cemetery site when major objections were made to the temporary cemeteries in the central and south Pacific areas. Construction began in August 1948 and the first remains were interred on January 4, 1949. Seven hundred seventy-six (776) casualties from the December 7, 1941, attack were among the first to be interred here. The cemetery was opened to burials on July 19, 1949, the date on which Ernie Pyle was interred; and it was dedicated on September 2, 1949, the fourth anniversary of V-J Day.
          This cemetery is one of two hallowed resting places in the vast Pacific for the recovered remains of World War II dead whose next of kin did not request return of the remains to the continental United States or requested that they be buried here. Original burials included 11,597 identified and 2,079 unidentified World War II dead from the Pacific. They came from such battle sites as Guadacanal, China, Burma, Saipan, Guam, Okinawa and Iwo Jima and from prisoner of war camps in Japan. One hundred seventy-eight (178) Wake Island dead were interred in a mass burial on July 10, 1953. Also interred in the cemetery are the unidentified remains of 848 U.S. servicemen who died fighting in Korea. The other hallowed resting place in the Pacific for the World War II dead is the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio, Manila, Republic of the Philippines, which is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
          Punchbowl is now filled to capacity with 33,255 gravesites. Since August 1, 1991, burials have been at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe. This cemetery also has available urn niches in the Columbarium for cremated remains.
          The Honolulu Memorial was erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1964 and was dedicated on May 1, 1966. It was erected to honor the sacrifices and achievements of American Armed Forces in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean Conflict. In 1980, it was enlarged to include the missing of the Vietnam Conflict.
          This impressive memorial sits high on the wall of Puowaina Crater overlooking the graves area of the cemetery. It consists of a non-sectarian chapel, two map galleries, a monumental staircase leading from the crater floor to the Court of Honor, ten Courts of the Missing and a Dedicatory Stone centered at the base of the stairway on which is inscribed, 'IN THESE GARDENS ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN SERVICE TO THEIR COUNTRY AND WHOSE EARTHLY RESTING PLACE IS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD."
          In the ten Courts of the Missing which flank the monumental staircase are recorded the names of 18,094 World War II heroes missing in action (MIA) or lost or buried at sea in the Pacific (excluding the Southwest Pacific and the Palau Islands - the MIA's from these areas are memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery), 8,195 in the Korean Conflict, and 2,489 in the Vietnam Conflict, a total of 28,778 names.
          On the front of the tower which houses the chapel is a 30-foot female figure, known as "Columbia", standing on the symbolized prow of a U.S. Navy carrier with a laurel branch in her left hand. Engraved below the figure is the poignant sympathy expressed by President Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby, mother of five sons who died in battle, "...THE SOLEMN PRIDE THAT MUST BE YOURS TO HAVE LAID SO COSTLY A SACRIFICE UPON THE ALTAR OF FREEDOM."
          The map galleries extend fromt he right and left sides of the tower and they contain mps and texts recording the achievements of the American Armed Forces in the central and south Pacific regions and in Korea.

          This information was prepared by the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club, whose members man the information center as a community service. If you need more information regarding the cemetery, please call (808) 532-3720, weekdays, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.)

 

Copyright 2002-2015 Lorraine Marks-Haislip