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Outside of U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii.

You may recall from my editorial that I had recently been on a trip with my wife to the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Oahu, amazing places that I’m sure some of you have also had the pleasure of visiting. Upon mentioning the island of Oahu, most will immediately think of the WWII Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Although not exactly Canadian military history, it is significant world history that affected the outcome of World War II and the way we all live today. If you’re wondering, yes, we did visit the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites which included the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (USS Arizona), USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Battleship Missouri Memorial. With only one out of our four day visit to Oahu allowed for Pearl Harbor, time did not permit us to visit the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island. If you haven’t been there and plan to visit someday, these historical sites are a definite must. They are amazing, full of emotional history and deserving of at least a two day visit if you really want to experience all they have to offer at an enjoyable pace.

What follows is not an account of my visit to Pearl Harbor but of an unexpected visit to another military attraction that Oahu had to offer. It wasn’t on our pre-trip list of must see or things to do but was something we discovered while there. During the shuttle bus drive from the Honolulu airport to our hotel in Waikiki, two military tanks on display in front of a building immediately caught my eye. With the bus almost past the building, a second look back allowed me to see a sign which said U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii. Hmmm? My initial thought was whether we would have the opportunity to visit as our plans had allowed for little free time. Lo and behold, after checking out of our hotel on our last day there and with about four hours left before our flight back home, it happened, a visit to the museum. While walking along the street and enjoying our last views of Honolulu, there it was. My wife decided to walk along the beach and I chose to visit the museum. What a great and unexpected surprise!

First and just quickly, the two tanks on display in front of the museum. One a U.S. M24 Chaffee Light Tank and the other a Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tank. It was the Japanese tank that really caught my attention as I had never seen a real WWII example of Japanese tracked armour in person. Simply amazing and more about this tank later on. At the risk of being wrong, I’m guessing this museum is sometimes overlooked by visitors to Honolulu because of Pearl Harbor but having said this, the day I was there, the museum was being well visited. In my opinion and for anyone else who appreciates military history, I found this museum to be just as interesting as Pearl Harbor and well worth visiting. In fact, one of the gallery displays was about the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was an extremely well laid out exhibit that provided a perfect balance between narrative information, artefact and pictorial displays that kept me interested and wanting to see more. Unlike many attractions, admission to this museum is free.

My first thought was “hey…bonus”, but after viewing the galleries and seeing all that was on display, I couldn’t help but make a donation as the museum was easily deserving of paid admission and donation boxes were conveniently located throughout the facility. The museum is housed inside Battery Randolph, a former coastal artillery battery that is now part of the Fort DeRussy Military Reservation and makes for a perfect venue. Historical periods from the early days of aboriginal Hawaiian warfare to Viet Nam were presented throughout various galleries. As one would expect, there was a detailed display of the battery’s history but there was also a gallery that honoured citizens of Hawaii who have been awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross or Air Force Cross. When reading any of the citations that outline the particulars of a recipient’s actions that earned them one of these medals, it’s almost unimaginable that someone could be so heroic and brave. As stated previously, what a great and unexpected surprise but when I say this now, it’s not because of the bonus opportunity to visit but is because of what I actually experienced inside the museum. Simply amazing and more than I expected. Before I get to more details about the Japanese tank, I definitely recommend a visit to this museum if you’re in Honolulu. Whether you’re an avid military historian or simply accompanying your better half, you will not be disappointed. If you want to know more about this museum, there’s plenty of info and pictures available online at Hawaii Army Museum Society

Article is an excerpt from Terry Witiuk for CMP Magazine Issue #81, April 2020.

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