A small program from August 7, 1941 has been preserved in the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii’s Archival Collection for many years. The program tells of an event that we later discovered hosted intrigue and subterfuge. Two months before the attack on the Hawaiian Islands on December 7, 1941, Wheeler Airfield opened its gates to the general public for a ‘Galaday’ event. The celebration was in honor of the completion of two buildings on Wheeler Field, the airdrome and Post Office. The establishment of flying fields and new equipment and capabilities were essential to Army readiness should the United States enter the war. The Cachet Director of the gala said this about the dedication, “Now, at this time of national emergency, we have the finest network of flying fields of any country in the world.”

The event was open to the general public, drawing large crowds with both military and civilians attending. After the dedication ceremony, American pilots performed aerobatics to the delight of the crowd. There was an All-Star Baseball Game with the Honolulu All-Stars verses the Wheeler Field team, and music was performed by the Wheeler Band. Photography was restricted and precautions made, but a single Japanese spy was able to gain access to the base. He observed the flying skills of the pilots, mentally noted the airplane’s capabilities, paced off the length of the airfield, and identified possible targets.

Wheeler Airfield was targeted by the Japanese military for its aerial capabilities. We do not know if the information the spy gathered was passed on to enemy intelligence, or if it was, whether it contributed to the fate of Wheeler Field on December 7th, 1941. Wheeler Field incurred quite a bit of damage from the attack, but it wasn’t crippling to its mission. The airfield was cleared, repairs made, and operations up and running shortly after the attack.