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Ford Island is a 450-acre site at the heart of the Pearl Harbor historic district. Though the island’s first use was for large-scale sugar cultivation, it was acquired by the U.S. government for Army and Navy development and transformed into a major air facility in the late 1930s. Shortly after the first wave of Japanese aircraft flew over Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, the USS Arizona exploded and sank with 1,177 of her crew in less than nine minutes. By 10 a.m., 21 vessels lay sunken or damaged, the air full of smoke and death. Americans, previously divided over the issue of U.S. involvement in World War II, rallied to enter and win the war.
Read more Background on Ford Island.
What threatens it?
In 1999 National Trust and the Historic Hawaii Foundation first learned that the Navy planned a major housing development, a festival market place, and a recreational marina on Ford Island. The National Trust expressed concern over the plans in a letter to then-Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig.
Despite ongoing efforts since then-including nearly two years of discussions-resolution has not occurred regarding the future of this landmark and the Navy’s plans for developing housing, commercial and recreational uses. The Navy has asked potential developers to be sensitive to the island’s historic character, but the Navy’s need for new facilities has caused it to move forward without completing the preservation planning needed for one of the nation’s most significant 20th-century landmarks.
What can be done?
An agreement must be worked out with the Navy to ensure that development on the island follows a comprehensive master plan that gives full and careful consideration of the island’s historic resources, starting with a completed cultural resources plan. It is important that a collaborative, public process inform development planning.
“It is commonly understood that to know where we are going, we must know where we have been,” said Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of ‘Pearl Harbor.’ “To that end, it is crucial to protect Ford Island at Pearl Harbor from insensitive development. Given its proximity to Battleship Row, and the fact that the island hosts the original airfield, air tower, World War II hangars, bungalows, officers’ housing and more, it is imperative that we preserve the essence of Ford Island. While the attack on Pearl Harbor is burned into the communal American memory, we cannot – and should not – rely on recollection alone. Ford Island lies at the heart of Pearl Harbor’s National Historic Landmark District; sheltering this integrity is essential.”