Saturday, December 18, 2010

Things to Do: Punchbowl National Cemetery

In a nod to Veterans and Things to Do, one of the places to visit is the National Memorial of the Pacific in the Pu'waina Crater.  Pu'waina means "Hill of Sacrifice" in Hawaiian and appropriately is the resting place for those that sacrificed for their country.  The old volcano crater forms a "Punchbowl" and hence, is referred to as Punchbowl.   

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The cemetery is located at 2177 Puowaina Drive, for those that want to use Google Maps for directions,  and is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm.  There is no charge for parking.  Just remember to be respectful, there might be a ceremony in progress when you drive up.  

Punchbowl was used for many things: cannon emplacement for ceremonies, a rifle range, and shore batteries to guard Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.  It wasn't until Congress approved funds and construction started for what is now a national cemetery in 1948.  The first internments were made in 1949 and Punchbowl was opened to the public on July 19th, 1949.  There are over 13,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen laid to rest in Punchbowl's 116 acres.  There are several notable "residents" at Punchbowl including: Ernie Pyle, the famous war correspondent in World War II; Hank Hansen, one of the Iwo Jima flag raisers; and Ellison Onizuka, one of the astronauts killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

At the base of the stairs is a dedication to those who were lost or buried at sea or are listed as Missing In Action.  The honorees fought in the Pacific during World War II, Korea, and added in 1980, Vietnam.  

The Courts of the Missing flank the stairs and are inscribed with the names of over 28,000 thousand soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

At the top of stairs, in the Court of Honor overlooking the cemetery is the statue of Columbia (also known as Lady Liberty or Justice).  Lady Columbia is similar to Uncle Sam, but the female embodiment of the Nation.  In her left hand is a laurel branch and under her feet is the bow of a Navy ship.  The inscription below is text taken from President Lincoln's note to Mrs. Bixby, a grieving mother who lost her five sons in the Union Army during the Civil War.    

 The side "wings" flanking Columbia are chapels commemorating the different campaigns in the Pacific.

For those historians, each campaign has a mural depicting the conflict.

In between the two wings is a non-denominational chapel.  

A plaque from the 442nd Veterans Club near the stairs to Lady Columbia.  The 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) was formed in Hawaii and fought in Europe during World War II.  It become one of the most decorated units in World War II, with 21 members earning the Congressional Medal of Honor and 9,486 members earning the Purple Heart.  The 442nd RCT fought in Italy, southern France, and Germany.  One of the unit's notable actions was reaching the "Lost Battalion" in the Vosges Mountains.  The "Lost Battalion" was the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment that was encircled by the German Army.  It was cut off for a week until the 442nd fought through German lines and reached them.  One of its notable alumni is Daniel Inouye, current senator from Hawaii and President pro tempore of the United States Senate.    

You can also walk to the summit to get a good view of the crater or Waikiki.  There are plaques that line the walkway to the top.

Some plaques that commemorate units that served with distinction in the Pacific.  

Other plaques dedicated to those that gave their lives for their country.

 The sights inside the Punchbowl are picture worthy, but you can get a scenic view outside the grounds.  There is a path outside and you can get a good look at the Waikiki skyline.

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