The retired Army colonel and local activist Ann Wright wants the state to end the use of Pohakuloa lava lands on Hawaii Island as a military training area that includes live fire.

Hawaii already has retired the Navy and Air Force from bombing Kahoolawe island and dismissed the Army from Makua Valley live fire on Oahu.

I guess the “aloha aina” people want the U.S. military to take its training to some other state — maybe California. Just not this state. They don’t want a rocket-launch site at South Point or TMT on Mauna Kea either. Just land to be looked at and not abused.

That’s a fine objective, just not totally practical in a practical world. If we’re going to close down all live fire ranges here, then we have to close down most all military installations here. Tourism and the military are currently our only substantial slices of an economy.

Pohakuloa doesn’t have any practical use. It’s part of state ceded lands between volcanoes and we leased it to the Army 56 years ago. We certainly should have demanded more than what we did — $65 for 65 years of use. Pretty ridiculous, huh? But that was in the middle of the Vietnam War and our 25th Division and the Kaneohe Marines were being sent there without much realistic training on artillery, tank movement and close air support.

Military use of the land is perfectly legal under the ceded lands laws, but the state is required to closely monitor the use and the court evidence has been that it has not. It left that to the Army. It policed itself.

There was a precedent for that. We had let the Marines use the training ground however they wanted during WWII when they were based just outside Waimea.

But since that time, weaponry changed dramatically and Pohakuloa would become tainted with unexploded bombs and shells and lots of depleted uranium rounds from tank fire when the 25th Division still had heavy armor units.

That’s not good and means the Army has not been a good steward of the land.

I’m not a subscriber to that local theory that some lands are “sacred” to Hawaiians or others. Some certainly were in early history when belief in gods and ghosts ignored science. But today? That’s mostly mumbo-jumbo that disguises a yearning for an earlier time of Native Hawaiian prevalence in these lands.

We do much more damage to our lands with almost-unrestricted housing development. Look at our formerly gorgeous Koolau hills on Oahu!

Pohakuloa likely needs better state supervision of clean-ups and kinds of usage and damage done.

But cancelling the lease is the true cutting off the nose to spite the face. We’d have to also live without the military and all the money Uncle Sam spends here yearly for military construction and civilian salaries.

Is that what you want?


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

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  1. Absolutely, Bob, let’s have Peace in the World, not wars and aggression, of which America plays a big role. Let’s have respect for what is sacred to the indigenous. That would be a first for America. Thanks to Ann Wright, others, including me, who speak and write against this destructive action by the military and Hawaii government! I’ll agree that unrestricted housing development on land that could feed us is unconscionable! But allowing the military to pollute the land and water is too.

  2. I once took a tour of the Makaua Valley sponsored in the military. Before we started we were forced to listen to a Hawaiian chant asking permission to enter this sacred place.
    Would they have allowed a Christian prayer?
    Never! It violates church and state separation.

  3. Yes! I, too, demand a world of rainbows, waterfalls, and unicorns where the Menehune skip through the fields, there is no war or disease, and everyone eats for free like the noble peoples of the earth uncontaminated by cruel Western thought! Let’s all shout it from the rooftops to anyone who will listen! Lead the way!

  4. I too would like to see forever lasting peace and happiness for all. Unfortunately that is not the way the world is with many human bad forces abiding around the world if not also right here in the good old USA so we do need protection. As a military surgeon who cared for thousands of wounded personnel I would love to think we do not need the protection of our military, but we do, and they do need their training. I learned that as a battery commander of a 90 mm gun battery 2nd Lt U.S. Army before attending medical school. The army should clean up all unexploded ordinance on a regular basis.

    1. My thinking exactly. Patty and others fail to appreciate that there are countries (Russia in particular) that seek to recover “colonies” they lost when the USSR folded and would move on Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine in a heartsick were it not for NATO and our membership in it. China was be all over Taiwan, Bhutan and Kashmir. I’d like to see nukes gone as even a weapon of last choice, but if one has it, all have to have it to deter use against a superior ground force. It’s the way of the world. Not good, but some school kids are always bullies.

  5. In response to the comment from George S., I think the Hawaiian chant was meant as a cultural, not religious, observance.

    I agree with you and Gerald Mayfield that, on a practical basis, a military presence is needed in Hawaii and that the army should be clearing unexploded ordnance regularly.

    In your paragraph on not subscribing to the local theory that some lands are “sacred” (why is this word in quotation marks?), when you say “mumbo jumbo”, are you referring to “the belief in gods and ghosts”? I know you said in a previous column that you are a 100% science person, and maybe I’m misunderstanding your meaning, but putting the word ‘sacred’ in quotation marks, and, if I understood correctly your use of ‘mumbo jumbo’, these seem to come across as derisive.

    1. “Sacred” in quotes because it’s somebody else’s word, not mine. Derisive? Yes, sometimes that’s a deserved response. I’m not given to worrying about everyone’s sensitivities.

  6. I will always remember my discussion with Maj. Gen. Herbert Wolff in this subject. He was of the opinion that the military would eventually leave Hawaii (too vulnerable and too expensive) except for the folks in the Kunia Tunnel.

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