About Marine Corps Base Hawai
The Mokapu Peninsula, home of MCBH Kaneohe Bay has been inhabited since the 13th Century. The warrior tradition of Kamehameha the Great is embodied in the spirit of the Marines and Sailors who inhabit these grounds today. History shows that the peninsula’s natural strategic assets have long been recognized. Numerous artifacts remain, providing testimony to a heritage rich in military significance. The first use of Mokapu for military purposes may have been at Ulupau Crater during the mid-1700s. Experts believe that
forces loyal to great chief Kahekili used the sheer cliffs on extinct volcano Ulupau, as part
of reconnaissance efforts to shield signal fires and torches while relaying information back
to lookouts on Molokai.
Mokapu, meaning sacred land, is the site of several heiau (pronounced Hay-ow), small temples built of lava rock. Most notable is the fishing shrine at the farthest extension of Pyramid Rock. Many early inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands were buried on Mokapu Peninsula. When royalty moved to Waikiki in the 19th century, the “Great Mahele” (land reformation) made way for farming and trade on Mokapu.
In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson established an army reservation near Ulupau Crater and in 1939, the Navy adapted the flat, isolated Mokapu Peninsula as an ideal base of operations for seaplanes. From these beginnings, Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay emerged.
Kaneohe Air Station set numerous precedents on December 7, 1941, “date that will live in infamy.” Kaneohe Bay was the first base attacked by Japanese aircraft, losing 18 sailors
and one civilian, plus 24 of its 36 aircraft. A commemorative plaque on Reed Road now marks the site of the first crash of a Japanese airplane flown by the highest-ranking
Japanese officer killed during the attack. Another distinction earned at Kaneohe that day was the first Medal of Honor awarded for Heroic Action in the Pacific, presented to Kaneohe sailor John Finn for whom the new naval administration building on Mokapu
Road is named.
Following WWII, Mokapu Peninsula was left in a caretaker status until 1951 when the Marine Corps identified it as the ideal site for air/ground combat training. In 1952, Colonel Frank G. Dailey became commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay. Today, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay is home to more than 9,000 active duty Marines and Sailors engaged in the U.S. Pacific Rim strategy.