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kIPAPA fIELD

 

Text by David Trojan

Kipapa Airfield was located at North 21.44 / 158.015 West, North-West of Honolulu, HI.  The date of construction of the Kipapa airfield has not been determined.  Kipapa means 'Paving the Way' in Hawaiian. This airfield served to pave the way for many military units going overseas.  A World War II veteran said the place was just cut out of the sugarcane patch.  Finding the exact location of this airfield was a challenge.  Many references concerning military units stationed at the airfield were found, but its location could not be established.  Military base public affairs offices reported numerous inquiries from veterans wanting to revisit the site, however, they did not know the location.  It was not until the discovery of a 1943 Territory of Hawaii, Kaukonahua Quadrangle Terrain Map that the location was confirmed. 

It was not until sometime after the United States entered World War II that Kipapa Airfield was developed.  A careful survey was made of the entire Island of Oahu in 1940 for sites on which landing fields could be constructed.  With the exception of the Kipapa Gulch area, all level ground that might be available for airfields was either so occupied, projects were underway for preparation of airfields, or the turbulence in the air created by the close proximity of mountain ranges precluded such development. The Kipapa Gulch area was the only site remaining where an airfield could be constructed.

The site commonly referred to as the Kipapa Gulch area was selected because it could accommodate two 5,000-foot runways free from obstructions.  Two reasons precluded the use of the area initially.  First was that it was located about two-thirds of the distance between Pearl Harbor and Wheeler Field which would further increase the congestion of the air over that part of the island.  Secondly, it would remove from cultivation a highly productive tract of land (Martin, Bellinger, 1941).

The principal objection to the use of this site, which was congestion of the air over the Pearl Harbor area, was much less of a handicap because the site was proposed for use by the Navy for the training of carrier groups rather than as a station for Army pursuit aviation.  The use of this site by the Navy would permit the concentration of carrier-group training for Naval aviation on the south side of the island of Oahu including Barber's Point, Kipapa Gulch, and Ford Island.  As the training from these stations would be entirely under Naval control it lends itself to aerial traffic regulations which would be difficult to attain if large numbers of airplanes of the two services were intermingled.  The Kipapa Gulch area was advantageously located for occupancy of carrier-group aviation in that the site was readily accessible to the parent vessels of the carrier groups.  It facilitated in the transfer of personnel and supplies to and from the parent vessels in Pearl Harbor.  Lastly, It was advantageous in making for ease of supervision of the training of all carrier-based Naval aviation (Martin, Bellinger, 1941).  World War II started before the airfield was constructed.  During the war it apparently saw little use by the Navy due to the fact that carrier aircraft were constantly deployed during the war.  The Army Air Corps became the principal user of the airfield by default. 

Kipapa Field was a major transiting point for units going overseas.  Aircraft from this airfield searched and patrolled over the surrounding Pacific area, maintaining a 24-hour vigil to avert any attack.  A large number and variety of squadrons are documented to have been stationed at Kipapa Airfield during World War II.  The 5th Bombardment Group, 31st Bombardment Squadron, transferred from Hickam Field to Kipapa Field with B-17's and B-18's on 23 May 1942 until 9 September 1942 when they moved to Kualoa Airfield.  The HQ 90th Bombardment Group, 321st Bombardment Squadron arrived at Kipapa Airfield 12 September 1942 from the mainland United States with B-24s and began flying their first missions by November 1942. The Thirteenth Air Force, 307th Bombardment Group, 370th Bombardment Squadron arrived at Kipapa Field 2 November 1942 from the mainland United States with B-24s and flew sea-search missions between Nov-Dec 1942.  The 18th Fighter Group, 6th Fighter Squadron, moved from Kahuku Airfield to Kipapa Airfield with P-70s in 17 November 1942.  The 28th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, Seventh Air Force (attached to VII Fighter Command), flying F-5s was based at Kipapa Airfield in July 1944.  The 38th Bomb Group, 70th Bombardment Squadron, equipped with Martin B-26 Marauders was kept on alert with 500-pound bombs at Kipapa Field during the time that the Battle of Midway was in progress.  Other units that spent time at Kipapa Airfield included: The 302nd Fighter Control Squadron October 1944; The 318th Fighter Group, 19th Fighter Squadron 30 May 1943, flying P-40's; The 92nd Air Refueling Squadron 18 Mar 1945, flying B-24ís Liberators; The 45th Airlift Squadron 9 Sep 1945; the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron Jun 1944; and the 7th Air Force, 549th Combat Training Squadron 20 Oct 1944 to 19 Feb 1945, flying P-61 Black Widow night fighters performing training and defense duties (McKillop, 2005).  Many other different types of aircraft used Kipapa Field during World War II including: P-40B, P-40F, P-70, P-61A, P-61B, and C-46D, because all were involved in accidents in the area. 

An analysis of a 1943 Territory of Hawaii, Kaukonahua Quadrangle, Terrain Map revealed a well-developed airfield that included three major runways with taxiways and nearby support buildings.  The next map that could be located that identified the airfield location was a Oahu Urban Usage Map, dated 1961, that showed the crossed runway pattern and identified it as Kipapa Airfield.  A 1967 water supply geological survey map lists Kipapa Airfield but has no other information.  By 1968 no trace of the Kipapa runways remained on the Department of the Interior Geological Survey Maps.

Nothing remains today of the former Kipapa Airfield.  Its central location and level area made it ideal for development.  The property has become a Mililani Town housing development.  The entire airfield area is located south the Mililani Golf Course between Meheula Parkway and Hokuala Streets.  Mililani District Park is located near the intersection of the two main runways; unfortunately, there are no indications of this site's military history. The residents in the area would be surprised to learn that they now live on the site of an historic World War II airfield.

Map showing location of Kipapa Field

Wood frame builings on Kipapa Field

Courtesy US Army

P-61 Black Widow crew at Kipapa

Courtesy US Army

6th NFS P-61s at Kipapa, 1945

Courtesy Mark Stevens

Kipapa Buildings and P-61s, 1945,

Courtesy Mark Stevens

Maintenance on a P-47 and P-61s at Kipapa, 1945

Courtesy Mark Stevens

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