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MCAS Ewa came back into the news in 2008 with the proposed transfer of much of the former field from the Navy to private developers.   As the year 2008 draws to a close, community groups and concerned citizens have petitioned the Navy  and the state government to stop the pending transfer.  The consensus of the concerned people is that some or all of the land should be historically preserved as a significant battle site and the major USMC airbase of the Pacific up until 1952 when it closed.  The photos in the gallery below give an idea of what once was Ewa Field, and what now remains.



By David Trojan

Ewa Marine Corps Air Station is now an abandoned airfield located at 21.33 North / 158.05 West, west of Honolulu, on the property of the former site of Barber's Point Naval Air Station which closed September 1, 1999.  Its location on military land has allowed preservation of parts of the runways and some of the revetment areas up until now. 

The history of Ewa Marine Corps Air Station starts in the early 1930’s.  The Navy leased a 3,000 square foot piece of land from the estate of James Campbell to be used as a mooring location for US Navy airships, none of which ever cruised to Hawaii.  The Navy also built a 1,500-foot Outlying Field (OLF) near the mooring mast. Ewa was made available for Marine Corps aircraft use in 1939.  In September 1940, after the original lease expired, an additional 3,500 acres were acquired from the Campbell Estate for the enlargement of the OLF, which became Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Ewa.  The site, chosen for its ideal peacetime air-training atmosphere, was completed in early 1941 (Global, 2005). 

By the time of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, a total of four runways had been constructed, along with buildings & hangars.  Concurrently with the construction of MCAS Ewa, plans were already being developed for an expansion of naval aviation facilities at Barbers Point. Construction of an airfield west of Ewa began in November 1941, but was temporarily suspended after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor so that construction crews could rapidly complete Ewa.

USMC units assigned to MCAS Ewa at the time of the attack included Marine Air Group 21, VMF-211, VMSB-231, VMSB-232, and VMJ-252 squadrons.  Aircraft present at Ewa MCAS on 7 Dec 1941 consisted of the following:

Base construction was well underway by Dec. 7, 1941, but was only one year old when the Japanese attacked US forces in Hawaii, marking the United States’ entrance into World War II.  Although much of the attack was concentrated at Pearl Harbor, Wheeler Air Force Base and Hickam Field, the Ewa Marine Corps Air Station and its supporting equipment sustained a great deal of damage. Nine of 11 total Wildcats, 19 of 32 scout bombers and all six utility aircraft were rendered inoperable (Global, 2005). 

Ewa Field was hit hard on the morning of December 7th.  Japanese aircraft tore into the base 2 minutes before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Zero's repeatedly strafed the aircraft, men, and equipment of the base initially, and then Vals took over the job returning from their runs at Pearl Harbor.  Of the 49 aircraft based at the field that morning 33 were destroyed and 16 seriously damaged.  Ewa Field had the unfortunate luck of being near the rendezvous point for the Japanese aircraft before returning to their carriers. The Japanese airmen used the base as a last opportunity to utilize ammunition not spent at their original targets (Hawaiian, 2000). 

            The Pearl Harbor attack, along with the increasing need for additional facilities to train pilots, led to an extensive construction project at Ewa MCAS.  During World War II Ewa Field was developed into a sizable airfield and was originally intended to be the main Marine Corps base for Oahu.  During this time the airfield was fortified with concrete aircraft revetments and beach defenses (Hawaiian, 2000).  The new air station and the Marine Corps Air Station quickly became hubs of aviation activity as the Navy and Marine Corps amassed forces in Hawaii to carry the war across the Pacific. Base operations centered on working up carrier air groups and squadrons for deployment to combat operations farther west.

Barbers Point, originally intended as an Out laying Field (OLF) for NAS Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, was still not complete when it was established as a naval air station on 15 April 1942 with 14 officers and 242 enlisted personnel (Global, 2005).

By the end of 1947, the future of the stations was uncertain in the face of post-war budget constraints. During the late 1940s, NAS Barbers Point was the beneficiary of a consolidation of naval aviation facilities on the leeward side of the island. The role of NAS Barbers Point was solidified in 1949 when it began supporting all aviation operations on leeward Oahu (Global, 2005).

The Korean War brought a new surge of activity to Ewa, but the jet aircraft then being introduced to the Marine Corps were increasingly unsuitable for Ewa's short runways, and the close proximity of NAS Barber's Point ruled out any extension of Ewa's runways.  As a result, Marine aviation relocated to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, and MCAS Ewa was declared excess & disestablished in 1952 (Global, 2005).  Ewa’s airfield property was then absorbed into NAS Barber's Point.  

Many of Ewa’s fortifications survive to this day.  The remnants of the old airfield are still visible today although much of the original station is gone.  Originally the runways at Ewa were designated 3-21 and 8-26.  Most of the departure end of Runway 8 is now a golf course.  Runway 3 is mostly covered in brush but much of its original length survives.  On weekends the old runway still enjoys some company.  Remote controlled planes are often flown from the old field.  Many of the airfield's facilities remain intact at Ewa despite the intrusions by more modern activities.  The many concrete revetments built in the late 1940's are still in relatively good condition and some now house horses instead of aircraft.  The hangers at the field survive as a storage warehouse for a local company.  There is no hope of this field ever being returned to active service for any type of aircraft operations.  The close proximity of Barbers Point/Kalaeloa/ John Rodgers Field eliminates a need for runways in the Ewa area. 


This material below is reprinted with permission, from UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS AIR STATIONS OF WORLD WAR II by M. L. Shettle and available online at:  http://www.airbasebooks.com/default.htm  Only selected portions are excerpted.  The file is large so allow time to load and use Acrobat Reader then rotate the screen 90 degrees clockwise.

Excerpt of EWA MCAS by Shettle


Photo gallery of Ewa MCAS Below:

World War II detailed map of MCAS Ewa Field

F2A-3 May 1942 Aerial in camouflage revetment FAPL Photo

Pilots & Officers of VMF 213

Courtesy Robert Hill

Group Photo at MCAS Ewa

N Oblique BPNAS Ewa 9 Jun 50, FAPL Photo

BPNAS and Ewa Vertical Oblique 1--14-53, FAPL Photo

BPNAS Ewa vertical 9-10-57

BPNAS Ewa MCAS vertical 11-20-59

Ewa vertical 3-9-64, FAPL Photo

FAPL Photo montage from Barbers Pt to Iroquois Pt. 3-16-65

Barbers Pt to Ewa Beach in mid 60's, FAPL Photo

Ewa Aerial in 2000, NOAA Photo

2005 Photo of revetments, Photo by D. Trojan

2005 Runway markings, Photo by D. Trojan

2004 Satellite Photo of Ewa showing more housing and golf course encroachment, By AirPhotoUSA

2006 Photo of MCAS hangar by Colin Perry

Bldg 1146, Old Ewa MCAS Hangar, taken over by the Navy in June of 1952 and used as a storage facility until base closure. Now gutted and covered with graffiti,

Bldg 1149 Ewa Field

Power Supply Bldg 1151

Inside of Bldg 1151 in 2006

Bldg 1152 in 2006

WWII Machine Gun Pit with mount and armor

Found on a field survey in 2006

Closeup of machine gun mount










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