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Kahuku Field

Text By David Trojan

Kahuku Army Airfield / Kuilima Air Park, Kahuku, HI, is located at 21.71 North / 157.97 West, North of Honolulu, HI. There are references to Kahuku as an emergency field dating to the 1930's, but it was not until the United States entered World War II that the airfield was developed.  Kahuku Army Airfield was classified as an auxiliary field and had a very short life span, from 1942 until it was closed in the late 1940's.  Ground troops were stationed in the area to protect the airfield and man the shoreline fortifications.  The northern tip of Oahu had a total of three airfields in close proximity during World War II. The Kahuku Point Airfield was located near the tip of Kahuku Point, and was evidently the most elaborate. An August 20, 1942 aerial photo depicted it having a single paved runway by that point (Hawaiian, 2000). A 1943 USGS topo map depicted the "Kahuku Point" Airfield, as well as two others, further down the coast to the southeast labeled as "Kahuku Golf Course" & "Kahuku Village". All three of the Kahuku airfields were subtitled "Emer", and were depicted as single runways paralleling the shore (Freeman, 2005).

The Kahuku Army Airfields were used for training of pilots from Wheeler AAF for instrument flying on different types of aircraft.  The airfield was ideal for training because it had a good approach, runway length, and take off clearance. This field was not over populated like Hickam or Wheeler. It is documented that the 18th Air base Group, 47th Pursuit Squadron was stationed there along with B-24s and B-17s that were based at Kahuku for short periods of time during World War II (McKillop, 2005).

At the end of World War II, the military returned the Kahuku property to its owners when it was no longer needed to defend Oahu from attack and all three of the Kahuku airfields were closed.  Kahuku AAB was depicted on the 1947 Hawaiian Islands Sectional Chart as a closed airfield, having a 6,500' hard-surface runway (Freeman, 2005).  This was presumably the former "Kahuku Point" Airfield. The other two Kahuku airfields were not depicted at all. No airfields at Kahuku were depicted on the October 1954 Hawaiian Islands Sectional Chart. In the early 1960s prior to the opening of the Campbell Race Course, the Kahuku airfield runways were used for both drag racing & the first Hawaii Grand Prix sports car race.

            At some point between 1954-77 the former Kahuku Point airfield was apparently reused as a private civil airfield, as that is how "Kuilima Air Park" was depicted on the December 1977 Hawaiian Islands Sectional Chart. It was depicted as having a single 2,700' hard-surface runway. The 1983 USGS topo map depicted a single 2,800' runway at the location of the former Kahuku Point Airfield, labeled simply "Landing Strip". However, it also depicted much longer (5,200') cleared area resembling another runway, running south of the "Landing Strip" to the south. At the site of the former Kahuku Golf Course Airfield, it depicted a 6,500' long cleared area, unlabeled (Freeman, 2005).  

Very little remains today of the three Kahuku Army Airfields.  The Turtle Bay Hilton's golf course has absorbed two of the runways.  This site is typical of a former airfield converted into a golf course.  The long runways are ideal for golf fairways.  Ironically, the only airfield to survive is a short length of the Kahuku Golf Course Airfield.  The northwestern portion has been covered by aquaculture equipment built on the runway by a lease tenant.  Very little evidence of Kahuku's World War II fortifications remain except one bunker site that is keeping its past military secrets.  The entrance to the bunker is buried in sand and brush leaving only two concrete structures exposed.  Scattered concrete pillboxes covered by low brush and debris can be found in the surrounding jungle.  No historical markers indicating the areas past could be found. All guests and hotel staff questioned had no idea of the areas history.  Currently, a small privately owned heliport for daytime VFR use only is located at the Turtle Bay Hilton next to the main hotel building. 

South oblique 4 Sep 41 (USN Photo)

Vertical view 1 Oct 41, (USN Photo)

North Oblique 20 Aug 42, (USN Photo)

NOAA Aerial Photo in 2000. The area is now part of the FWS Campbell Wildlife Refuge

Satellite view of Kahuku in 2004, AirphotoUSA

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