Few national cemeteries can compete with the dramatic natural setting of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The “Punchbowl” was formed some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago during the Honolulu period of secondary volcanic activity. A crater resulted from the ejection of hot lava through cracks in the old coral reefs which, at the time, extended to the foot of the Koolau Mountain Range.
Although there are various translations of the Punchbowl’s Hawaiian name, “Puowaina,” the most common is “Hill of Sacrifice.” This translation closely relates to the history of the crater. The first known use was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to pagan gods and the killed violators of the many taboos. Later, during the reign of Kamehameha the Great, a battery of two cannons was mounted at the rim of the crater to salute distinguished arrivals and signify important occasions. Early in the 1880s, leasehold land on the slopes of the Punchbowl opened for settlement and in the 1930s, the crater was used as a rifle range for the Hawaii National Guard. Toward the end of World War II, tunnels were dug through the rim of the crater for the placement of shore batteries to guard Honolulu Harbor and the south edge of Pearl Harbor.
During the late 1890s, a committee recommended that the Punchbowl become the site for a new cemetery to accommodate the growing population of Honolulu. The idea was rejected for fear of polluting the water supply and the emotional aversion to creating a city of the dead above a city of the living.
Fifty years later, Congress authorized a small appropriation to establish a national cemetery in Honolulu with two provisions: that the location be acceptable to the War Department, and that the site would be donated rather than purchased. In 1943, the governor of Hawaii offered the Punchbowl for this purpose. The $50,000 appropriation proved insufficient, however, and the project was deferred until after World War II. By 1947, Congress and veteran organizations placed a great deal of pressure on the military to find a permanent burial site in Hawaii for the remains of thousands of World War II servicemen on the island of Guam awaiting permanent burial. Subsequently, the Army again began planning the Punchbowl cemetery; in February 1948 Congress approved funding and construction began.
Prior to the opening of the cemetery for the recently deceased, the remains of soldiers from locations around the Pacific Theater—including Wake Island and Japanese POW camps—were transported to Hawaii for final interment. The first interment was made Jan. 4, 1949. The cemetery opened to the public on July 19, 1949, with services for five war dead: an unknown serviceman, two Marines, an Army lieutenant and one civilian—noted war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Initially, the graves at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific were marked with white wooden crosses and Stars of David—like the American cemeteries abroad—in preparation for the dedication ceremony on the fourth anniversary of V-J Day. Eventually, over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died during World War II would be laid to rest in the Punchbowl.
Despite the Army’s extensive efforts to inform the public that the star- and cross-shaped grave markers were only temporary, an outcry arose in 1951 when permanent flat granite markers replaced them. A letter from the Quartermaster General to Senator Paul Douglas in December 1952, explained that while individual markers are inscribed according to the appropriate religious faith:
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was the first such cemetery to install Bicentennial Medal of Honor headstones, the medal insignia being defined in gold leaf. On May 11, 1976, a total of 23 of these were placed on the graves of medal recipients, all but one of whom were killed in action. The Punchbowl has become one of the area’s most popular tourist destinations. More than five million visitors come to the cemetery each year to pay their respects to the dead and to enjoy the panoramic view from the Punchbowl. One of the most breathtaking views of the Island of Oahu can be found while standing at the highest point on the crater’s rim.
In August 2001, about 70 generic unknown markers for the graves of men known to have died during the attack on Pearl Harbor were replaced with markers that included “USS Arizona” after it was determined they perished on this vessel. In addition, new information that identified grave locations of 175 men whose graves were previously marked as unknown resulted in the installation of new markers in October 2002. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
of Honor Recipients
Private Erwin Jay Boydston, (Boxer Rebellion), U.S. Marine Corps. Peking, China, July 21 – Aug. 17, 1900 (Section G, Grave 703).
Private First Class William Robert Caddy, (World War II), U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division. Iwo Jima, March 3, 1945 (Section C, Grave 81).
First Lieutenant George Ham Cannon, (World War II) U.S. Marine Corps, Battery H, 6th Defense Battalion, Fleet Marine Force. Sand Island, Midway Islands, Dec. 7, 1941 (Section C, Grave 1644).
Corporal Anthony Peter Damato, (World War II), U.S. Marine Corps. Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshal Islands, Feb. 19, 1944 (Section A, Grave 334).
Sergeant William G. Fournier, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company M, 35th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Mount Austen, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Jan. 13, 1943 (Section C, Grave 462).
Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class William David Halyburton, Jr., (World War II), U.S. Naval Reserve, Marine Rifle Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, May 10, 1945 (Section O, Grave 274).
Private Mikio Hasemoto, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division. Cerasuolo, Italy, Nov. 29, 1943 (Section D, Grave 338).
First Lieutenant William Dean Hawkins, (World War II), U.S. Marine Corps, Scout Sniper Platoon, Assault Regiment. Tarawa, Gilbert Island, Nov. 21, 1943 (Section B, Grave 646).
Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill, (World War II), U.S. Navy. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941 (Section A, Grave 895).
Staff Sergeant Robert T. Kuroda, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company H, 442nd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division. Bruyeres, France, Oct. 20, 1944 (Section D, Grave 92).
Corporal Larry Leonard Maxam, (Vietnam War), U.S. Marine Corps, Fire Team Leader, Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. Cam Lo District, Republic of South Vietnam, Feb. 2, 1968 (Section J, Grave 388).
Private First Class Martin O. May, (World War II), U.S. Army. Iegusuku-Yama, Ie Shima, Ryukyu Islands, April 23, 1943 (Section N, Grave 1242).
Gunnery Sergeant Robert Howard McCard, (World War II), U.S. Marine Corps, Platoon Sergeant, Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division. Saipan, Marianas Islands, June 16, 1944 (Section B, Grave 1024).
Sergeant LeRoy A. Mendonca, (Korean War), U.S. Army, Company B., 7th Infantry, 3d Division. Chichi-on, July 4, 1951 (Section Q, Grave 1408).
Private First Class Kaoru Moto, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company C, 100th Infantry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division. Castellina, Italy, July 7, 1944 (Court 2, Wall F, Row 400, Niche 422).
Sergeant Joseph E. Muller, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company B, 305th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. May 16, 1945 (Section N, Grave 1259).
Private Masato Nakae, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company A, 100th Infantry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division. Pisa, Italy, Aug. 19, 1944 (Section U, Grave 1446).
Private Shinyei Nakamine, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division. La Torreto, Italy, June 2, 1944 (Section D, Grave 402).
Sergeant Allan M. Ohata, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division. Cerasuolo, Italy, Nov. 29 and 30, 1943 (Section III, Grave 474).
Private Joseph William Ozbourn, (World War II), U.S. Marine Corps, 1st Battalion 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division. Tinian Island, Marianas Islands, July 30, 1944 (Section F, Grave 77).
Private First Class Herbert K. Pililaau, (Korean War), U.S. Army, Company C, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Pia-Ri, Sept. 17, 1951 (Section P, Grave 127).
Radio Electrician Thomas James Reeves, (World War II), U.S. Navy. On board U.S.S. California, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941 (Section A, Grave 884).
Second Lieutenant Joseph R. Sarnoski, (World War II), US Army Air Corps. Buka, Solomon Islands, June 16, 1943 (Section A, Grave 582).
Staff Sergeant Elmelindo R. Smith, (Vietnam War), U.S. Army. Feb. 16, 1967 (Section W, Grave 131).
Sergeant Grant Frederick Timmerman, (World War II), U.S. Marine Corps Tank Commander, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine, 2nd Marine Division. Saipan, Marianas Islands, July 8, 1944 (Section A, Grave 844).
Captain Francis B. Wai, (World War II), U.S. Army, 34th Infantry Regiment. Leyte, Philippines Islands, Oct. 20, 1944 (Section Q, Grave 1194).
First Lieutenant Benjamin F. Wilson, (Korean War), U.S. Army, Company I, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Hwach`on-Myon, Korea, June 5, 1951 (Section A, Grave 1060-A).
Sergeant First Class Rodney J. T. Yano, (Vietnam War), U.S. Army, Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Bien Hoa, Vietnam, Jan. 1, 1969 (Section W, Grave 614).
Technical Sergeant Yeiki Kobashigawa, (World War II), U.S. Army, Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion, 34th Infantry Division. Lanuvio, Italy, June 22, 1944 (Court 8, Wall E, Row 500, Niche 536).
Spark Masayuki Matsunaga, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, Section V, Grave 334-B, former U.S. Senator, interred on April 19, 1990.
Patsy Takemoto Mink, Section U, Grave 1001-B, U.S. Representative, Hawaii, interred on Oct. 4, 2002. Mrs. Mink was interred her based on her husband's eligibility.
Clara H. Nelson, Section U, Grave 653-A, interred on Dec. 17, 1979, was known throughout the Islands as "Hilo Hattie".
Ellison S. Onizuka, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Section D, Grave 1, interred on June 2, 1986. An astronaut aboard the ill-fated Challenger when it exploded on liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986.
Ernest Taylor Pyle, Seaman Third Class, U.S. Navy, Section D, Grave 109, interred on July 19, 1949. Pyle, a World War II correspondent, was killed by a Japanese sniper on Ie Shima, an island off the northern coast of Okinawa on April 18, 1945. He was awarded the Purple Heart by former President Ronald Reagan.
Charles Lacy Veach,
Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Court 3, Wall J, Niche 233, inurned on Sept.
10, 1995, was an astronaut. He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds
received in action in Vietnam.
Cemetery policies are conspicuously posted and readily visible to the public.
Floral arrangements accompanying the casket or urn at the time of burial will be placed on the completed grave. They will be removed when they become unsightly or when it becomes necessary to facilitate cemetery operations such as mowing.
Fresh cut flowers may be placed on graves at any time of the year.
Artificial flowers and potted plants will be permitted on graves during periods when their presence will not interfere with grounds maintenance. Potted plants and artificial flowers will be permitted on gravesites only during the period five days before to five days after Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, and "Hana Matsuri" (April 8). They will also be permitted from July 12 to August 15 in observance of "O-BON". Christmas trees, no matter what size, are not considered potted plants and will not be allowed. Floral items and other types of decorations will not be secured to markers or Columbarium walls.
Floral items and other decorations may be secured at a gravesite but may not be secured to headstones or markers.
Permanent plantings, statues,
vigil lights, breakable objects and similar items are not permitted on
the graves. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not permit adornments
that are considered offensive, inconsistent with the dignity of the cemetery
or considered hazardous to cemetery personnel. For example, items incorporating
beads or wires may become entangled in mowers or other equipment and cause
Reviewed/Updated Date: February 24, 2006