Punchbowl National Cemetery

By Jerry Bourn, Tassa Torres and Rose Bega

Looking for a relaxing place to spend a few hours and learn about history of the Pacific Campaign's of World War II. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a place you might consider spending a few hours taking in the historical points and the breathtaking view of Honolulu from Pouwaina lookout.

Have you ever wondered why this cemetery was given the name Punchbowl? Its because of its shape. The cemetery lies in an extinct volcano called POUWAINA and consists of 116 acres. Roughly translated, "Pouwaina" means "Consecrated Hill" or "Hill of Sacrifice." Punchbowl was the site of many secret "alii" (royal) burials. It was also the place where offenders of certain "kapus" (taboos) were sacrificed.

The easiest route to get to Punchbowl coming from the West (or from Diamond Head), is by the Pali Highway and Pacific Heights Road. Turn left on Pauoa Street and down to Lusitaina Street. Follow the road until you come to Auwaiolimu Street, cross the intersection and take a left. You are now on Pouwaina Drive the road leading into the cemetery.

If you are coming East or (Ewa) along Ala Moana Boulevard, turn left on to Ward continue until you come to Prospect Street, turn left and continue until Prospect changes into Pouwaina Drive.

This cemetery serves as one of the Nation's two honored resting places in the Pacific. The American Military Cemetery at Manila is the other. It is a resting place for the recovered remains of those who gave their lives during World War II. Also the unidentified remains of 800 servicemen who died in Korea. The cemetery was in 1986 also dedicated to the service persons who fought in Vietnam. Some of these service persons include Ernie Pile, (the first person to be buried in the cemetery on the day it first open in 1949.) Our late Senator Spark Matsunaga, Ellison Onizuka, (first astronaut from Hawaii,) who perished in the Challenger accident and Charles L. Veach (the second astronaut from Hawaii.) As these servicemen went on to meet greater challenges in life, the Cemetery's hallow concern is to those who never had a chance to accomplish their dreams.

As you come through the gates you pass the ships mast, and proceed on to the Memorial,which sets back against the bowl wall. Parking is available to the side and in the back of the Memorial. The Memorial consists of the monumental stairs flanked by the ten "Courts of the Missing." On its walls are the names of 26,280 American heroes. Each of them was recorded as missing, lost or buried at sea. The names are alphabetized and by service branch to help you in your search. As you reach the top of the stairs, you come to the "Court of Honor." A commemorated forecourt to all branches of the Service. The center tower which has a statue known as "Columbia"( A 30 foot female figure, with laurel branch, standing on the symbolized prow of a Navy Carrier) is where the chapel is located. On each side of the chapel is the map galleries . The galleries are inscribed with the names of notable significance in the proud record of our Armed Services. The Memorial was built from various types of marble from Italy and the windows are of a foremost color in honor of the branches of the service. The surrounding floral is from the islands of the Pacific Campaigns and of Hawaii. Little of the ground coverings and floral has been changed since it was originally planted.

The Cemetery is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on the weekend is staffed with veterans. These people are willing to help you in finding a grave and most show a sense of honor in doing so. A new law prohibits the stopping of tour buses and they make a loop to the memorial, passing the graves of Ernie Pile and Ellison Onizuka. The cemetery allows you to bring fresh flowers, flower lei's for the grave site. Potted plants are allowed for short periods only. Several floral shops in Honolulu know the requirements and will make arrangements accordingly. The Cemetery is at present full, except for a few sites for the Spouses of some the servicemen. In the right corner of the Cemetery is the Columbarium site where vases of servicemen and women are kept.

The cemetery invites you to roam among the graves and has benches to where you can sit and view the cemetery or look out at different parts of Honolulu. A camera for pictures of the view inside and out will help you remember. You may want to bring a hat for the sun and in case of the Moana sprinkles. A small breeze seems to blow on the crater rim almost all the time. Make sure you sign the guest book and write down your comments of the memorial, for ways of helping to improve or just your feelings of the cemetery.

Punchbowl is a recreation area of a different type, its purpose is to help you set a little time aside to relax and remember, helping to honor these servicemen and women. It has no beach to sun in or water to play in. Its a place where you can see that all is not forgotten from the past or even the future. As you read the names on the walls at some point you may touch a name you may have heard of and maybe feel a relationship with it. Understand what is meant by the " Gone But Not Forgotten" memorials dedicated to them. You can observe visitors from all over the world pay their respect to these service persons. Hearing a young child ask his father questions as to what the meaning of this place is and have a stranger, in a proud way, start to explain to him what the Memorial and Cemetery represents.

As you walk up the walkway to the lookout you can read the memorials that are dedicated to different battalions, companies and ships from many different states and countries. The one I think you will enjoy is the memorial with the poem called "The Unknown" by Holtzen. Looking from the lookout you have a great view of Honolulu and the coast line. The State Capital Building, Magic Island, Sand Island, the Airport including the Reef runway to mention a few. A farther look takes you to the distant Campbell Park and the Waianae mountain range. In the other direction you can see Diamond Head and out towards Hawaii Kai, and of course a beautiful view of the ocean. The Koolau Mountains rise up behind, as if a guardian of the Cemetery.

The Lookout reminds me of a coins edge, on one side you have the busy noise of the city of Honolulu with everyday activities. On the other side you have the Cemetery with a peaceful relaxing atmosphere, not requiring you to rush but rather encourages you to take your time. Punchbowl will help you to relax and adjust your feeling for life. The world of to day is in a state of unrest almost equal to World War II. We have servicemen and women stationed throughout the world trying to keep the peace. Cemeteries such as Punchbowl, help us to remember the results of such uneasiness. If you have a little time to spare visit Punchbowl and see how it may reflect on your life.