Markers, Blog Add To Harbor Stories

Steve Murray
Wednesday - August 04, 2010
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With the Arizona, Missouri, Bowfin and Pacific Aviation Museum, it would seem naval history in Hawaii has been pretty much covered. Not so, according to Navy Region historian Jim Neuman.

The UH West Oahu graduate believes there are dozens of sites to be recognized and thousands of stories yet to be told.

“Most people are familiar with Dec. 7, they are familiar with the Japanese attack, but that’s where a lot of it ends,” explained Neuman. “There is so much history at Pearl Harbor that happened before and after.”

For those reasons he spearheaded an effort to place historic markers around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and began a blog focusing on the untold or forgotten stories of the U.S. Navy’s history in Hawaii.

Last month nine historical markers were placed at historically important places, such as Hospital Point, which began serving the area’s medical needs in 1917; Merry Point Landing, where Commodore Charles Wilkes conducted the first survey of the area that would eventually become Pearl Harbor in 1840; and Ford Island, where Neuman’s very own love for Hawaii Navy history was born.

“I enjoyed being on Ford Island,” said Neuman, who was stationed there while on active duty in 1989.

“One of the first things I did when I came here with the military,” he added, “I walked down to where the Arizona is, and I didn’t realize how close it was to the shoreline. For someone who loves history, to be able to stand there and see the Arizona like that at night ... When you have a basic understanding of Navy history in Hawaii, living on Ford Island is a neat thing.”

With the scattering of Navy commands and with each being custodians of its own history, getting everyone working together on the project was a bit of a challenge at first. But Neuman had some high-ranking support.

“When I met with our current commander of Navy Region Hawaii, Adm. Dixon Smith, that was one of the first things he said: ‘We need to start making these things (historical markers). We need to look out and see what our history is here and we need to start marking it.’”

While the process of identifying sites and erecting the markers took about a year, his blog, m, came about much easier.

After a trip to Midway to commemorate the most important naval battle of World War II, Neuman posted his first blog June 4 about the famed battle and the “calculated risk” that Adm. Chester Nimitz took that paved the way for U.S. victory in the Pacific.

“I started it thinking I’ll do one a month, and I’ve already done nine entries,” Neuman said. “It is a way for me to take things I’ve been researching and information I have been picking up and get them out right away to talk about these things as they are happening.”

Neuman said educating the public on these important events is just part of his job as a specialist in history for the Navy.

“I don’t know how many people have driven by the naval base and have never been inside. They wonder what is in there, and we’d like to accommodate as much as we can,” said Neuman, who offers tours of the base to interested groups, whether they are military or civilian.

Those wanting to visit the sites or who are curious about life beyond the fences may reach Neuman at 473-2920.

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