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Fort Shafter

A not so brief history

Fort Shafter has been home to the senior Army headquarters in Hawaii for nearly a century.  Prior to the Army establishment of Fort Shafter and long before the arrival of Europeans, Native Hawaiians lived and worked in the ahupua’a of Kahauiki.  The Army has documented many archaeological sites on the post.

Construction began in 1905 on the ahupua’a of Kahauiki, former Hawaiian crown lands ceded to the United States government after annexation. The fort was part of an ambitious War Department building program that included the Army’s Fort DeRussy, Fort Ruger, and Schofield Barracks. When the post opened in 1907, it was named for Major General William R. Shafter (1835-1906), who led the United States expedition to Cuba in 1898.

Army planners laid out Palm Circle as a cantonment for an infantry battalion. They arranged the barracks and officers’ quarters around a parade field ringed by Royal Palms. The 2nd Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment was the first unit stationed at the new post. After they marched onto the field on 24 June 1907, the battalion Soldiers became the first unit stationed in the barracks facing stately Palm Circle. In October 1984, the U.S. Department of the Interior added Palm Circle to the National Register of Historic Places as one of the fewer than 2,500 National Historic Landmarks across the entire Nation and its territories.

Fort Shafter gradually spread out from Palm Circle. Over the decades, the post’s key location between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu led to the additions of a hospital, ordnance depot, anti-aircraft regiment, and signal depot. Tripler General Hospital once stood where the highway intersection is today (the hospital moved to its present location in 1948). In 1914, engineers built a regimental-sized cantonment area in the area of where Richardson Theater now stands. The Hawaiian Ordnance Depot was built in 1917 as a separate post (near today’s Post Exchange). In June 1921, the Hawaiian Department moved to Fort Shafter from the old Alexander Young Hotel in downtown Honolulu. A new area was constructed in 1940 for Signal Corps elements.

From 1921 through WWII, Fort Shafter served as an anti-aircraft artillery post and on 7 December 1941, the Coast Artillery batteries established gun positions on the parade field and sustained the only known casualties on the post. Two Fort Shafter residents of this period, who later rose to fame, included General George S. Patton—who arrived in 1935—and General J. Lawton (“Lightning Joe”) Collins, who briefly served as the chief of staff of the Hawaiian Department following the Japanese attack of 7 December.

The Army was proud of its preparations to defend Hawaii. The Hawaiian Department was the Army’s largest overseasdepartment. For more than three decades, the War Department constructed elaborate coastal defenses on Oahu. The previous 18 months witnessed the arrival of the Pacific Fleet, war scares, the start of selective service, numerous training exercises, the mobilization of the National Guard, and the doubling of the department’s strength to 43,000 soldiers (including the Army Air Corps). The Hawaiian Department’s two primary tasks were to protect the Navy’s Pacific Fleet from sabotage and to defeat any invasion. In April 1941, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall assured President Roosevelt: “The Island of Oahu, due to its fortification, its garrison, and its physical characteristics, is believed to be the strongest fortress in the world.”

Despite these preparations, war came suddenly to Fort Shafter on 7 December 1941. The new Hawaiian Department commander, Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, had his headquarters at Fort Shafter. Lieutenant General Short took command of the Hawaiian Department in February 1941 and moved into Quarters 5, the commanding general’s residence on Palm Circle. On the morning of 7 December, he was preparing for his regular Sunday morning golf match with his Navy counterpart, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, when he heard heavy firing from the direction of Pearl Harbor. He ordered his command to the highest alert and moved to his forward command post in Aliamanu Crater to direct the deployment of his command. He was relieved on 17 December 1941 and retired shortly afterward.

On 7 December, the Hawaiian Department suffered far fewer casualties than the Navy or Marines. In all, 228 soldiers were killed or died of wounds, 110 seriously wounded and 358 slightly wounded. Only 16 of the soldiers killed were not from the Air Corps. From Schofield Barracks, five soldiers were killed (only two by direct enemy action). At Fort Shafter, one soldier, Corporal Arthur A. Favreau from the 64th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), was killed in his barracks on post by an errant Navy shell. Fort Shafter quickly became a busy headquarters and the command converted the barracks on Palm Circle to offices. In 1944, the Army Corps of Engineers erected the “Pineapple Pentagon” (Richardson Hall and two other adjoining buildings) in just 49 days. Army engineers filled in two large fishponds to form Shafter Flats

After World War II, Fort Shafter remained the senior Army headquarters post for the Asia-Pacific region, while the 25th Infantry Division occupied the more spacious Schofield Barracks. In 1947, the headquarters became the U.S. Army, Pacific, while the post continued to adapt to meet the Army’s evolving requirements. In the 1960s, the Moanalua Freeway split Fort Shafter in two, but it survived into the post-Vietnam era. In 1974, the Army replaced U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) with a smaller element, U.S. Army Support Command, Hawaii. That same year the Army Corps of Engineers relocated its Pacific Ocean Division from Fort Armstrong to the post.

The senior Army headquarters at Fort Shafter was reborn in 1979 as U.S. Army Western Command. Several years later, Fort Shafter itself was reduced in area by over half when the Army conveyed 750 undeveloped acres to the state. The headquarters once again became U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC), in 1990.

Today

Today Fort Shafter remains the focal point for command, control, and support of Army forces in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region. The oldest military post in Hawaii also stands in the forefront of the Army’s transformation into the premier land power for the 21st century. The major headquarters on post, USARPAC provides trained and ready land forces to the commander, U.S. Pacific Command. In step with the changing Army, USARPAC is also transforming into a deployable headquarters capable of employment anywhere in the region. In addition to USARPAC, several other military agencies also call Fort Shafter home. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pacific Ocean Division manages military construction and civil works throughout the region from its headquarters, while the U.S. Army Installation Management Agency Pacific Region Office oversees all Army installations in Hawaii, Alaska, and Japan. Fort Shafter Flats is home to the 9th Regional Readiness Command which controls Army Reserve forces in Hawaii, Alaska, and the region.

More than 5,000 Soldiers, civilians, contractors, and military families live and work on the 589-acre post. In fact, if USARPAC were a business, it would rank as one of the state’s largest employers with more than 25,000 full-time Soldiers and civilians employed throughout the Pacific and 9,000 more in the National Guard and Army Reserve.

For one hundred years, Fort Shafter has served the nation in a variety of ways and will continue to do so in the years ahead as more chapters are added to reflect the enduring legacy of America’s Army in the Pacific.

In October 1984, the Secretary of the Interior designated Fort Shafter’s Palm Circle District as a National Historic Landmark, recognizing it as one of the Nation’s most significant historic resources associated with the history of Hawaii and the Army in the Pacific.

As you drive around the post, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty along the following roads named in honor of various Army leaders and heroes throughout our history. Some of these roads include:

Benet Drive – Named for Brigadier General Stephen Vincent Benet, the Army Chief of Ordnance, 1874 – 1891. He died in 1895. It is possible officials named the drive for his son, Colonel James Walker Benet, who served as the Commanding Officer of the Benicia Arsenal in California, and the Armament Officer for the Western Department from 1905 to 1911. He was also the father of poets Stephen Vincent Benet and William Rose Benet, as well as writer Laura Benet. James Walker Benet died in 1928.

Burr Road – Major General George Washington Burr, who served as the Chief of Ordnance, Philippine Division, from 1906 to 1907.

Carter Drive – Major General William H. Carter, Commanding General, Hawaiian Department, 13 March 1914 – 5 November 1915.

Chapplear Road – Colonel Louis S. Chapplear, Adjutant General of the Hawaiian Department from 9 December 1927 to 19 August 1930.

Funston Road – Brigadier General Frederick Funston, Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department from 3 April 1913 to 22 January 1914.

Hase Drive and Hase Road – Named for Major General William T. Hase, Chief Coast Artillery Corps or perhaps for Colonel William S. Hase, who served as the Chief of Staff of the Hawaiian Department, 27 September 1922 – 21 June 1925).

Hyland Lane – Lieutenant Colonel Stephen N. Hyland, Jr., killed at the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. He served in the US Army, Pacific G-1 (Personnel) office from May 1998 to June 2000, and then received a reassignment to the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel at the Pentagon. Hyland Lane was dedicated on 10 November 2002 (small black monument).

Lissak Loop – Colonel Ormond Mitchell Lissak, Professor of Ordnance and the Science of Gunnery at the US Military Academy, 1907 – 1908, and the author of Ordnance and Gunnery (1915).

Macomb Road – Brigadier General Montgomery Meigs Macomb served as the Commanding General, District of Hawaii, 13 January – 1 October 1911; Commanding General, Department of Hawaii, 1 October 1911 – 15 February 1913; and Commanding General, Hawaiian Department, 15 February – 2 April 1913. He again commanded the Department of Hawaii from 23 January to 12 March 1914.

Montgomery Drive – Colonel George Montgomery, U.S. Army Chief of Ordnance during the China Relief Expedition, also known as the Boxer Rebellion (1900 – 1901).

Morton Drive – Major General C.G. Morton, who served as the Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department from 13 July 1919 to 4 August 1921.

O’Leary Road – Probably named for Colonel Herbert O’Leary, Commanding Officer, Benicia Arsenal, California, 1943 – 1944. He died in 1944.

Parks Drive and Parks Road – Major General Floyd L. Parks, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army, Pacific, from 2 February to 8 April 1949.

Rice Drive, Rice Loop, and Rice Street – Brigadier General John Hodgen Rice, Chief Ordnance Officer, American Expeditionary Forces, in 1918.

Richardson Road – Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, Commanding General, Hawaiian Department; Central Pacific Area/U.S. Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Area/U.S. Army Forces, Middle Pacific; Military Governor of Hawaii, June 1943 – March 1946.

Strong Street – Brigadier General Frederick S. Strong, Commanding General, Hawaiian Department, 8 November 1916 – 5 July 1917.

Wilson Road – Named either for Major General William H. Wilson, briefly the Commander of the Hawaiian Department in 1939, or for Colonel Ovid O. Wilson, Post Commander, 28 October 1953 – 1 September 1954.

Wisser Road – Brigadier General John P. Wisser, Commanding General, Hawaiian Department, 6 November 1915 – 12 May 1916 and 14 September 1917 – 19 May 1918.

Buckner Gate (Fort Shafter’s Main Gate) – On 24 January 1949, Buckner Gate was dedicated in honor of Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. Throughout World War II, Lieutenant General Buckner served in the Pacific Theater. In June 1944, Buckner received orders for the Central Pacific and assumed command of the new Tenth Army. As he led the land forces in the successful invasion of Okinawa, he suffered mortal wounds on 18 June.

Favreau Field – Named for Corporal Arthur Favreau, Battery E, 64th Coast Artillery (AA), killed in action on 7 December 1941 on the site when a naval anti-artillery shell struck his barracks.

Joe Takata Field – Originally called the “Shafter Bowler,” the 64th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA), who occupied the cantonment area from 1922 to 1943, constructed Joe Takata Field in 1930. It is now named in honor of Sergeant Shigeo “Joe” Takata, a member of the famed 100th Infantry Battalion. Takata became a local baseball star playing for the Azuma and Asahi, two well-known island teams. He enlisted in the Army in 1941 and served with the 100th Infantry Battalion during World War II. He received the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary gallantry in the face of the enemy.

Lodging. The only lodging available at Fort Shafter is a set of “distinguished visitor quarters.”  For details, call (877) 711-8326.

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