Kapolei, HAWAII — Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, Hawaii, wasn’t a desirable duty station in 1941. It was a hot, barren field. Marines slept in a tent city for nearly a year before a permanent barracks was constructed. Then, just a week after personnel moved into their quarters, this scorpion-infested airstrip and the Marines who served there would be some of the first to suffer from the Japanese attack on Oahu, Dec. 7, 1941.
Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific presented a wreath to pay their respects to their fallen brethren as part of the greater 75th commemoration of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 6, 2016.
Here at the Barber Point Golf Course, a memorial was erected honoring the lives of those who fell that infamous day: Sgt. William Latschau, Jr., Sgt. Carlo Michaletto, Pfc. Edward Lawrence, and Pvt. William Turner.
In honor of these heroes, some of the first U.S. forces to return fire during World War II, current and former Marines stationed on Hawaii have made it a tradition to meet here and remember.
“[We] always do this on seven December – every year, no matter what; for as long as I can remember,” said Maggie Gaukler, commandant, Marine Corps League Aloha Detachment. “Marines take care of their own, even after they have passed away.”
The battle at MCAS Ewa was short and fierce. The Japanese airmen’s rendezvous point was close to the air station; making it a target of opportunity as they came in for the attack and as they returned to their carriers. The airfield was strafed several times, just minutes before Pearl Harbor was attacked. Of the 48 aircraft stationed here, 33 were destroyed.
Despite the surprise and confusion, Marines fought, “practically to the last man. Every Marine at the base met the attack with whatever weapon there was at hand, or that he could commandeer; or even improvise with the limited means of his command,” read the official report of the attack.
“We are here because four Marines, four of our brothers, gave their last full measure here.” said Brig. Gen. Brian Cavanaugh, deputy commander, MARFORPAC. “We owe it to them to remember and honor them and to keep their legacy alive. Because we are Marines, that’s exactly what we will do.”