Editor’s Note: Freelance war reporter Alex Quade, who usually covers U.S. Special Forces on combat missions down-range, uncovers this story of a political battle on the home front.
HONOLULU — As America celebrates the 4th of July, and the world commemorates the centennial of World War I, one U.S. state is in danger of losing a memorial to its veterans killed in action.
The city of Honolulu is considering demolishing its official memorial to the fallen of World War I and moving a portion of the memorial across the street to the site of a separate remembrance plaque. Ten thousand service members from the then-Hawaiian territories fought in the Great War; 101 were killed.
Descendants of those killed are fighting the city over the fate of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. First opened in 1927, the salt water swimming pool fell into disrepair after years of neglect and was closed in 1979.
Despite being listed as a “national treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and recognized by the World War I Centennial Commission and American Battle Monuments Commission as unique among our national war memorials, it is under threat by interests who want to tear it down to make way for a beach and who cite the high cost of repairing it.
Before passing away, Senator and Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Inouye even weighed in on this situation, saying: “I am fully supportive [of] current efforts to preserve, restore, and improve this historic landmark.”
This is the story behind the fight to save the memorial and honor those who served.