Punchbowl Crater

Punchbowl Crater, or Hawaiian National Cemetery is the last place we toured.  My husband and I had been there 13 years before to lay flowers on my maternal Grandfather’s grave.  We decided to repeat the performance with the boys this time, and I think they really got a lot out of it.

We went to the florist in the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and the gentleman there suggested a lei.  This is a popular choice with groups so everyone can participate in laying flowers by cutting the string and scattering the flowers from the lei.

My grandfather was a Sargent in the marines shooting the photography for reconnaissance planes.  As they were coming into Bougainville Island from a run over Truk Island, the pilot misjudged the tiny landing strip and the back wheel caught the edge of the runway.  The plane skidded, flipped and hit and embankment.  There were 8 people on board and two died.  My grandfather never escaped the plane and it exploded, the other gentleman was thrown from the plane.  The remaining six were taken to the hospital with various injuries.  Because of the nature of the secrecy of his mission, he was interred on the island for several years before finally being brought home to Punchbowl Crater.  He is laid to rest right in the front near the entrance.

I only know this detail because over the course of the last couple of years I have helped my mother obtain his military records.  When we finally received them, neither of us were prepared for what was in them regarding his death.  He died in November 1943, my mother was born in June 1944, so she never got to know him, and it was tough reading the autopsy report, of which neither of us even knew would be included.

After laying the flowers, we made our way slowly to the back where there is an amazing layout of a map of the South Pacific War complete with a timeline and narrative laid out in mosaic tile.

There are several walls that have the names of people who were never found engraved on them that serve as a memorial.

There is also a small chapel in the memorial.  It is a quiet and peaceful place to stop and contemplate our history and the sacrifice our soldiers make for us so that we may live in freedom and unmolested by the bullies of the world.

It was a rather somber mood that we left with, but it provoked great discussion about WWII and how we got involved, and how the war progressed.  Hawaiian National Cemetery should not be missed when visiting Oahu.

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23 Responses to Punchbowl Crater

  1. megtraveling says:

    This is a very touching story. It’s wonderful that you can visit there and pass this on to your family, too…

  2. A wonderful tribute to a man you never got to meet. It’s nice to be able to make kids aware of their family history.

  3. wow..such a sad post..yet so thought-provoking and reflective..
    It’s nice you shared that with the boys..I’m sure you feel proud of him..even though you never got to meet him..
    Again..lovely pictures 🙂

  4. Jim Cantwell says:

    Hey allthings,
    Great post and great photos, I have a grandmother I never met and often wonder what she was like.
    I know what you mean about a somber mood that we leave with, I get that every time I visit my Moms grave.

  5. Carrie McNamara says:

    Love it! I learn something about you new every day!

  6. Your grandfather was a hero, by my definition, and by the definition of most people I know.
    Semper Fi!

  7. i mayfly says:

    I suspect you will have me thinking and pondering and researching for months to come with this thoughtful post. Amazing how the long-lost past can sometimes profoundly shape our futures.

  8. nerdshirtsandcardigans says:

    This is amazing, and touching. My grandfather survived WWII – right across from where I am sitting right now is the flag from his casket, a picture of he and my gram right before he shipped to the war, and momentos from his service. Nothing short of amazing you got his records – we’ve requested my grandfathers, and somehow the request always gets lost.
    Such a beautiful tribute though, and amazing way to show your boys an important person in you’re life! Loved reading this!

    • I was actually very impressed with the marines. All, Yes mam, no mam. It was a HUGE journey of being transferred from one place to another; go here, no go there, no they must be over there. But eventually we got in touch with a sergeant who took the bull by the horns and got them. And I was surprised, as it was a good 3″ stack! The first request got set aside, but when I called back the sergeant I think went and took a bite out of someone hiney for ignoring it and really got on it then. It took almost a year. Glad you liked it! I have a soft spot in my heart for the military! My grandfather was from a family of 9 kids, and all but one joined the service–even the girls.

  9. Malou says:

    What a touching story! Last weekend, we went to a castle where beside it was a memorial to those soldiers who perished during WW2. I still feel sad each time I see those memorials because to me they are symbols of both good and bad — good from the selfless sacrifice of those who gave their lives so that others will be free and the bad from those who caused the war for selfish goals.

  10. Lynne Ayers says:

    A wonderful piece of family history, a hero in the family and kudos for preserving it for the future.

  11. Whew! This pulls at the heart strings. Amazing how you can feel so connected to someone you nor your mother ever had the chance to actually meet…and yet you “know” him! I am so glad you were willing to share the story of your research with us…this is honestly one of the most emotional stories I’ve read on WordPress. Your pictures make it even more deeply felt.

    This is a trip your boys will never every forget, and you have done well to preserve and pass on the legacy of your heroic grandfather.

    • Thank you for your thoughts and compliments! I really get emotional when it comes to those who died for our country. And when we were searching for the records, the marine Sargent who helped us treated us as though we’d lost someone who had been our best friend for all our life. They really were amazing–so much respect.

  12. Madhu says:

    That is such a touching story! Must have been an emotional journey for the boys as well!

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