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The Naval History of Hawaii

By Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

The prime location of the Aloha State has made Hawaii one of the U.S. Navy’s most coveted assets.

Although the Aloha State was one of the last to join the Union, Hawaii became one of the most important states in U.S. Navy history. Its prime location made Hawaii a coveted asset during World War II. We owe much of our Navy’s current strength to the men and women who served during that time, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice following the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor.

To honor their actions, a number of World War II memorials have been built, such as the USS Arizona Memorial located in Honolulu, Hawaii, which marks the final resting place for the 1,177 men killed aboard the USS Arizona (BB 39) during the attack.

Today, Navy Region Hawaii is the largest and most strategic island base in the Pacific, covering more than 23,000 acres of land over Oahu and Kauai. In 2010, Naval Station Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base were combined to form Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The joint base is located on Oahu and is home to more than 175 tenant commands, at least 11 ships, 18 submarines, and six fixed-wing aviation squadrons. On the island of Kauai is Pacific Missile Range Barking Sands, the world’s largest instrumented multi-environmental range, covering over 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace.

There are also many notable Hawaiians who have made their mark in U.S. Navy history. Honolulu native and Naval Academy graduate Gordon Pai’ea Chung-Hoon was a Navy Cross and Silver Star recipient as commanding officer of USS Sigsbee (DD 502). Despite the damage from a kamikaze attack during World War II, Chung-Hoon fought off the enemy and was able to get Sigsbee to port under her own power. USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) was named in his honor. Robert Kihune, the first Hawaiian to reach the rank of vice admiral, commanded a guided missile destroyer during the Vietnam War and was awarded a Legion of Merit with a combat “V” for gallantry. And although he did not serve in the Navy, the future guided-missile destroyer USS Daniel Inouye (DDG 118) was named in honor of World War II Army veteran and Medal Honor recipient Daniel Inouye, who also served a 50-year career in the U.S. Senate representing his home state of Hawaii.

If you ever find yourself in this beautiful state, remember the important role that Hawaii has played in making the U.S. Navy the leading force in sea power. Learn more below!