By Joseph Bonfiglio,
Honolulu District Public Affairs
FORT SHAFTER, HI -- Leaders from the Corps of Engineers joined officials from the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and others to break ground for the new Vietnam Pavilions Project at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on May 9.
Last month, the Corps awarded a construction contract to build the new pavilions to Innovative-Mira Joint Venture (IM JV LLC) of Aiea, Oahu. The lead architect and designer for this project is Fung Associates, Inc. of Honolulu.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has been serving our nation for 107 years, since 1905. In that time, we’ve built a lot of projects in a lot of places across the Pacific. I would argue today that none of those projects is more significant or will have a more enduring legacy than the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which we constructed in the late 1940s and which first opened on July 19, 1949,”said Honolulu District Commander Lt. Col. Douglas B. Guttormsen.
“Since then, we’ve had the solemn privilege to manage the construction of a number of renovations and upgrades to this monument and these hallowed grounds. We’re here today to break ground and bless our latest project to honor our Vietnam era Veterans and their sacrifices,” said Guttormsen.
“With the addition of these pavilions, we will appropriately honor the service and sacrifice of those who fought in Vietnam and in particular those commemorated in the memorial’s courts of the missing," said Mike Conley, Chief of Staff for the American Battle Monuments Commission.
According to Director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Gene Castagnetti, "as a Vietnam Veteran, I'd like to be the voice of those who can't be here today. Over 3.5 million American men and women served in the Vietnam Campaign. Five hundred and forty three thousand actually fought in country . Of that number, 300,000 were wounded and 58,000 were killed in action. This was an enormous sacrifice. And we have 2,489 names listed in our courts of the missing. And when you look at the name of this cemetery, the Hawaiian word is Puowaina (Hill of Sacrifice) it is appropriate to honor the American sacrifice in that era for the noble cause of Vietnam. Today we honor those Veterans and today’s ceremony shows that they are not forgotten.”
The project entails constructing two new pavilions located next to the two existing flag poles which flank the processional stairs of the Honolulu Memorial, one of 25 federal memorials maintained worldwide by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). The design of the new pavilions will be compatible with the materials, features and architectural style of the existing map galleries’ terminating pavilions. One of the two pavilions will include Vietnam War battle maps to complement the existing World War II and Korean War battle maps. The other pavilion will serve as an orientation center for the Memorial.
In addition, the project will provide exterior illumination to the pavilions; repair and/or replace existing walkway areas, drainage and landscaping that are affected by the construction; and improve handicap accessibility to the Memorial by adding a handicap ramp to the Mauka side map gallery entrance, rebuilding the handicap ramps to the restrooms to meet current guidelines, and providing an accessible parking and loading stall in the upper area of the Memorial.
The actual Honolulu Memorial inside the cemetery grounds was built by the Corps of Engineers and dedicated in 1966 to honor those missing in action from World War II's Pacific theater and the Korean War and contains wall-mounted battle maps commemorating famous battles, such as the Battle of Midway. The memorial was expanded in 1980 to bear the names of 2,504 missing service members from the Vietnam War, but battle maps from the Vietnam War were not included.
During construction of the new pavilions and handicap accessibility improvements, public access to portions of the Memorial may be limited. However, access to the Memorial Chapel, columbarium, and all gravesites will not be affected. The Committal Services, interments and burials conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration will continue without interruption.
The Honolulu Memorial commemorates 18,096 American World War II missing from the Pacific, excluding those from the southwest Pacific; 8,200 American missing from the Korean War; and 2,504 Americans missing from the Vietnam War. Galleries containing mosaic maps and descriptions of the achievements of the American armed forces in the Central and South Pacific regions in World War II and in Korea flank the memorial chapel.
Project completion is scheduled for November 2012.
General questions regarding access to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl can be answered by calling (808) 532-3720. Questions about the Corps of Engineers’ project can be answered by calling Honolulu District Public Affairs at (808) 438-8317.