Where WWII History Lives In Kakaako
As a keiki o ka aina, I pride myself on being familiar with every beautiful part of our state. Being Honolulu’s mayor gave me unusual access to all aspects of the City and County. I thought I knew where every place of interest was ensconced.
Imagine my surprise when I was introduced to a hidden treasure that I never knew existed – Home of the Brave. It is tucked away in the old warehouse district of Kakaako at 909 Waimanu St. and showcases one of Hawaii’s most extensive collections of World War II memorabilia. I was literally blown away after I did my initial tour of the museum and was very impressed with the collection that has been amassed through the years, including some items from World War I.
Home of the Brave is the evolving merger of two of Glen Tomlinson’s driving passions: military collectibles and brewing beer. It is truly a family-owned and operated business, run by East Honolulu resident Glen, wife Janet, daughter Brittany and sons Duke and Baron. With decades of experience in the hotel, bar, restaurant and hospitality business in Hawaii, California and Europe, Janet and Glen created the Tomlinson Corporation. This extraordinary business endeavor includes Home of the Brave Tours, Home of the Brave Beverage Company, Top Gun Tours, Koa Surf Classics and also the most unique private 1940s museum in the Pacific.
The museum pas homage to wartime Hawaii, and war veterans from the Islands have contributed many of its most prized displays. From Japanese pilot’s flight suits (once loaned out for the filming of Tora, Tora, Tora) to a vintage Army-issued Harley Davidson motorcycle (used in the Disney movie Pearl Harbor), there are surprises at every turn. Have your picture taken in an authentic Willys Jeep. Pose at a re-creation of Medal of Honor winner John Finn’s 50 Cal machine gun position, where he defended Kaneohe Marine Corps airstrip Dec. 7, 1941.
Each new display room is filled with the music and sounds of the ’40s, and the sense of traveling back in time is overwhelming. A scale model military transport train rumbles around its ceiling-mounted track past one of the largest collections of Nazi artifacts in the Pacific.
There is almost too much to see.
The walls are covered with photos of veterans who have visited the museum, and many of their collections of personal wartime mementos have found there way to Kakaako. Glen Tomlinson points out: “Our collection is invaluable because it represents the lives and accomplishments of America’s ‘Greatest Generation’ and, sadly, as the years go by there are fewer and fewer of the veterans left from the greatest generation our nation has known.”
Turn the corner and there is a complete World War II era bar called the Wiki Waki Woo, where you can sample microbrews such as Pilot Pale Ale or drink an ice-cold Coca Cola. Yet another door reveals a rooftop retreat complete with outdoor seating. Home of the Brave combines the authenticity of its displays with the ambiance of ’40s military airman’s club – a truly unique blend.
The Tomlinsons’ latest project calls for a soon-to-open addition to the Home of the Brave Brewseum, a larger facility being readied next door that will house more museum-quality artifacts and a microbrewery plus some local kine grinds on its menu. And it also will have its own scale model elevated military train circling the premises. The plan also calls for the cleverly named Brewseum to accommodate larger groups and be available for private parties. An evening tour of Chinatown highlighting the places and locations that made this historic downtown district rock in the ’40s will be included in this new package.
“Our museum is unique for Hawaii because one cannot help but rediscover and literally be touched by this important part of our history,” states Glen Tomlinson, whose passion and commitment to making Home of the Brave a must-see attraction is quite obvious when you converse with him. He realizes that, with the growing popularity of his museum, he has to figure out a way for more of the general public to visit and undergo this awesome experience in Kakaako.
Could a special kamaaina tour and rate on weekends or weeknights be in the offing?
In the meantime, Home of the Brave’s all-day battlefield tour is offered from Monday to Friday with discounts for retired and active duty military. The guided tours travel across Oahu and feature the Arizona Memorial, Wheeler Air Field, Schofield Army Barracks, Fort Shafter, Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and most importantly, a visit to the Home of the Brave Museum. You may explore this creative presentation of military history online at homeofthebravetours.com and homeofthebravebrewing.com.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to bid a Happy Thanksgiving to the readers of this column and MidWeek. Thank you for making us part of your weekly activity – ’tis a wonderful time of year to exercise what I term the “mahalo principle” to your family, loved ones and the men and women who keep us safe and free, and to look to extend a helping hand and a warm heart to those in need.