Lecture Highlights Hawaii’s Air History At Haleiwa Gym

Special to Central Oahu Islander

The North Shore Chamber of Commerce’s Historic Preservation Committee held its third in a series of historical lectures Feb. 4 at Haleiwa Gym.

The event featured North Shore author Vera Stone Williams who discussed her book, WASPs, Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II. Historian and aviator Capt. Rick Rogers also took part as did Kahuku High’s Vocal Motion, who sang The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

Haleiwa Gym was decorated to fit the theme, with vintage military vehicles by the Military Historical Vehicles Association, a sign replicating the Avenger Field Archway, memorabilia, old photos and complimentary commemorative World War II posters provided by the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Members of the Navy Aviation Museum at Barbers Point dressed up in World War II American and Japanese aviator uniforms.

Williams’ lecture included a brief look at the process of becoming a WASP, as well as mentioning some of the key players in WASP history, including Jackie Cochran, the famed aviator who volunteered for the Royal Air Force at the beginning of World War II and was instrumental in the creation of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.

The female fliers were nearly forgotten until 1977, when they were awarded veteran status with no benefits by President Jimmy Carter. In 2010, President Barak Obama awarded the unit the Congressional Gold Medal.

Despite the adversity, Williams said “rather than being bitter about the short length of their service, they looked upon those two years as the best years of their lives.”

Rogers, sporting a vintage pilot suit, discussed the history of North Shore aviation and the four area airfields, including the Kahuku Airfield, which was paved to serve B-17s and B-24s, and the little known Puuiki airstrip.