S-4/ECPD/ History of Marine Corps Training Area Bellows


Marine Corps Training Area Bellows (MCTAB), located on the windward side of O‘ahu, is a 1,049-acre parcel adjacent to Waimānalo Town.

Archaeological evidence indicates that there was long-term pre-Contact occupation at Bellows dating to a period between ca. AD 800 to 900. Settlement was focused along the interior beach ridges and swales. Midden remains include a variety of fish, shellfish, and seabirds.

Traces of a Hawaiian cultural deposit are being recorded by Marine Corps archaeologists in order to learn more about the past use of MCTAB. The dark gray soil contains fishbone, charcoal, and shell.

In addition, Hawaiians made stone tools, game stones, and mirrors from the fine basalt found along the hills at Waimanalo. Debris from the manufacture of stone tools, called debitage, has been uncovered within the cultural layer at Bellows.

A poi pounder made of basalt was used to pound taro into poi, a highly nutritious food eaten by Hawaiians.

The 19th Century Begins

Ranching and Residential Activities
During the 19th Century, residents of Waimānalo grew a variety of crops, such as banana, sweet potato, breadfruit. Taro, which was made into poi, was an important staple. It was grown in wet pondfields called lo‘i. A number of pondfields were documented along streams such as Puha Stream (now Waimānalo Stream). Their diet was supplemented by harvesting the marine resources along the coast, such as fish, shellfish, and seaweed.

In 1850, an Englishman named Thomas Cummins obtained a 50 year lease to the area after marrying the High Chiefess Kaumakaokane Papali‘ai‘aina, who descended from the Lonoikahaupu line and was a cousin to Kamehameha the Great. Cummins began a ranch in Waimānalo that emphasized high-quality breed cattle, race horses, and sheep, and built facilities that made Waimānalo a predominant stop for Hawaiian and European royalty. Cummins chartered the Waimanalo Sugar Plantation in 1877. He also constructed a mill and built a railroad. By 1881, there were about 1,000 acres of sugarcane.

In 1885, Waimanalo Sugar Plantation was acquired by Irwin & Co., which merged with C. Brewer & Co. in 1910. The plantation was sold in 1947.

The smokestack from the Waimanalo Sugar Plantation Mill visible along the tree line.

Defending America

Military Development

During World War I, the war in Europe increased fear of German expansion in Hawai‘i due to its colonization of nearby Pacific Islands. In 1917, Executive Order No. 2565, issued by President Woodrow Wilson, acquired 1,500 acres of land on the Waimānalo Plain for development of a military airfield.

P-40 after Japanese attack on Bellows Field, December 1941. U.S. National Archives.

On 7 December 1941, 20 planes were lined up on the runway. The officer of the day at Kaneohe Naval Air Station called Bellows Field to provide a warning of the Japanese attack; however, the call was regarded as a practical joke.

During the attack, the Zeros strafed the field and shot parked planes. Two pilots were killed and three of the 12 P-40s from the 44th Pursuit Squadron were destroyed. The next day two officers in an O-47 spotted a Japanese midget submarine grounded on the reef off of Waimānalo Beach. Two men waded out into the surf and rescued/captured the commander of the submarine, Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki.

Ensign Sakamaki became the first prisoner of war (POW), taken by the United States in World War II.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii