S-4/ECPD/ History of the Mokapu Peninsula

Marine Corps Base Hawaii, located on the windward side of O‘ahu, is a 2,951-acre peninsula that separates Kāne‘ohe Bay and Kailua Bay.

About 600 years ago, fishermen began setting up fishing camps along the shore, including Fort Hase Beach. Archaeologists have identified fire pits and impressions made from posts that supported thatched wooden structures.

Traces of a Hawaiian fishing camp were exposed by high surf at Fort Hase Beach. It was carefully excavated by archaeologists.  Image by Myra Tuggle

The 20th Century Begins

Ranching and Residential Activities

The Kaneohe Ranch was started in 1917 by Harold Castle. It consisted of nearly 10,000 acres on the windward side of O‘ahu and included much of Mōkapu Peninsula. Few archaeological features have been discovered from the ranching era on Mōkapu. Features that have been found include a rock wall on Puu Hawaiiloa and a rock-lined cistern for water collection.

Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) from the Kaneohe Ranch in the 1930s on Mōkapu Peninsula.  Photo from Hawaii State

During the early 20th Century, the Mokapu Land Co was developing beach cottages along the north and west coast of the peninsula in an area called Pali Kilo. Many were weekend cottages owned by families of doctors and other professionals who resided in  Honolulu. By 1936, 129 of the 248 lots had been sold. Foundations of the former beach cottages are still visible.

Stairs leading to the Phillip Martella House, which had terraced gardens and views of Kāne‘ohe Bay.


Defending America - Military Development

With the threat of a world war looming, the U.S. Army began development of Fort Kuwaaohe on the eastern side of Mōkapu Peninsula in 1918. They constructed defenses on Ulupau Crater. The Navy began construction on the west side of the peninsula in 1938 resulting from the threat of another war.

On the morning of 7 December 1941, O‘ahu found itself under attack by the Japanese. Although the island was prepared for enemy landing or naval bombardment, it was not equipped for a carrier-based raid. The aircraft and hangars at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kaneohe were targeted during the attack, which occurred seven minutes before the attack at Pearl Harbor. The air raid left 19 dead and 67 wounded. The hangars were destroyed and all but three aircraft, on patrol during the attack, were ruined. One Japanese plane was shot down, crashing into the northwest side of Pu‘u Hawaiiloa.

PBY on fire, 7 December 1941. U.S. National Archives.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii