Waimea, Hawaii 1995

    Beginning in March, Waimea is planning a series of events to commemorate the end of World War II, honoring the veterans who served and also our community members who assisted the 50,000 servicemen camped on local fields from 1942 to 1945. Waimea's population in 1941 was less than 400; the 1950 census listed 341. Development for an Army camp (originally named Camp Waimea, later known as Camp Tarawa) for 19,000 men generated sudden and long-lasting effects as well as memories.

    Rebecca Carter, wife of former Parker Ranch manager, Hartwell Carter, is giving the Marine Corps a Rosenthal photo of the flag raising atop Mount Suribachi. The photo has been signed by sixty Marines and Naval personnel who trained at Camp Tarawa for the battle of Iwo Jima.

    Over the years, the raising of our flag on top of Mount Suribachi has come to symbolize the spirit of the Corps as well as a symbol of American values and national pride. A copy of the Rosenthal photo has been given to the Waimea community. This photo shall serve as the cornerstone of an exhibit being developed at this time.

    On February 19, the fiftieth anniversary of the historic battle, Parker School will welcome the community to view this photo as well as see a film on Iwo Jima. Please come, share the memories and talk story from 6:30 to 8m. If you have photos or news clippings, please call Deanna at Parker School (885-7933). Copies can be made and originals returned to you.

    On March 19, World War II veterans will be returning to their USO/ Parker School for the premier of the exhibit along with a ceremony and luncheon.

    Parker School was built in 1917 as Parker Ranch Community Hall. It was used as the USO during the war years. Marine veterans will be returning to visit Camp Tarawa on March 19 to see their USO headquarters following a long journey back to Iwo Jima, Saipan and finally, Honolulu. Students from Parker School, Hawaii Preparatory Academy and Honoka'a School will be paired with senior citizens who recall Camp Tarawa to conduct tours. Marines will be present at significant sites to facilitate the tour. All tour guides and Marines will participate in a series of training classes regarding our history in preparation for this historical event. These classes will be directed by Gordon Bryson, an English teacher at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. A ceremony and luncheon in honor of the veterans will be held at Parker School along with the premier of the Camp Tarawa exhibit.

    The servicemen and residents were good neighbors. Local folks and ranchers supported the military by allowing lands to be used. Richard Smart, owner of Parker Ranch, offered his home at Pu'u Opelo to be used as Division Headquarters. By September 1943, the Army departed. The commander of the Hilo Naval Air Station was directed to establish a Marine Camp for 25,000 men. This camp was incomplete when the first Marines arrived -- survivors of the battle for Tarawa. It was early December after the long, arduous journey. It was cold and there were few blankets -- men died.

    In April 1944, this Second Marine Division invaded Saipan. That summer, the Fifth Marine Division arrived from Camp Pendleton to train for the battle of Iwo Jima. Men brought pets along, including a lion named "Roscoe!" The battle for Iwo Jima commenced February 19, 1945. The raising of our flag occurred on February 23, 1945.

    The 177-member Waimea unit of the American Red Cross gathered in the USO (Parker School) every Tuesday to knit staggering numbers of mittens, scarves, socks, sweaters and beanies. Parker Ranch purchased the yarn. Once a month they would enjoy a musical program with refreshments. First aid, as well as home nursing classes, were given.

    Parker Ranch and Waimea prospered economically with various support services. Electricity, a movie house, an ice plant and three reservoirs with a capacity of 14,000,000 gallons were brought to Waimea.. The streets, quiet until then, saw long convoys of jeeps, weapon carriers, all types of tanks or tonnage of GMC trucks, drawn artillery, command cars, half-tracks and amphibious ducks. War time sights included spanking new Chrysler staff limousines, all painted solid olive-drab, and sporting one, two or three gold stars on a cardinal-red plate!

    The streets were often covered from one fence, across the street to the other fence, by men in green fatigues or sharply-creased khakis. Waimea housewives did much of the laundry.

    Quaint lunch wagons served snacks just outside the base gates. It seemed that those with girls who had the cutest smiles always had the longest lines to sell to.

    Camp Tarawa was top secret. Mail was censored. All, including children, had to learn to use gas masks. However, school children were thrilled as the Marine Band marched by each morning at 8:00 a.m.

    This year from September 8 through 10, there will be a final series of events planned, including a dance at the former USO, as well as a full dress parade in Waimea Park, the site for numerous award ceremonies during the war.

    Our community has organized and is thrilled to be able to raise funds and plan for this Fiftieth Commemoration of Camp Tarawa and the end of World War II.

Your Memories...
Your Photos...

From World War II Years 1941-1945

at Camp Tarawa


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