The History of Ford Island
November 21, 2016
Moku’ume’ume is one of Hawaii’s most-visited small islands. Haven’t heard of it? You might know it better as Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.
Moku’ume’ume has a fascinating history that stems far further back than the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The name Moku’ume’ume was given to the island by ancient Hawaiians, with the name meaning Island of Attraction. The story behind the name is actually quite amusing. The Hawaiians played a game that saw the chiefs mingle with commoners around a fire. There were chants and songs, and everyone would dance around the game “leader,” who would touch random men and women. Once a man and woman were touched, they’d go off to spend the night together. It didn’t matter if they were married, everyone played the game and was considered unmarried for the night.
Of course, in the early 1800s the game was abruptly stopped with the arrival of missionaries, and in 1810 Francisco de Paula Marin took over the island to raise sheep, pigs, goats and rabbits. Throughout the 1800s, the island’s ownership changed hands a few times. Eventually, it was leased by the Oahu Sugar Company in 1899. Finally, in 1917 the Sugar Company gave up its lease and the land was sold to the US War Department to be used by the Army and Navy.
Ford Island, as it had become known since settlement took place, is around 1.4 miles in length and 0.7 miles wide and it is surrounded by water deep enough to accommodate all kinds of vessels. After the War Department took over the island, the Army was the first to move in. By the mid 1930s, the Army Air Force began to move to nearby Hickam Field and in 1940, the island became officially and exclusively property of the US Navy.
When the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941, the bulk of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet was anchored near Ford Island and suffered greatly in the attack.
Memorials to the USS Utah and USS Oklahoma, as well as the Battleship Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum, are located on the island and it is also still an active military base.