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Cemetery History & Map of Punchbowl
The National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and the Honolulu Memorial, covering approximately 116 acres, are located in Puowaina Crater, an extinct volcano referred to in Hawaii as "Punchbowl" because of its shape. Roughly translated, "Puowaina" means "Consecrated Hill" or "Hill of Sacrifice". The Punchbowl was the site of many secret "Alii" (royal) burials. It was also the place where offenders of certain "kapu's" (taboos) were sacrificed.
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By the end of World War II, several hundred temporary cemeteries had been established by the American Graves Registration Service of the U.S. Army. Puowaina Crater was selected as a permanent cemetery site when major objections were made to temporary cemeteries in the central & south Pacific areas. Construction began in August 1948 & the first remains were interred on January 4, 1949. Seven hundred seventy-six (776) casualties from December 7, 1941 attack were among the first to be interred at Punchbowl. The cemetery was open to burials on July 19, 1949, the date on which Ernie Pyle was interred; and it was dedicated on September 2, 1949, the fourth anniversary of V-J Day.
This cemetery is one of two hallowed resting places in the vast Pacific for the recovered remains of World War II dead, whose next of kin did not request return of the remains to the Continental United States or requested that they be buried at Punchbowl. Original burials included 11,597 identified & 2,079 unidentified World War II dead from the Pacific. They came from such battle sites as Guadalcanal, China, Burma, Saipan, Guam, Okinawa & Iwo Jima & from prisoner of war camps in Japan. One hundred seventy-eight (178) Wake Island dead were interred in a mass burial on July 10, 1953. Also interred in the cemetery are the unidentified remains of eight hundred forty eight (848) U.S. servicemen who died fighting in Korea. The other hallowed resting place in the Pacific for the World War II dead is the Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Fort Bonifacio, Manila, Republic of the Philippines, which is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Punchbowl is now filled to capacity with 33,230 gravesites. Since August 1, 1991, burials have been at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe, Hawaii on the island of Oahu. This cemetery also has available urn niches in the Columbarium for cremated remains.
The Honolulu Memorial was erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1964 & was dedicated on May 1, 1966. It was erected to honor the sacrifices & achievements of American Armed Forces in the Pacific during World War II & the Korean Conflict. In 1980, it was enlarged to include the missing of the Vietnam Conflict.
The impressive memorial sits high on a wall of Puowaina Crater overlooking the graves area of the cemetery. It consists of a non-sectarian chapel, two map galleries, a monumental staircase leading from the crater floor to the Court Of Honor, ten Courts of the Missing & a Dedicatory Stone centered at the base of the stairway on which is inscribed,
"IN THESE GARDENS ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN SERVICE TO THEIR COUNTRY AND WHOSE EARTHLY RESTING PLACE IS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD"
In the ten Courts of the Missing which flank the memorial staircase are recorded the names of 18,094 World War II heroes missing in action (MIA) or lost or buried at sea in the Pacific (excluding the Southwest Pacific & the Palau Islands - the MIA's from these areas are memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery), 8,195 in the Korea Conflict & 2,489 in the Vietnam Conflict, a total of 28,778 names.
On the front of the tower which houses the chapel is a 30-foot female figure, known as Columbia, standing on the symbolized prow of a U.S. Navy Carrier with a laurel branch in her left hand. Engraved below the figure is the poignant sympathy expressed by President Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby, mother of five sons who died in battle,
"...THE SOLEMN PRIDE THAT MUST BE YOURS TO HAVE LAID SO COSTLY A SACRIFICE UPON THE ALTER OF FREEDOM."
The map galleries extend from the right & left sides of the tower & they contain maps & texts recording the achievements of the American Armed Forces in the central & south Pacific regions & in Korea.
*Please note: the text history above comes from an information sheet that is made available at the Punchbowl Information Center. The information sheet states that; This information sheet was prepared by the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club, whose Members man the information center as a community service. If you need more information regarding the cemetery, please call (808) 532-3720 on weekdays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.