It’s a solemn, moving place with a spectacular view of Honolulu and the eastern shore of Oahu.
The National Memorial of the Pacific rests high in Punchbowl, a volcanic crater that once was known as Puowaina, or “Hill of Sacrifice.” The volcano’s summit was used by early Hawaiians as a sacrificial site for those unfortunates who had committed acts that were deemed forbidden (kapu). Its slopes were the site of part of the battle between the forces of Oahu and those of Kamehameha, which ultimately led to the unification of the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1800s. The name “Punchbowl” comes from its elevation and round shape.
Built in 1948, the National Cemetery is a memorial to the sacrifice made by the men and women in the United States Armed Services. After its dedication on September 2, 1949, 776 casualties from the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor were among the first to be buried there.
On the grounds, the Honolulu Memorial was dedicated in 1966 to honor the sacrifices and achievements of American Armed Forces in the Pacific during WW II, Korea, and Vietnam. The memorial sits high on the wall of the crater overlooking the graves area of the cemetery. It contains a non-sectarian chapel, two map galleries, a monumental staircase that leads from the crater floor to the Court of Honor. Flanking the staircase are the ten Courts of the Missing on which are inscribed a total of 28,778 names.
The front of the tower that houses the chapel bears a 30-foot female figure known as “Columbia” which stands on the symbolized prow of a U.S. Navy carrier. She holds a laurel branch in her left hand and this inscription of President Lincoln’s words: “ …the Solemn Pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.” Columbia symbolizes all grieving mothers.
The grounds cover 116 acres and hold the remains of almost 50,000 war casualties. Five and a half million people visit the cemetery every year. Admission is free. The American Legion offers walking tours Monday through Friday. There is also a variety of broader tours that include Punchbowl among their stops.
Pick an agent from the Hawaii-Aloha Web site (hawaii-aloha.com) or call 1-800-843-8771. We’ll help you include the Memorial Cemetery in your vacation plans.