'Warfighters' visit the Battle of Nu'uanu
March 5, 2014
HONOLULU, Hawaii - "Presently we came to a place where no grass grew - a wide expanse of deep sand. They said it was an old battleground. All around everywhere, not three feet apart, the bleached bones of men gleamed white in the moonlight," Mark Twain, excerpt from 'Roughing It,' 1872.
Beaches, waterfalls, and the Pacific Ocean are perhaps some of the most common images that come to mind when one thinks of Hawaii.
But those of us that are fortunate enough to call Hawaii home, either permanently or temporarily, know all too well there is much more to Hawaii; and we're awarded the privilege of experiencing Hawaii's rich culture and history on a daily basis.
Leaders from the 728th Military Police Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment, took advantage of just that by taking 'Warfighter' Officers on a staff ride of the various battlefields of the Battle of Nu'uanu, located throughout the Island of Oahu, Feb. 24.
In the above excerpt from 'Roughing It,' Mark Twain was describing his time spent on Waikiki Beach while on assignment in Hawaii for The Sacramento Union in 1866.
What Twain, then known as Samuel Clemens, had encountered on Waikiki Beach are what historians say are the remains from the first engagement of the Battle of Nu'uanu in which King Kamehameha and his army invaded Oahu in 1795.
"It was the final pivotal battle that ultimately led to unifying the Hawaiian Islands, and who knows what would have happened here [Hawaii] if [the Battle of Nu'uanu] hadn't of happened; and if Kamehameha wasn't victorious," said Professor Brenden Bliss, instructor of history, Hawaii Pacific University.
Bliss, volunteer tour guide for the battalion, went on to explain that King Kamehameha's victory and eventual unification of the Hawaiian Islands is what helped keep future outside aggressors out of Hawaii.
"So in that respect, for the future of everything we now know as Hawaii, the Battle of Nu'uanu was key to all that," said Bliss.
In attendance was 2nd Lt. Melissa Blasco, platoon leader, 2nd platoon, 552nd Military Police Company, 728th MP Bn.
"It was insightful that Professor Bliss engaged us in the dialogue during the tour by asking us, as military leaders, how we felt about the strategies used [in the battles] as well as the popularly accepted ideas and notions about the tactics; versus how we would use those tactics today," said Blasco. "It was very interesting to see the places that I have hiked and then come away with an understanding of the long term consequences and history of those places."
The professor of history added.
"Keep in mind that even though this battle took place back in 1795 some of the key aspects of it, like command authority and tactical decision making, are still very important components to any military today," said Bliss.
The 'Warfighter' staff ride concluded at the most famous portion of the battle, Nu'uanu Pali Lookout, where many Oahu warriors lost their lives. Historians have estimated anywhere between 300 to 800 Oahu warriors were killed when they were caught between King Kamehameha's army and the cliffs of Nu'uanu Pali.
"Our sources from the battle are only from the victors; so it's easy to see that this was a great and glorious conquest that set the stage for the future of the Hawaiian Islands as we know it today," said Bliss. "But it's important to think of the defenders, we don't have much of their story. However, we know they must have been very dedicated; fighting for their families and their honor."
Bliss continued, "at the outset they [Oahu warriors] knew they were outnumbered by 5,000 troops, and they didn't run. They had the moral courage to stand and fight; even when their key leadership was killed, they didn't quit. Command decisions were then made by lower ranking individuals and they still carried out their duties and knew what to do."
Blasco shared her thoughts as she took in the view from Nu'uanu Pali Lookout.
"Never raise your white flag, never fail to continue to try, never quit," said Blasco.
Oh, and what did Mark Twain think back in 1866 when he looked out over that same view as 2nd Lt. Blasco?
"The most beautiful view in the world," wrote Twain in his piece titled '25 Letters from the Sandwich Islands,' while on that assignment for The Sacramento Union.