Army history comes alive at Fort DeRussy during annual event
May 22, 2009
FORT DERUSSY, Hawaii - Mike Maranto blew in from the Windy City last week and found the perfect spot to chill in Waikiki, at the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, site of the 10th Annual Living History Day, May 16.
A fan of museums of all types since his youth, the Chicago native spent the morning floating from tent to tent, enjoying the displays of military memorabilia, restored military vehicles and modern Soldiers in full battle gear.
Suddenly, his attention was drawn to something much cooler than his hometown weather.
"That's an F4U Corsair," he gushed, while stopping to kneel before one of a dozen large-scale, working aircraft models parked on the lawn around the Birds of Paradise Team's tent.
The blue, sleekly designed Corsair, a carrier-capable fighter aircraft that saw service in both World War II and the Korean War, glistened in the approaching midday sun - matching the gleam in its beholder's eyes.
"This is my favorite plane," said Maranto, as he admired the aircraft's intricate details.
Although never having served in the military, Maranto admits that events such as Living History Day, with re-enactors roaming the museum grounds dressed in vintage war uniforms, create the kind of atmosphere that makes him wonder what it would have been like to be a war veteran.
"There's a sense of nostalgia for me," Maranto explained. "People have a tendency to long for days that were better; I know I do. For example, I grew up loving John Wayne and his war movies. And whenever I watch his movies, my wife teases me by saying that if I grew up during the World War II era, I would have joined the service.
"She's probably right," he added.
Held on Armed Forces Day, Living History Day is a free event staged each spring at Historic Battery Randolph, Fort DeRussy. There, various local organizations gather to help commemorate and educate the public through exhibits of weapons, equipment and insignia from yesteryear to present-day Hawaii.
Crowds numbering in the hundreds passed through the static and interactive displays, which touted the Army's rich heritage and its many contributions to the community.
At the visitor center, guests enjoyed the distinct sounds of Scottish bagpipes, performed masterfully by the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii, on the museum's front lawn.
Visitors were also treated to an event first: two military humvees parked in the grassy area just off of Kalia Road.
Guests snapped photos of Soldiers perched atop the all-terrain, diesel-powered vehicles before poking their heads into the combat-ready war machines for more than a cursory glance.
"Having the humvees here this year makes it all the more exceptional," said Dorian Travers, museum technician. "But you know what I find just as enjoyable' The interaction between the public and our active duty Soldiers."
Of course, Soldiers weren't the only ones charged with educating the public.
Under the Hawaii Historic Arms Association tent, members Leslie Tam and Russell Kanno fielded questions regarding the group's collection of rifles. The association's display revealed a range of weapons - from the antiquated U.S. Model 1816 Musket with its flintlock-firing and .69-caliber barrel, to the modern day assault rifle, the AK-47.
"We get these old timers who come by and say, 'Hey, that's the thing I used to carry,' and it brings back good memories for them," Tam said, "and then we get active duty Soldiers who come by, and they don't know anything about some of these primitive type of weapons, so it gives them an idea of what weapons existed before they got their M-16s."
"Most of our members try to emphasize the history side rather than the shooting part," Kanno added. "We enjoy and, more importantly, respect the history of firearms and that's what we try to educate the public about (on Living History Day)."
Other organizations supporting the event included the 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pearl Harbor Historic Sites, Hawaii Military Vehicle Preservation Association, Civil War Roundtable, and Ka Pa Lua Hawaii.