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For many years the Hawaiian Islands were just a remote place on a map in the minds of most Americans who had read about, heard about or watched movies of the American Territory Hawaii. Many were convinced that these faraway places in the Pacific Ocean were exotic,peaceful, balmy, easy going tropical islands of paradise. Customarily most Americans thought only of grass shacks, dugout canoes, surfboards, expansive sandy beaches, beach boys, luaus, hula dancers and grass skirts. Many of these views were erased by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While this lore was true, the sailors manning the ships of the Pacific Fleet along with those who were stationed there seemed to have a far different view of Hawaii as a vacation paradise.

My first observation the island of Oahu was in the early thirties as the Pacific Fleet visited this beautiful oasis of the sea during their spring maneuvers. At the time most of the ships were required to anchor out in the deep waters off Lahaina Roads. It was a long ride to shore to liberty in Honolulu by motor launch; of course it was welcomed after many days underway. My ship, a destroyer, was lucky as we were assigned a berth near the Dole Pineapple Factory. Hawaii seemed like heaven at that time. There was very little naval activity there, other than the Pearl Naval Harbor Shipyard, Submarine Base, Naval Air Station at Ford Island, Kanehoe Bay and John Rogers Airport ( now Honolulu International Airport) the Ammunition Depot at Lula Lei and several other naval commands.

The main attractions for the wealthy tourists vacationing from the mainland and other parts of the world, mostly on Matson Liners with their five day voyages to Hawaii from the California mainland, was visiting the sandy beaches of Waikiki ( the sand was hauled there by ship to cover the coral beach), Diamond Head, the Aloha Tower, and other places of excitement while investigating the local color and culture.

The visiting sailors, shore based sailors and other military personnel stationed around the island concentrated in the downtown section around Hotel Street on their off duty leisure time. Please do not confuse yourselves by believing that the name Hotel Street alluded to the tourist trade bedrooms. I did of course have hotel rooms that were bedrooms, their primary purpose was for short period rentals. The other main areas for the visiting sailors were the honky-tonk bars along the well walked narrow street. The most prominent bar of course was Bill Ledderes (it looked like one out of a south seas movie) . The most famous of the eateries was Wo Fats, whose preferred customers were the Chiefs and Warrant Officers, along with the the officers off the merchant ships. The Black Cat on the other end of of Hotel Street across from the YMCA was the one most frequented by enlisted men. Of course you are wondering why the enlisted men did not visit the beautiful and luxurious Royal Hawaiian or the Moana Hotels and sit under the Banyontrees for relaxation, mainly because they could not afford the existing tariff and secondly this part of the Island was generally frequented by officers, the upper crust and scions of society, in fact this part of heaven was unofficially out of bounds for the likes of me.

The local Kanakas were extremely vicious in their dealings with the military; every once in awhile you would read where a dead sailor or soldier was pulled out of the canal along River Street. Liberty on Hotel Street was in reality a test of your health or endurance, only the fittest of the species survived. Every part of the street was filled with danger, it was either the Shore Patrol, the cops, bouncers, bar girls, cab drivers, houses of ill repute, island toughs or sailors, soldiers and marines carried away with inter-ship or inter-service discussions that put your well being in jeopardy. If you passed this gauntlet safely you would more than likely lose out to the islands biggest hurdle, booze.

My next visit to the island was a couple of years later when I was on my way to conquer new liberty ports in the Orient. Nothing had changed on Oahu, the native houses for the most part were crudely constructed buildings on stilts, the poi still tasted like wall paper paste, they were just beginning work on one of the cane fields next to the shipyard that ended up two years later as Hickam Field, an Army Air Base. This time the transport I was riding, the USS Henderson, was tied up in the shipyard. The only transportation to town was by bus, the Wahoo Cannon Ball or 8 seater cabs leaving from the main gate. The liberty routine was the same as before.

My next experience on this tropical isle was during the military build up period at the end of 1940, just prior to WWII. Hickam Field was completed, as was Block Center and Aiea Heights swimming pool. The situation in town was pretty much the same with the exception that now I was a 1st Class Petty Officer and as such had more money to spend, overnight liberty and as most servicemen, we were accepted at Waikiki Beach. We could sit under the Banyon tree and hobnob with the swells(of course they didn't like it much). The influx of ships, sailors and marines made the island pretty well crowded and the favorite watering holes became overcrowded. The military, realizing this, began to construct recreation centers and curtail liberty. Once in a while you could see the China Clipper arrive out by the Pearl City Tavern or you could beer up at the Tin Roof in the shipyard. Of course you were always welcome at the Marine Canteen or the Sub Base for a cool Primo or Royal Beer.

The natives were always happy to see the ships to put to sea as were the shore duty sailors,resident marines and soldiers. By the time the war started the resident entrepreneurs made sure that there were a lot more bars, restaurants and houses of ill repute available to those willing to pay the price. The Shore Patrol and Police got meaner and prices for everything got inflated. There were more fights among servicemen and the local hoodlums became afraid to venture into the established military liberty domains.

The start of WWII brought many changes to the island paradise, martial law was declared and the island became a staging area for the Pacific Theater. The influx of troops, the build up of the shipyard and other military establishments caused liberty for the sea going sailor to be curtailed and revised to a four section schedule, with only one section of the ships company going ashore at a time ( which usually meant that if you were lucky , you may get ashore every other time the ship entered port). Liberty hours were usually 0900 to 1800 when all servicemen were required to be of the streets. Blackout went into effect at dusk. The bars limited the visiting sailors to 2 drinks at a sitting, then they were required to leave the establishment. The lines leading into the downtown recreation centers (houses of ill repute) consisted of men of all ranks and services. Officers and enlisted men alike were required to observe a no line jumping protocol. The military built new recreation centers at Fort De Russey and further down Kapalani Blvd. to a place called the Breakers. All you could buy here was beer and food. The military brought out name bands of the era and the USO attracted some warriors. The submariners and the airdales were automatically placed in the Royal Hawaiian and at Kaneohe Bay for their stay in port. They lived the life of a plutocrat while the rest of us labored to get our ships ready to go to sea again. The restaurants had a hard time feeding the local populace and really did not want to be bothered by the troops. This was easy to understand as most of the food came from the mainland and they only received what the military allowed carried in the freighters servicing the area. This type of liberty prevailed for the duration of the war.

A side note is that the IRS had a problem trying to decide what tax revenue was owed by the body shops of the area around Hotel, River and Barretainia Streets. Their solution was to look at the records of laundry establishments, find out how many towels they processed for the various houses, they multiplied this by three dollars and established a tax base.

After the war was over I made several trips to Hawaii and things had changed considerably, Honolulu was like downtown San Diego. The living style was just about like the mainland only more expensive and harder to get around unless you went by bus. The local bus system was one of the best in the world and you could travel anywhere on a good schedule for a quarter. The last ship I was attached to was home-ported in Hawaii and we were for most of the time berthed at Ford Island tending Destroyers. Nothing much had really changed except the Wahoo Cannon Ball no longer ran as the routes were taken over by trucks. The Pearl City Tavern and the Monkey Bar burned down a couple of times and were rebuilt. The PAA clippers went out of service and most everyone had a car to drive on the rough coral and lava freeways. The city extended from Diamond Head to Pearl City. The kanakas were replaced by hippies and mainland beachcombers. The island was alive with tourists, mostly Japanese and the military built the magnificent Hale Koa Hotel at Fort De Russey for all rates and ranks giving the best breaks to those in the lower ratings.

After I retired in December 1970 I made several trips to Hawaii, my last being the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On this trip I found most of the nonmilitary establishments owned by the Japanese. Almost all the advertisement was printed with Japanese Characters. Most of the food fare was oriental. The Japanese bought with money what they couldn't take by force. It was a cement jungle with high rise hotels and other types of tall buildings taking up almost every square inch of ground available. Gone are the days where the Aloha Tower was the tallest building on the island and you could lie on the sand unmolested.


Note: Robert Kronberger enlisted in the Navy in 1935 as an apprentice seaman and advanced through the ranks to full Commander;

He served on various ships and stations which included being on the Yangtze River in China, the Rape of Nanking and the sinking of the USS Panay. He, along with his father and brother Ed, survived the sinking of the the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. He participated in WWII, the Korean conflict and Viet Nam, receiving 22 medals, 13 awards and 22 battle stars.


After 35 years of service he retired and worked as a Project Engineer for Litton Ships Systems and Program Manager for Hughes Aircraft Company. He retired from his civilian career in 1980.

PHSA FOUNDING FATHERS (Father Sam Kronberger, 2nd from left sitting) - (Brothers, Edward & Robert, standing 2nd & 3rd from left)

He (along with his father and brother Edward) are three of the eleven founding fathers and he is also past National President (1998-2000) of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.______(The Web Master, Haile H. "Jake" Jaekel)