Bonfiglio, Honolulu District Public Affairs
The U.S. Army’s 7th Dive Detachment just completed a dive survey for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District in support of a Navy Dept. financed structural study of the historic Seaplane Ramps at Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) on Kaneohe Bay.
The study, being conducted in-house by the District, provided an opportunity for the Corps to partner with the Army’s 7th Dive Detachment, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, which conducted the two day underwater site survey this week.
The District is conducting the two-phase assessment for MCBH to determine the feasibility of the ramps to support landing craft use and training. The dive survey is part of the first phase that includes an initial scope validation with a visual site survey, research of as-built documents, and recommendations for the second phase which will be an overall assessment with cost estimates.
The study also provided the certified divers of the 7th Dive Detachment with a challenging training opportunity in addition to providing the Honolulu District with vital structural information for less money than a commercial dive operation.
“Our divers enjoyed this mission,” NCOIC Sgt. Thomas Hunnicutt said. “They checked the condition of all five ramps and the marine environment around them, collected data, and took photos for the report documentation. In addition, this mission provided an outstanding training opportunity for our Soldiers. It has been very good working with the Corps’ Project Manager Jennifer Eugenio and Coral Rasmussen (the MCBH Cultural Resources Manager).”
According to Rasmussen, the Seaplane Ramps are a part of the Kaneohe Naval Air Station National Historic Landmark, which means they meet the highest level of national significance and warrant a level of preservation and care commensurate with this designation.
The five Seaplane Ramps are located on the shore of Kaneohe Bay south of Hangars 101, 102, 103, and 104. The ramps and Hangar 101 became famous in the first few minutes of WWII when forces of the Empire of Japan attacked the Navy’s PBY Catalina patrol fleet and hanger complex minutes before the main attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The PBY Catalina (PB standing for Patrol Bomber and the Y for its manufacturer code) was an amphibious aircraft first commissioned by the Navy in the late 1930s. Sometimes called a “flying boat,” it was the mostly widely used seaplane of World War II.
Catalinas served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations. The planes, with their 100 foot wing spans and large fuel capacity, were used for long-range patrols, bombing missions, search-and-rescue, convoy escort, and cargo transportation.
Kaneohe Naval Air Station was home to three Patrol Squadrons and 33 PBY’s were on the ground or floating just off-shore in Kaneohe Bay at the time of the 1941 attack. Only six survived the bombing, and those six were heavily damaged. Three Kaneohe PBY’s were out on patrol during the attack and were the only Patrol Squadron seaplanes fit for use after the attack.
In 2016, more than 80 years after the first PBY flight, these aircraft continue to fly as waterbombers in aerial firefighting operations all over the world.
The Honolulu District is committed to supporting our federal partners and stakeholders by executing high quality studies and projects, and the District is honored to support this mission to document and analyze such an historic military site.