Red Hill and Kahoʻolawe: A Legacy of U.S. Terrorism


The United States Navy has a history of terrorism in Hawaiʻi (and throughout the world).


In 1940 the Navy started to build the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility in Kapūkakī. In 1941 the U.S. Military took over the entire island of Kahoʻolawe following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both of these projects were created to serve the U.S. Military’s specific war-based needs, not to protect the people of this place. The presence of the U.S. military in the illegally occupied territory of Hawaiʻi made us a vulnerable target.


In 1953 Kahoʻolawe was transferred to the Navy who used the island as a bombing range up until 1990. Every branch of military has bombed the island of Kahoʻolawe. The Navy was given the provision that the island be returned to a habitable state after military use.


In 1976 “the Kahoʻolawe 9” defied the Navy and the Military and became the first Kānaka Maoli to set foot on the island in decades. Risking their lives to protect their ʻāina, Uncle Walter Ritte and one other evaded capture for 35 days before being found and captured by the U.S. military. Upon being found, Uncle Walter was arrested and found guilty of trespassing and was sent to a maximum-security prison for the duration of his sentence.


While actively bombing the island, the Navy claimed that there was no damage being done to Kahoʻolawe. Despite the deliberate bombing they had done for decades, the Navy blamed goats for the damage caused to the landscape. Thanks to the dogged determination of the Kahoʻolawe 9, the island was eventually returned to the people of Hawaiʻi and all bombing on the island ceased.


Today, the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility is leaking jet fuel into Hawaiʻi’s drinking water and our environment. The Navy and the U.S. Department of Defense claim that the facility is critical for national security, which is more important to them than clean drinking water. As history repeats itself, we are reminded that the Navy will do whatever it takes to preserve their power, even to the detriment of our land and people. How will the fuel “protect” us if we drink it all?


Hawaiʻi is disposable to the United States of America. Fuel and bombs are more important to them than the people they claim to protect. Red Hill is our modern day Kahoʻolawe.


In times like these we must ask ourselves, “What Would Walter Do?”

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