INDEX - ACCESS ID# 0401-10


Access to Midway is an issue to more than just us in Hawaii


POSTED: 27 August 2004 7:00am

Aerial view of Midway Island from the west.

Access concerns to the kupuna islands include a myriad of issues. As a refuge, access to the North Western Hawaiian Islands is very limited. Midway Islands are not included in the refuge.  Midway is managed as an overlay refuge by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and has been visited by many thousands of people over the last 150 years.It's been bombed and had nuclear weapons on a 2 square mile island.  Much of the cultural importance of the kupuna islands is not well understood by those growing up without the cultural background.
Many people are very interested in going to Midway.  One of the common comments from school kids reported by local teachers at the NavChange ( Workshops is...

"Why should we care so much about these outer islands that no one can go to?  We need see them." 

Keeping Midway open as a working coral reef educational station, for ecotourism, for history buffs, for nature photography, fishing, diving - for whateva.  Access is a public concern and should be considered by the public.

For your information



New battle for Midway energizes former sailor

27 August 2004 7:00am

CeeBee with machine-gun on roof of PWD building in 1976


New battle for Midway energizes former sailor
by Melody Finnmore published by the Oregonean 25 August 2004
Brightwood's Gary Randall, once stationed on the Pacific atoll, wants the island opened to war veterans and other visitors
Gary Randall easily recalls the impression he got when he first set foot on Midway Island nearly three decades ago as a member of the U.S. Navy.

"When I was there it was kind of like Mayberry," said Randall, 46, who was stationed on the Pacific atoll and directed airplanes there from 1977 to 1979. "It was a nice, small town and people rode their bikes everywhere."

The island, which is about two square miles and sits 1,150 miles northwest of Honolulu, boasts a rich history, from its pristine habitat for tropical wildlife to its development as a U.S. military base and its prominence as a World War II battlefield.

"The second-most-celebrated event in the Navy is the Battle of Midway," said Randall, who runs a computer-aided drafting, graphic arts and Web-design business from his home in Brightwood, in the Mount Hood corridor. "The European Theater usually gets all the attention, and Pacific sailors don't get their due, but Midway is a critical piece of U.S. military history."

Randall has worked to open the island to more visitors so World War II vets can remember and reflect, and so future generations can learn firsthand about the historic battle.

Now, two years after his plans fell apart to lead a group of veterans to the island and commemorate the 60th anniversary of the battle, Randall hopes a new study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will result in a visitor program to help keep the history of Midway alive.

Decisive Allied victory
The Battle of Midway, in which U.S. fighter planes bombed four Japanese aircraft carriers over three days in June 1942, is deemed one of the most decisive Allied victories of World War II. In June 2002, Randall had planned take two dozen war veterans for a weeklong excursion to view the national war monument there, among other activities.

He had heard that the wildlife agency -- which maintains the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, as the island is now called -- had formed a public-private agreement designed to foster ecotourism. The agency's aim was to meet a congressional mandate that it initiate a visitor program on the island.

Instead of taking a large group on an extended vacation, however, Randall was accompanied by three veterans for a seven-hour ceremony. That's because the public-private agreement had collapsed a few months earlier.

"If I hadn't known some people in charge there, (the visit) wouldn't have happened at all," Randall said.
Among other things, Randall has developed a Web site,, to increase awareness of his campaign. He also gathered signatures for a petition he sent to Oregon's congressional delegation and the wildlife service. Randall hopes the agency will implement another public-private deal to make the island a self-supporting tourist attraction.

The initial deal
The initial agreement, decided in 1996, paired the wildlife service and Midway Phoenix Corp. of Cartersville, Ga. By February 2002, Midway Phoenix was forced to withdraw from the agreement because of financial troubles and other difficulties, spokesman Mike Daak said.

"The problems with the partnership had to do with basic cooperation," said Daak, who lives on the island of Hawaii. "We had a cooperative agreement that was supposed to be a living, breathing document that would grow over time. It was a big experiment at Midway to see if a concessionaire -- Midway Phoenix -- could make the island more accessible to the public."

Although Midway Phoenix showed a profit during the last two months of the agreement, the company foundered and employees left the island in May 2002 when it could no longer maintain operations.

"There were more serious underlying problems than money, but money was certainly one of them,"
said Daak, who lived on Midway Island off and on for 11 years between 1983 and 2002. "The Fish and Wildlife Service was generally focused on wildlife issues and not on the things that would support the infrastructure for tourism. We weren't interested in bringing McDonald's or Pizza Hut to the island, but we did want to make sure things happened that would support operations on the island."

Launch of a campaign
The cooperative agreement's collapse and its impact on his anniversary excursion led Randall to launch a public-awareness campaign. He would like to see the Fish and Wildlife service forge a similar agreement that would open Midway Island to visitors and generate enough income so that U.S. taxpayers no longer would have to support the atoll's maintenance and operations.

"It seems like they would rather shut it down and let the island go back to its original state without any human existence," Randall said. "They're really not concerned with the historical aspects or human connection to the islands at all. Midway is more than an animal sanctuary and wildlife preserve. It's also a national memorial."

Barbara Maxfield, a spokeswoman for the wildlife service's Pacific Islands division, said the agency is doing everything it can to boost tourism in a remote area that is difficult and expensive to reach.

"Certainly the Fish and Wildlife Service would like to have Midway be more available, not only to vets but also to people who are interested in the historical aspects of Midway and its wildlife resources," she said. "When Midway Phoenix had to pull out in 2002, we just couldn't swing it financially by ourselves. Our problem right now is that we don't have long-term funding for Midway."

Four staff members
Currently, four agency employees staff the island, and private contractors maintain the existing infrastructure, operate the airport and provide minimal medical services. Aloha Airlines no longer wants to provide weekly flights to the island. The only other commercial aviation operation serving the island is a chartered Gulfstream jet with room for 19 passengers that shuttles Fish and Wildlife employees and supplies each week at a cost of $25,000 per flight, Maxfield said.

"At this point, our visitor program is limited to the cruises that come through," she said, adding that four cruises were scheduled for 2004. The cruise ships, which carry 600 to 700 passengers who pay from $3,000 to $7,000 each, travel between Japan and Honolulu and stop at Midway along the way so visitors can participate in a walking tour.

Three cruises have come through this year, most recently on Aug. 13. The majority of the passengers on that ship were Americans who flew to Japan to take the cruise, Maxfield said.

"Most of those folks were World War II vets and their families, so it was very rewarding to meet them" she said. "We had one woman who hates cruising, but she knew there was no other way to get to Midway so she endured 21 days on a boat so she could be there. I thought that was pretty special."

Randall said the cruises are a way the federal agency can claim to offer a visitor program while still controlling access to the island.

"The guided tours are strictly controlled, and they only spend a couple of hours out there," he said. "It's far from allowing people to go to the island for a week at a time and enjoy it on their own."

In an effort to make the island more accessible to the public, the Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct a market analysis and visitor feasibility study for Midway. The agency plans to award a contract for the study in early to mid-September; the contract calls for the study's completion six months later.

"That would be the basis for any future visitor program at Midway," Maxfield said. "We are making some limited progress and are hoping to make it possible for more people to visit Midway."

Randall said he, too, hopes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service succeeds in making the island a self-sufficient tourist attraction.

"It's good news if they're going to try to get a visitor program going out there, and I truly hope that is their goal," he said. "I'm cynical, though. I've followed this since day one, and I'll believe it when I see it."



Life in the mid 70's in the Northeast Hawaiian Islands

27 August 2004 7:00am

School on Midway Island in 1974

Here's my Midway story
by Brett Davis 

I'll try my best to add new pictures at regular intervals.  All pictures are in JPEG format to keep the load time down and allow me to get the maximum number of pictures in my account.  The pictures are from my family's personal collection, GCS yearbooks, and the 1976 island yearbook.
Our family moved to Midway in 1974 from San Diego.  I regretted leaving the only house I ever lived in with a pool, but then Midway has a much bigger "pool" and Dad didn't have to clean it.  My Dad was stationed at the Dental Clinic (across from the Commissary), if you were on the island at this time and got any fillings there's a good chance you met my Dad.

We lived in S-housing for the first few months we were on the island, S-4 I believe, nextdoor to the Snell's.  We backed up to the golf course, first or second fairway.  After our stay there we moved to "the" house, 421 Commanders Row.  You know, the white one with blue trim and a banana tree in the front.  Now that I build houses for a living I realize what neat houses those were.  Hardwood floors throughout, wood windows, enclosed sun porch, and the heaviest front door I ever slammed my hand in.

In order to make the move, the "Wahoo Moving Company" was founded.  I believe it was a ploy to get us moved and to get the adults inebriated.  A 20-foot flatbed truck was borrowed from the motor-pool and away we went.
Directly behind our house was the tennis court and BOQ, if that gives you a point of reference.  Our neighbors to the left were the Kennedy's, Sean and Cameo were the kids.  On the other side was Walt Edwards and his family.  I used to run around with "Junior" Edwards quite a bit.  Little League team was the Dodgers, don't think I ever hit the ball, but I had fun.

I made the trip to Eastern Island 3 or 4 times.  The one trip I remember most was to go visit my brother Scott on his Boy Scout campout.  I got to meet "Friendly Freddy" on that trip.  Freddy was a Gooney Bird (Laysan) that was quite fond of people, he was the only one I know of that you actually go up to a pet his soft little head.  It was cool!!!
R&R to Hono was something I always looked forward to, going to the big city!  On one return flight to Midway we hit a bit of turbulence (I would classify it as severe).  As I recall, the pilot said we dropped a couple hundred feet in a matter of seconds.  When the drop began you could here all of the passengers' belongings in their carry-on bags become weightless, clank around a little bit, and as the plane stopped dropping suddenly all I heard was glass breaking all around me.  The rest of the flight smelled a bit like alcohol for some reason, Hmmmmm.

We left Midway in April of 1976 for Washington State, where I still am today.  Apparently someone didn't want us to leave because our plane, a beautiful gray C-141 sucked up a gooney bird upon landing on Midway and we were delayed while the repair was made.  Not sure what time we left but I remember leaving the BOQ in the dark.  Our trip to Hono was just like any other R&R flight except this time we got to sit facing backwards and there were no windows.
I feel extremely lucky to have lived on Midway, part of a select group of people.  I will return there....soon!

For images of Midway in the mid 70's click here.


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