Mana Airport/Barking Sands Airport

For almost every aspect of Hawaiian life, there is a legend to explain the subject, but there is not always an explanation of the legend itself. Some have to be taken on faith. So it is with the Legend of Barking Sands. At a time long ago, an old Hawaiian fisherman lived in a hut near the beach with his nine dogs. During his fishing trips he would tie his dogs to stakes in the sand, three to each of three stakes. He would then get into his canoe and go fishing.

One day while he was at sea and the dogs were tied as usual, he was caught in a very bad storm. For hours he battled the heavy seas until he was finally able to return to land. He was so exhausted that he crawled into his hut, forgetting to untie the dogs. When he awoke the next morning and went outside, the dogs were nowhere in sight. All he saw were three small mounds of sand where the dogs had been tied. As he stepped on one of the mounds, he heard a low bark. Another step brought another bark, still he couldn’t find the dogs. Believing the dogs had been buried in the sand because of the storm, the fisherman began to dig. As each shovelful was removed, more sand took its place. He finally gave up, and every day after that when he crossed the beach he could hear the low barking. The dogs were never found and to this day the sands of Mana have been known as the Barking Sands. After a time, the old fisherman died, some say from a broken heart for losing his dogs.

Time passed, and in 1921, the land area known as the Barking Sands was acquired by the Kekaha Sugar Company from the Knudsen family. On occasion private planes would land and take off from the grassy field used for pasture.

In March 1928, the Territorial Aeronautics Commission ordered that all of the Barking Sands proposed landing field be surveyed.

Barking Sands Field was placed under the control of the TAC by Executive Order 331 dated May 12, 1928.  It included 550 acres.  The runway was 13,728 feet long and approximately 2,000 feet wide.  It had a hard, level sand runway.  Located 11 miles from Waimea, it wasn’t deemed suitable as a commercial airport.

On June 8, 1928, the chairman of the TAC visited Barking Sands field and stated that it was a credit to the territory.  At a cost of approximately $250.00 (paid for from County funds), an excellent job was done clearing half the field.  He recommended that no further work be done until there was need for it.  He stated that because of the location of the field it would be of more value for trans-Pacific than interisland flights.

On April 25, 1929, the Territorial Aeronautics Commission requested that the Superintendent of Public Works clear small brush at the field at an estimated cost of $300.

In 1932, an Australian named Charles Kingsford Smith made an historic flight from Barking Sands to Australia in a Ford Trimotor. Local people assisted him by clearing the runway area, filling holes, and marking the runway with flags at 1,000-foot intervals and whitewash at 500-foot intervals. The Kekaha Sugar Company brought fuel for his plane in barrels. The runway at Barking Sands was originally called the Southern Cross after his aircraft.  Without the special runway at Barking Sands, Kingsford Smith would not have been able to fly to Fiji and then on to Australia. Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith announced that Barking Sands was better than the Oakland Airport.

In 1940, the U.S. Army acquired 549 acres of land, including the grass landing field by Executive Order of the Territory Governor, Charles Hite. The Installation became known as “Mana Airport,” and the Army paved the runway and made other building improvements. The only money involved in the transfer was $1,000 for administrative expenses.

In June 1941, additional acreage was transferred to the Army bringing the total land area to 2,058 acres. Hawaiian Airlines used the field for passenger stops, and Pan American Airlines made occasional landings at the field until Lihue Airport was completed in 1949. Barking Sands experienced very heavy military traffic during World War II, and a series of land transfers and easements caused continual changes in the total real estate assigned to the installation. Many name changes also followed: Mana Airport, Mana Airfield Military Reservation, Barking Sands Military Reservation, Kekaha Military Reservation, Barking Sands Airfield, Bonham Airfield, Bonham Air Force Base, Bonham Air Base, and Auxiliary Landing Field (ALF) Bonham.

In 1948, the Air Force Chief of Staff declared that Barking Sands Military Reservation was of no further use and that action would be taken to declare the base excess, with the concurrence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Department of Air Force disapproved the recommendations and action was taken to acquire an additional 200 acres adjacent to Barking Sands.

On December 15, 1949, the Civil Aeronautics Commission notified the HAC that Barking Sands Airport had been declared surplus to the needs of the Air Force and inquired whether the Commission was interested in acquiring it.

The HAC adopted a motion on February 7, 1950 that read: “It could be transferred as airport property; provided the Territory, acting through the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission, would agree to sponsor the installation as a ‘public airport’.  In that case, the lands which were classified as ‘airport property’ would be returned to the Territory subject to the standard provisions prescribed by law.”

The commission continued to consider the acquisition of Barking Sands.  It was thought they could keep the airport strictly as airport property, use it as an airport on a standby basis or make it non-airport property.  On July 10, 1950, the HAC stated: “If the Federal Government feels that it has to dispossess this airport, we should spend money to keep it because it is a beautiful airport. National Guard could use the buildings out there. We should keep the buildings in shape as well as the runway.”  They agreed to continue to work with the CAA for the return of the airport.

In 1954 the name of the base was officially changed to Bonham Air Force Base.

The Navy’s introduction to Barking Sands (Bonham AFB), was in 1956 when the Air Force granted a five year revocable joint utilization license to use 37 acres for Regulus I operations. Two years later, in November 1958, the Pacific Missile Range Facility was formally established with a PMR Representative Office at Kaneohe MCAS on Oahu. Meanwhile, the Navy was becoming the principal user of Bonham AFB, later called ALF Bonham, and formal negotiations began to transfer the base to the Navy. In 1962, the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Hawaiian Area was officially commissioned under a Commanding Officer. In 1963 a detachment was established at Johnston Atoll.

In 1964, negotiations were completed, and ALF Bonham officially transferred 1,885 acres of Barking Sands to the Navy. In 1966, Barking Sands was transferred within the Navy to the Commanding Officer, Pacific Missile Range, and renamed, “Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands.” By this time, PMR had established a chain of stations throughout the Pacific. Besides Barking Sands and Kokee, several downrange stations under PMR included South Point, Hawaii; Midway Island; Wake Island, Eniwetok Atoll; Tern Island; Christmas Island; Canton Island; and the recovery ships, USNS Longview and USNS Sunnyvale.

In 1967, the Barking Sands Tactical Underwater Range (BARSTUR), and the Makaha Ridge Instrumentation Site, were completed. In 1968, the Command Headquarters, Pacific Missile Range Facility, Hawaiian Area was established at Barking Sands.

On June 30, 1969, Act 155, SLH, appropriated $10,000 for a joint study with the State and military for joint use of Barking Sands.

No further action was taken by the HAC to acquire Barking Sands.

Facility improvements and expansions followed through 1974, and due to changing requirements and for more effective management and support, most of the “downrange” facilities were closed or transferred.

In 2008, PMRF is the world’s largest instrumented multi-environment range capable of supporting surface, subsurface, air, and space operations simultaneously. There are over 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace. This makes PMRF a premier facility for supporting operations which vary from small, single-unit exercises up to large-scale, multiple-unit battle group scenarios.

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