Bellows Army Air Field

Type   71 Air Base
Historical Name of Location   Waimanalo, Oahu, Hawaii
Coordinates   21.369086000, -157.711144000


ww2dbaseIn 1917, 1,530 acres of sugar cane and guava fields on the southeast coast of Oahu, Hawaii was established as the Waimanalo Military Reservation. During the 1930s, as a sub-post of Wheeler Field, the area was used for infantry training as well as being a gunnery and bombing range for aircraft flying from Wheeler Field, Luke Field, and later Hickam Field. In Jan 1933, a 983-foot improved runway of 10-inches of rolled coral rock was completed. Later that year, the area was renamed Bellows Field while still being an auxiliary post to Wheeler Field. In July 1941, Bellows Field became a separate command and a permanent military post. Improvements to the facility soon followed.

ww2dbaseOn Dec 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy executed a well planned combined air and submarine attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as on other Army and Navy facilities around the island. The attack carefully targeted the Navy's capital ships and the American forces capable of pursuing the Japanese after the attack. This meant the airfields at Ford Island, Hickam, Wheeler, and Kaneohe were hit hard while the others were hit lightly, if at all. At Bellows, casualties were two killed and six wounded. They included three pilots of the 44th Pursuit Squadron at Bellows for gunnery training who attempted to take off in their P-40s. One B-17 Fortress made an emergency belly landing at Bellows during the attack in order to avoid attacking Japanese fighters.

ww2dbaseThe following morning, troops reinforcing the perimeter of Bellows Field pulled an exhausted Japanese sailor out of the surf and in so doing took prisoner the first Japanese prisoner of war of the Pacific War. Later, that sailor's midget submarine was hauled ashore off the end of Bellows' main runway.

ww2dbaseBellows Field remained active throughout World War II serving as a training field for air personnel on their way to the combat zones further west. By the end of the war, the airfield had grown to three runways of 6,300, 4,900 and 3,800 feet.

ww2dbaseIn March 1948, Bellows was renamed Bellows Air Force Base. In 1958, it was redesignated as Bellows Air Force Station when its runways were closed, terminating its status as a flying field. By that time, the Marines had already been using the area for air-to-ground training for seven years and with the closing of the base as an airfield, use by the Marines increased. Into the 1960s, Bellows developed into a key amphibious, ground, and helicopter training area for the Marine Corps.

ww2dbaseJust after the end of WWII, the Hawaiian civilian authorities began working with the Army to gain access to Bellows for civilian aviation but the Army resisted. In 1948, the Territory acquired a temporary right of entry for a portion of Bellows Field for use by private aircraft operators and for the instruction and soloing of student pilots. Permission for the Territory to use Bellows Field was cancelled by the Air Force in June 1956.

ww2dbaseIn 1960, the Army built two Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile sites at Bellows, which were fully active until closed in 1970. The facility was then used as a communications transmitter facility that replaced the Kipapa area transmitter and receiver sites. Its transmitters were the principal ground-to-air link with aircraft (particularly military aircraft) flying to and from Hawaii; and they provided communications for Presidential flights and others carrying high-level government officials.

ww2dbaseBellows occupies a site that was an ancient native Hawaiian community. Many artifacts, some of which are among the oldest in the Hawaiian Islands, have been found there. In 1973, part of the Bellows beach was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a site of archaeological significance.

ww2dbaseThroughout the 1980s and 1990s, the State tried again to obtain use of Bellows for a general aviation airport but was never able to get permission from the military.

ww2dbaseIn addition to serving as a training area for the Marines and a communications transmitter site, Bellows also housed the Hawaii Army National Guard's Military Academy and provided an all-service beach-front recreational area for active-duty and retired military personnel, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, dependents and guests. Bellows Air Force Station now consists only of the recreational areas while most of the acreage since 1999 has been part of the Marine Corps Base Hawaii headquartered at Mokapu Point (Kaneohe). The Marines continue to use it for amphibious, helicopter, and motorized exercises in conjunction with troop land maneuver training. It is currently the only place in Hawaii where amphibious landings can transition directly into maneuver training areas for extremely realistic military training.

ww2dbaseOn most weekends and holidays, the Marines continue a practice started by the Air Force to open the 54.2 acre Bellows Beach training area to the general public, in cooperation with the City and County of Honolulu.

United States Air Force
Abandoned and Little Known Airfields
Hawaiian Aviation Archive
Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society
Hawaiian Aviation Society

Last Major Update: Jan 2014

Bellows Army Air Field Interactive Map


An early photo looking toward the sea at the single runway at Bellows Field, Oahu, Hawaii, Jul 26, 1938.O-49 Vigilant at Bellows Field, Oahu, US Territory of Hawaii, 1940Aerial view looking toward the sea at Bellows Field, Oahu, Hawaii, Oct 27, 1941. The airplanes on the ramp are probably O-47 Observation Aircraft of the 86th Observation Squadron.B-17C Flying Fortress bomber at Bellows Field, Oahu, US Territory of Hawaii, 8 Dec 1941; she was forced to belly-land on previous day during Japanese attack
See all 31 photographs of Bellows Army Air Field

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. g jobin says:
10 Mar 2017 12:57:19 PM

In 1941 was there just one runway at Bellows? If so, what were the runway numbers?
2. Jimmy Williams says:
26 Apr 2022 09:51:39 AM

Who were the bellows afs commanders in WWII. A friend told me her father, an NCO, said he was the base commander in the war.
I was able to find that a TSGT Torre was the first base commander in 1941.
My friend’s maiden name is Mercer.
3. Anonymous says:
15 Feb 2023 02:10:02 PM

My dad was in Air Corps basic training at Bellows Field starting in I think October 1941. He was there when the Japanese attacked on December 7. He saw the US pilots and P-40's go down, the mini-sub being bombed off the reef by Navy aircraft from Kaneohe NS on Dec. 8, and the B-17 crash landing on Dec. 7. He said they had to strip enough .30 ammo out of machine gun belts in order for each man to have 5 rounds for each Springfield rifle. He was not aware of McBriarty's actions. He stood guard on the Japanese POW and on the downed B-17. He was also part of various night patrols and guard duties immediately after the attack, including an interesting measure designed to stop Japanese planes who might land at Bellows from taking off again. Dad stayed in Hawaii for most of the war and was eventually transferred to Pueblo Field, CO. His efforts to get into action never worked out.

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Modern Day Location
WW2-Era Place Name Waimanalo, Oahu, Hawaii
Lat/Long 21.3691, -157.7111
Bellows Army Air Field Photo Gallery
An early photo looking toward the sea at the single runway at Bellows Field, Oahu, Hawaii, Jul 26, 1938.
See all 31 photographs of Bellows Army Air Field

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