In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Establishment of Kilauea Military CampThe Early Years 1898–1921
  • Jadelyn J. Moniz Nakamura (bio) and Geoffrey Mowrer (bio)

Located on the island of Hawai‘i, at the summit of Kīlauea, is the Kilauea Military Camp. The camp is within the boundaries of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea Military Camp occupies approximately fifty of the park’s 335,259 acres, and its history is as old as the park itself. The camp was established in 1916 with the construction of the first three buildings, and it “represents some of the earliest military development in the Hawaiian Islands.”1 The history of recreational visits by soldiers to Kīlauea began in 1898, shortly after the annexation of Hawai‘i by the United States. Seven years later the U.S. Army established the first military installation at Fort Shafter, [End Page 55] O‘ahu, and by 1911 troops had begun to regularly visit Kīlauea for rest and recreation. In 1916, at the urging of business and political leaders, a group of citizens built Kilauea Military Camp primarily for use by the U.S. military (National Guard, Army and Navy) as well as civilians for conventions and meetings “when not inconsistent” with the use by the military.2

Throughout its 100 years of existence, Kilauea Military Camp has served as a recreation camp for U.S. Army personnel and a Summer Camp for local teachers and students. It was a Vacation and Health Recruiting Station for the Navy, and during World War II it was the headquarters for the Twenty-seventh Division, a detainment camp for Japanese Americans, and a prisoner-of-war camp.3 Its storied history grew out of the efforts of private citizens to build a facility that would be a magnet for a particular clientele and in the process bring much needed business opportunity and tourist dollars to the island.

First Troops Visit Kīlauea

Military excursions to Kīlauea started in 1898 following the annexation of Hawai‘i by the United States on July 7. Soldiers from the First New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment arrived in the Hawaiian Islands on August 16, 1898.4 Landing on O‘ahu, they established Camp McKinley, the first U.S. Army camp, at Kapi‘olani Park.5 It did not take long for the soldiers of the First Infantry to explore the islands beyond O‘ahu, and take in what was likely the most spectacular site in the newly minted Territory—an active volcano!

The New York Volunteers were the first soldiers to visit Kīlauea on an organized pleasure trip. They arrived in Hilo on Saturday, November 12, 1898 on the ship Kinau. While in Hilo, they were hosted at a local hotel with a midday feast. The place was decorated with “ferns, flowers and flags.”6 The group’s captain gave a speech thanking those who made the event possible, and the military band treated the locals to a concert. Two days later, the soldiers headed for Kīlauea where they encamped on W.H. Shipman’s land just beyond the Volcano House. Besides enjoying the magnificent views of the volcano, it was expected that the soldiers, who had their weapons, would do some hunting and enjoy the first snow of the year on the mountains.7 They stayed in the volcano area for a week, and returned to Hilo on November 21. [End Page 56] The men were reported to have had a “very pleasant trip” despite the fact that they had to march over thirty miles to the volcano in heavy rain on the first and second days of their journey.8 Back in Hilo they were treated to a Thanksgiving lū‘au feast by Mr. C.C. Kennedy of the Waiakea Mill. Following the meal, the tables were cleared, the military band struck up some tunes, and those who wanted to dance did so. On or about November 27 they left Hilo, ending their journey.9

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Figure 1.

Camp McKinley located at Kapi‘olani Park, c. 1898. Hawai‘i State Archives Photo Collection PP-57-1-010-00001.

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