Both Tora, Tora, Tora and Pearl Harbor prominently featured the tall red and white control tower on Ford Island. This article looks at the history of the control tower and its recent stabilization.
This is the second in a series of articles on Ford Island as it existed on December 7, 1941. Jumping right to the control tower is taking things a bit out of order. However, with the unveiling of the renovated control tower scheduled for December 7, 2011, it is the right time to look at this historic building.
Building the Operations Building (S84)
The control tower is part of the Operations Building (S84). This was a multipurpose structure built just to the north of the seaplane base hangars. Like many buildings on Ford Island, it
was a brand new building when the attack occurred. In fact, it was not quite finished.
Figure 1 shows the building right after the attack. It is obvious from the figure is that the control tower was not painted red and white. In fact, it wasn’t painted yet. In addition, there is no control tower at the top. In fact, only two of its three rings are in place around the water tank. Although the control tower at the top of the big water tower was scheduled for construction, it was not in existence at the time of the attack. Aircraft had to be controlled from the building at the base of the water tank.
The figure shows a lower control tower on the roof of Building S84. This structure was created as an aerological tower (for wind direction and weather forecasting). However, until the upper control tower was built, it doubled as an interim control tower for wheeled aircraft using the runway. Figure 2 shows this structure in 1993, during the Historic American Buildings Survey project to survey building S84 [Hatani, 1993]. Figure 3 shows an aerological center, although not the one on Ford Island.
Building S84 was called the Operations Building. It was actually a multi-purpose building that was designed to serve a number of functions. According to the Historic Buildings Survey assessment of the building [Hatani, 1993], it consisted of “a garage, operations/administrative offices, barracks, aerological tower, water tank, and aircraft control tower” on December 7, 1941.
Completing the Upper Control Tower
The upper control tower was finished on May 1, 1942, five months after the attack [U.S. Navy, 1945]. Figure 2 shows the building and control tower shortly afterward, on May 8, 1942. Note that although the building was finished, it was not painted. By the way, the small truck in front of the building in the middle was a wrecker/fire truck designed to work on crashed airplanes.
We do not know exactly when the control tower was finally painted, but we do have a picture of it in August 1942. This is Figure 3. It is not a very good picture, but the control tower is visible in the lower right part of the picture. The tower is painted in sinuous camouflage. We do not know what the camouflage colors were, but red and white would not make for very good camouflage.
Figure 6 gives a better image of the camouflaged tower on December 10, 1942. This picture is taken from the north, which is unusual. In the foreground on the left are revetments for aircraft to protect them from attack. These revetments were built after the attack. They were later torn down.
When Did the Tower Become Red and White?
We are even more uncertain when the tower was painted red and white. Figure 4 shows the control tower in 1944. It is still in camouflage. Presumably, it remained this way through the war. Continue reading