Naval Air Station Barbers Point
Date of Commission:
Still in operation
Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point was originally established as a Coast Guard Air Facility in October 1948 at what was then the Naval Air Station Kaneohe, Hawaii, with two PB-4Y patrol planes and five officers and 18 men, all under the command of Lieutenant G. W. Girdler, USCG. In March on 1949, that facility was moved to its present location at the Naval Air Station Barbers Point. Later that year the unit received two PB-1G patrol planes and doubled its compliment of personnel, and in April of 1950, two R5Ds replaced the PB-4Ys. During the Korean War, the newly designated Air Detachment became the major air search and rescue unit in the Fourteenth Coast Guard District with four PBYs, two R5Ds, one PBY and one JRF. In addition, it deployed aircraft and crews on a continuing basis to operate a subordinate rescue unit at Wake Island throughout the Korean campaign.
By 1961, the aircraft replacement program had resulted in a mix of three C-130s, two UF (Albatross) amphibians, and one C-123. The C-123 was later replaced by another UF. This mixture lasted until 1969 when the three UFs were replaced by two HH-52A helicopters to give the station its present compliment of three HC-130B long range search aircraft and two HH-52A short range recovery helicopters. The unit received its present designation as a Coast Guard Air Station in 1965, and with the disestablishment of CGAS Sangley Point in 1971 and Guam in 1972, is now the only Coast Guard Air unit within the Fourteenth District, an area of responsibility covering 12.5 million square miles in the Pacific region.
The primary mission of Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point is search and rescue within the Pacific Maritime Region. As the sole Coast Guard Air unit within the Central Pacific SAR Sub-region, CGAS Barbers Point is responsible for a vast area including such island chains as the Marianas, Carolines, Marshalls, and of course, the entire Hawaiian Chain. In addition to law enforcement patrols, CGAS Barbers Point provided logistics flights for supply support of isolated LORAN stations, administrative flights including inspection of Coast Guard units in the Pacific and Far East, assistance to other government agencies and ferry flights to overhaul and maintenance facilities on the mainland.
The Air Station is basically self-supporting due to its isolated position. Modernization began in 1968 with the construction of the circular bachelor enlisted quarters, an experimental design for noise reduction. The hangar and administration building was dedicated in August 1970. This building comprises two hangar bays, fifteen shops, plus sixty-three rooms and offices. Other construction included a Ground Support Equipment shop, a solar powered hot water system for washing aircraft, and a racquet and handball court and tennis court with lanai.
In August 1987, the Sikorsky HH-52A "Sea Guard" helicopter was retired at the air station after 24 years of service. The Sea Guard was replaced by the highly capable and well-equipped HH-65, which is an excellent platform for hoisting survivors of maritime casualties and for medical evacuations from vessels at sea. Four were assigned to Barbers Point. Various models of the C-130 have been assigned at the unit since 1959. As of 2000 four of the "H" model served in a proud tradition of Lockheed aircraft that have served the Fourteenth District.
In a typical year, the air station flies 1200 hours in search and rescue missions, saves 50 lives, assists 700 others and preserves five million dollars in property. Air Station aircraft routinely search for overdue vessels and provide medical evacuations throughout the Hawaiian chain and Fourteenth district jurisdiction, including Palmyra, Chuuk, Kwajalein, Wake, Christmas and Yap Islands. For example, in 1969 more than twenty Coast Guard personnel were rescued from the LORAN (long range aids to navigation) station on French Frigate Shoals after a storm surge forced their evacuation to the top of the islands only building. In response to a freak storm in January 1980 air station crews flew 23 sorties logging 60 hours, resulting in five lives saved, 13 assisted and $170,000 in property protected. Air station crews also conducted searches following the Aloha Airlines Flight 243 and United Airlines Flight 811 tragedies in 1988 and 1989 respectively.
In January 1993, the capabilities of both aircraft were put to the test when the merchant vessel Eastwood was discovered dead in the water by a Barbers Point HC-130, 1,600 miles southwest of Oahu. The Eastwood was carrying approximately 550 Chinese bound for the United States. In response the Coast Guard Cutter Rush was quickly dispatched from Honolulu to the scene with a Barbers Point HH-65 deployed on deck. Once on scene the Rush became aware of the development of potential disaster: the Eastwood had very few remaining food supplies and its human cargo of illegal aliens was approaching dehydration. With the Rush unable to feed the Eastwood’s passengers from it’s own supplies air station personnel urgently packed nearly 400 P-3 sonobouy tubes with food and other supplies. An air station HC-130 air dropped more than 11,000 pounds of these recycled "sonobuoy tubes of life" to Rush, while the H-65 ferried prepared food and drinking water from the Rush to the Eastwood.
Logistical support is provided throughout the district. The HC-130 provided millions of tons of equipment and thousands of personnel to LORAN stations throughout the Pacific. The air station assisted the district and played a critical role in assisting the State of Hawaii and the Department of Defense services with the model return of an area to its natural state by relocating 690,000 pounds of equipment and 174 personnel from Kure Island to Oahu. Air station crews flying water catchment and purification systems to such islands as Funafuti relieved water shortages and Marcus located nearly 2500 miles from Oahu. The HC-130 provided typhoon and hurricane relief supplies to islands including Chuuk, Samoa and Guam in addition to delivering over 468 tons of food and equipment to the people of Kuaui following Hurricane Iniki.
With regard to Marine Environmental Protection, in November of 1990, air station crews helped to avert an environmental catastrophe when the merchant vessel Star Connecticut ran aground off Barbers Point. Taking on water and holding 10 million gallons of oil, the vessel was saved by the delivery of a dewatering pump and other equipment via an air station HH-65. The air station has also contributed to the protection of endangered species. In cooperation with state and federal agencies, the air station transported Hawaiian Monk seals from Oahu to Kure and Midway Islands and monitored the local sea turtle population.
Since 1979, the unit has been awarded two unit commendations and four meritorious commendations for exemplary service.
Unless otherwise indicated all photos are official U.S. Coast Guard photographs. Any original caption information is included in the text beneath each photo, along with a date, if known. Click on the thumbnail to access a 300 dpi image.
Original photo caption: "EM Barracks, Barbers PT."; photo dated 1967; Photo No. 14CGD-01236701"; photographer unknown.
Original photo caption: "Rea Admiral S. H. Evans, Commander of the 14th Coast Guard District, inspects personnel attached to the Coast Guard Air Detachment, Barbers Point, on Thursday November 5, 1959. Accompanying Rear Admiral Evans in the inspection party is Lieutenant Commander A. H. Siemens, Commander W. C. Mitchell, Rear Admiral Evans, and the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Air Detachment, Commander W. E. Chapline, Jr."; Photo No. 14CGD-11085901; photographer unknown.
Air Station Files, U. S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
Arthur Pearcy. A History of U. S. Coast Guard Aviation. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989.