Division History

Maui: Home Base


There are many legends concerning the way in which the Fourth Marine Division got Camp Maui as a rest camp. Some say it was originally intended for the Army but they would have none of it, which made it just the thing for Marines. Others say it was a deliberate conspiracy on the part of the High Command who wanted to simulate combat conditions. Whatever the truth, everyone agreed that originally, the term "rest camp” was a misnomer. This much there was agreement about: Camp Maui sprawled 1,500 feet above sea level on the side of the world's largest extinct volcano, Haleakala, whose broad rim soared nearly 10,000 feet into the sky. To the old Hawaiian natives, Haleakala personified the majestic power of a higher being and it was into its crater that the legendary Madame Pele, as an act of appeasement, threw roast pig, silk handkerchiefs, and jewelry.

But to the Marines, Haleakala was simply the cause of a meteorological freak. Rain clouds, passing over its crest, descended to warmer levels and dumped their moisture. Hospitable islanders pointed out that we had arrived during the rainy season. One story is that a Marine's shoes came off in a ditch one night and he did not miss them for three days. He had been unlacing the mud at night and putting it back on again in the mornings.

The weather was always a good subject of conversation in Camp Maui because it was always different.

The men of the Fourth had their first glimpse of Maui from the transports on the way to the Marshalls as the ships lay off Lahaina Roads for a day to provision. The great fields of sugar cane, the palm trees, mountains, and beaches had a story-book beauty.

When, in late February 1944, the Fourth returned to make the island its home, the beauty was still there; and at close range it was prettier than ever. The long convoy of trucks that wound from the Kahului docks through Paia and Makawao passed under blossoming flame and shower trees, past hibiscus and wild roses, past green clapboard houses from which curious islanders peered. Three times in 15 months the Fourth Division was to make this journey from the Kahului docks to camp, and each time Maui seemed more beautiful.

Slowly, in spite of the mud and the wind and the rain and the first pangs of homesickness for the States, slowly, civilization began to grow out of barren fields. Buildings went up for offices, tents for living quarters; messhalls were constructed and roads carved through the mire. Post Exchanges opened up with supplies of "pogey bait," tobacco, and enough beer for two bottles per man a night. Movie screens and stages were built in each regimental area. Ball diamonds were laid out and boxing rings constructed. Company libraries were opened, and Marines had their choice of 73 magazines. Chaplains, somehow, procured enough lumber for chapels; electric lights were installed in all tents; public-address systems were wired into the company areas and used for piping announcements and the latest music to Marines. Within a few months Camp Maui had become a relatively decent place to live.

Training went on, too. New men joined the Division to replace casualties suffered at Namur. The Army's jungle Training Center was opened to Marines, and several units went through the paces of this glorified obstacle course. Command Post exercises, overnight problems, and hikes became weekly routine.

For entertainment the units had nightly movies in the rain, naturally, traveling USO shows, and local hula troupes. The hula girls took their art seriously and tried to bring the Marines some of the old Hawaiian culture. Later, the Fourth organized its own show, "The Fubar Follies" with Sergeant Lee Cohen as Master of Ceremonies and such talented people as Ed Grower, Eddie Martin, Bill Bloxom, Tom Zackem, Jr., and Jack Flynn as entertainers. This nucleus expanded and with the addition of some new acts and the Twenty-fourth's dance band became the "Just 4 Fun Show" and toured the Pacific in Navy transport planes. They played the "foxhole circuit," giving shows at Roi, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, and Johnston islands, and became probably the best known service troupe in the Pacific.

On April 1, 1944, General Harry Schmidt made the first of several mass presentations of the Purple Heart during the Division's stay on Maui. "This medal is not offered in compensation for the wounds you have suffered," he said. "It is a symbol. It betokens a nation's respect for the sacrifices you have made." Thousands of Marines were to receive the Purple Heart at one time or another on Maui.

On April 26, 1944, Admiral Nimitz journeyed to Camp Maui to present awards to men who had earned them at Roi-Namur. "The world knows of the gallant performance and achievement of the men who fought at Roi and Namur Islands.... There, the Fourth Division wrote another brilliant chapter in the chronicles of the Marine Corps."

Twice again, on Maui, words like these were to be spoken to men of the Fourth, after Saipan-Tinian, and after Iwo Jima. And each time there were fewer of the original Fourth to hear them. On July 4, 1945, a parade was held on the Camp Maui airstrip, at which time 714 men of the Division were decorated. Following this, on August 16, another ceremony was held on the airstrip. At this time the Presidential Unit Citation and the Asiatic-Pacific Theater streamers were attached to the Division and Regimental colors.

On April 30, 1944, the Division opened its own airstrip for "flying jeeps." VMO-4 (Observation Squadron 4) was attached to the Division as an "aerial OP." Henceforth it would accompany the Fourth on operations to fly tactical observation and artillery spotting missions. Little larger than a Piper Cub, the two seater Stinsons were affectionately named "F4U-Pocket Edition," "The Last Straw," and "SB Doodle-bug." Lieutenant Colonel William R. Wendt was Division Air Officer.

As the months rolled by, Maui more and more became "home" to the men of the Fourth. USOs in Haiku, Makawao, Kahului, and Wailuku furnished hot showers, games, swimming, tennis, dances, and refreshments. It was here that Marines met the girls of Maui; many a friendship was formed and many a romance blossomed. Back in camp, officer and NCO clubs were built and the beer lines at Post Exchanges became longer and longer.

There were unofficial USOs too, notably the bars at the Maui Grand and Wailuku Hotels. Putting on the Marine equivalent of "tux 'n' tails," some of the battalions held dances at the hotels, inviting local girls to be their guests. Officers took over the Maui Country Club on several occasions for dances.

The terrain and beaches of Maui provided excellent and rugged training ground. All the Division's amphibious maneuvers for the Marianas and Iwo Jima operations were held off Maalaea Bay. Haleakala became a super obstacle course and 13-mile hikes through its crater, a challenge to those who thought they had tough leg muscles. A total of 47 training areas, many of them belonging to the Army, were available to the Division. Six areas, consisting of gulches and rough terrain, near the camp, were used for non-tactical maneuvering. On the outskirts of camp, a demolitions area, a live-grenade course, a pistol range, and 1000-inch machine-gun range were set up. Five miles east of camp, in a gulch opening into the sea, was the Division's bazooka area, and along the coast, east of camp for about ten miles, were combat firing ranges which permitted the maneuvering and firing of tanks and halftracks in coordination with the infantry. The Division's 100-target rifle range at Opana Point was also located in this area. Another area in the vicinity was used to train motor transport drivers in the movement of troops and supplies under both day and night conditions of combat.

Army facilities on Maui available to the Division, according to Fourth Division records, "consisted of a jungle training center, a village fighting course, a cave fighting course, and an infiltration course. The fortified jungle position consisted of 22 pillboxes and emplacements well concealed in bamboo groves, under the roots of banyan trees, and in thick undergrowth."

In addition to all this, there was a mortar and artillery impact area, a seacoast artillery range and an antiaircraft firing area. The Maalaea Bay area furnished an antitank moving-target range, a close-combat range, and a 20-point rifle range. The beach at Maalaea Bay was fortified with pillboxes and emplacements modeled after the Tarawa Beach. Inland were two artillery positions and maneuver areas. In the center of the island, near the Puunene Air Station, were, the Division's tank maneuver areas.

Morale was always high in the Fourth Division. To a great extent, this might be attributed to the well rounded sports program which the Division fostered, a program which embraced individual sports as well as competitive sports and which allowed not only inter-battalion and inter-regimental competition but allowed competition with Army and Navy units from Maui and neighboring islands as well. Baseball diamonds, handball courts, volleyball courts, and boxing rings dotted the camp; gymnasiums and tennis courts were available in neighboring towns; two golf courses were open to personnel of the Division; the Puunene Naval Air Station offered gymnasium and swimming pool privileges, and there was plenty of ocean, too, to swim in. At Haiku there was a good football field for practice games, in addition to one at Kahului, and all units had a plentiful supply of recreational gear. As a result, the Fourth was a division that was sportsminded to a high degree; and this paid off a hundredfold in combat and in rehabilitation.

The Division's interest in sports is perhaps best illustrated by the Division's football team, organized when the Fourth returned to Maui from the Marianas in August 1944. Coached by Lieutenant Colonel Leroy "Pat" Hanley, the Division Athletic and Morale Officer and former coach at Boston University, the team played seven games and was never defeated. In only one game (against the Kaneohe Klippers) did an opposing team score, and the Maui Marines finished the season as champions of the Central Pacific with a record of 164 points against only six for their opponents. Even more remarkable is that not once during the entire season did this team ever have to call time out for an injury.

In sumnming up the accomplishments of the Division's team, the Puunene Naval Air Station's Island Breeze said:

Presenting a great football team ... one of the greatest football teams we have ever seen--professional, collegiate, or service. This team was not only an outfit with skillful players and a splendid coach, it was above all an organization with an indomitable spirit.... We are very certain of the fact that these fighting men of the Fourth Division had the greatest stamina and above all the finest team spirit of any organization we have ever seen.

Families on the island threw open their doors to the Marines and will be gratefully remembered by hundreds of men in the Fourth for their gracious hospitality. Citizens of Maui proved that "Aloha" was more than a word. The Fourth soon became "Maui's own" and the traditional island slogan "Maui No Ka Oi," became "Maui Marines No Ka Oi." (A free translation of this would be "Maui Marines are the best.") Who will ever forget the reception that Maui gave the Fourth when it returned from Iwo? It is not an exaggeration to say that no division anywhere received a more heartwarming welcome when it came back from battle. This welcome was also expressed in the words of a small pamphlet given to each returning Marine:


Hi, you Marines! Welcome home! It's no "snow job" when we tell you that the servicemen and women and the civilians of Maui are throwing this big shindig for you because we think you're just about the greatest guys that ever landed on this Island. When the news came over the radio that the Marines had hit Iwo Jima, everybody asked the same question, "Are the Maui Marines there?" Then we heard the news flash that you and a lot of other Marines were in there pitching. After that, nothing else that happened seemed to matter very much. We don't need to tell you that everyone from Hana to Lahaina is mighty proud of you. And when we read that you had named that first street "Maui Boulevard", we were practically bursting at the seams.

So welcome to Maui--the old friends and the new! Welcome to Iao Valley and Haleakala---to the rainbows and the rain (that everlasting rain at Camp Maui)-the steaks and the banana splits--the pineapples and the poi--the carnation leis and the steel guitars. But, most important of all, welcome back to all the folks on Maui who think it might be a pretty good idea to add a new word to the famous slogan, MAUI NO KA OI and let the world know it is now, MAUI MARINES NO KA OI!


Following its return from Iwo, the Division put the finishing touches on Camp Maui. Improvements soon made living conditions the best yet. Roads were paved; Red Cross recreation huts were built, where coffee and doughnuts were served in the evening by the first women ever to be attached to the Division overseas. Frame buildings took the place of tents for chapels and a number of auditoriums went up, finally making it possible to see movies without getting wet. A USO club was built near the Twenty-third

Marines Headquarters. New athletic fields were laid out; one of them, in the Twenty-third area, dedicated to the Division's star football player, Howard "Smiley" Johnson, who had been killed on Iwo. A boxing arena went up and the Division airstrip was converted into a parade ground. For the old timers, who had slogged around in the mud when the Division first came to Maui, it didn't seem quite right. They weren't kidding anybody, though. Everyone enjoyed it, for Maui had become just about the next best place to home.













After the war, the 4th Marine Division Association, in conjunction with the citizens of Haiku, decided to establish a Memorial Park on the former site of Camp Maui. It would be a memorial to the Division's fallen comrades and would be a facility to be enjoyed by all Maui citizens. Through the years, with tremendous cooperation of the County of Maui's private citizens, Maui's Mayors over the years and U.S. Army Engineers, a beautiful Memorial has become a reality.
Division History of the Fighting Fourth