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NEWS | March 18, 2019

A Legacy of Excellence

By Justice Vannatta

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. There are celebrated historical photos that have been captured throughout the years that not only depict that fraction in time, but manage to encapsulate the climate of the world in that fateful moment. 

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility’s (PHNSY & IMF) storied history still resonates. The attacks on December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, put PHNSY & IMF at the forefront of the war and forced all of Hawaii, a U.S. territory at the time, to contribute to the mission’s success. The Islands became a changed place, ruled by martial law for the duration of the war, it hosted hundreds of thousands of servicemen as they moved through on their way to and from battle. Immediately after the attack, the military mandated civilians to dig holes for makeshift bomb shelters and to place barbed wire around everything, including beaches, water pumping stations, electrical installations and government buildings. While they were free to live their normal lives during the day, Hawaii residents were forced to black out their windows and stay inside at night. Life had forever been altered in paradise and everyone felt the urgency to support the war efforts in their own way. 

Throughout the war, fires in storage areas were so devastating and common that the U.S. corralled woman who worked as clerks, nurses, or pumper station managers in Hawaii and trained them to fire fight. During one of these firefighting training sessions, an unknown photographer took the now famous photo of four young women, legs astride with resolute determination on their faces, hosing a fire down, training to be America’s first line of defense. The women photographed were Elizabeth Moku, Alice Cho, Katherine Lowe and Hilda Van Gieson. Astonishingly, public records showed that up until 2017, 100-year-old Katherine Lowe was still living in Hawaii, an hour from Honolulu in the town of Laie. What was even more unique, was that her great-grandson, Hendrick Kaio was a Code 990 Temporary Facilities Apprentice at PHNSY & IMF. The Shipyard Log sat down with Hendrick and talked to him about his great-grandmother, her famous photo and PHNSY’s legacy of excellence.

Where is your Ohana from?

My Ohana is from Laie. My great-grandfather George Kaina Lowe and they lived in the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) property housing. They have lived there since long before I was born. My great-grandmother would catch the bus from Laie to the Pearl City Bowling Alley to bowl until she was in her nineties.

How long have you’ve been working at the shipyard?

I am a fourth-year electrician apprentice in Shop 99. I will be graduating later this year. 

What is your job title and what do you do exactly? 

I certify small and large electrical cables (for use as the shipyard’s shore power to our boats.) I also work on our CASCON (Close Air Support Control) systems that are employed on our boats while in dry-dock or on pier side. 

At what age did you first see your great-grandmother’s famous photo? 

I was 45 years old when I first saw her famous picture here at PHNSY. I recognized my great-grandmother’s photo and inquired with my uncle on it. When it was confirmed to me, I had a chance to meet her for the first time a few months later. To my surprise, at the age of 98, she was walking around unassisted, getting us drinks and being a good host.

How does this photo make you feel?

This photo was a pleasant surprise to me and filled me with a sense of great pride to know that a family member of mines was fortunate enough to be part of such an iconic photo, one that was used to inspire and encourage our early American-Hawaiians to pull together during a most challenging disaster.

What was your great-grandmother like?

My great-grandmother was a sheer delight. She was meek, unassuming, strong and caring. I am thankful that I got to meet her before she passed at the age of 100, a grand birthday that I had the privilege to attend, and the highlight of which consisted of watching my great-grandmother dance the hula for us all one last time.

Do you feel like our Pearl Harbor workforce is carrying on a “Legacy of Excellence?”

Absolutely! I believe that our Pearl Harbor workforce is definitely carrying on a “Legacy of Excellence.” I see it every day with the people I work with. Every step we take in our responsibilities have been planned with lessons learned from the past as well as incorporating technologies of today. We have seasoned mechanics and supervisors that are always committed to passing on their knowledge to the younger generations and that are so critical to our future here at Pearl.