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Honolulu’s Punchbowl Cemetery—One of the Nation’s Most-Visited Attractions

Punchbowl National Cemetery

Statue at Punchbowl Cemetery

Locals call it Punchbowl, but ancient Hawaiians named this punchbowl-shaped volcanic crater Puowaina, Hill of Sacrifice. Sacrifices—as in human sacrifices to appease the gods of old. With its beautiful panoramic views of Honolulu and Diamond Head, matched with its powerful symbolism, Punchbowl National Cemetery attracts more visitors than almost anywhere else in Hawaii.

Since World War II, the historic landmark has come to signify another sort of sacrifice—selfless sacrifice for one’s country. After the war, the extinct crater known simply as Punchbowl became home to The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Previous to World War II, Punchbowl was a public park, best known perhaps as a popular gathering place for folks celebrating Easter sunrise services, dating back to the early 1900s. The panoramic views from Punchbowl’s hillsides include the Koolau Mountains, Diamond Head, Waikiki, Honolulu and the Waianae Mountain Range. Visitors can also glimpse Pearl Harbor, which became internationally famous after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by Japan.

In the aftermath of the war, Punchbowl was selected as the ideal site for a national cemetery to honor the dead. In 1949, the cemetery held its first services for four members of the military and for Ernie Pyle, one of America’s best-known war correspondents. Other key sites include the eight Courts of the Missing, honoring nearly 30,000 Americans who never made it home.

Among the other notable persons commemorated here are Charles Lacey Veach, an engineer at Houston’s Johnson Space Center, who served as a mission specialist on two space shuttle flights in the early 1990s, and astronaut Ellison Shoji Onizuka, one of the seven crew members aboard the space shuttle Challenger when it exploded during liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. Islanders are especially proud of Onizuka, who grew up on the Island of Hawaii and was graduated from Konawaena High School in 1964.

Admission to Punchbowl is free, with ample parking for those who want to stroll up to the lookout with its peaceful, panoramic views. It’s the perfect spot to reflect on the sacrifices others have made for our freedom today.

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5 Responses to “Honolulu’s Punchbowl Cemetery—One of the Nation’s Most-Visited Attractions”

    • Winona

      Aloha John,
      Thank you for your comment. We couldn’t agree with you more.

      Mahalo,
      Winona

      Reply
  1. Tim Johns (Terri Foxx)

    I want to thank the people there. My mother is buried there, she was killed in a robbery back in 1985, and she was married to a career military man and they were so kind to our family to allow my mother to be buried there. I miss Hawaii very much, and plan on visiting soon. I just wanted to thank the folks at Punchbowl for their kindness, and care.

    Reply
  2. M. Scott McMannis

    I felt emotions of peaceful calm, followed by deep respect for all who died in defense of our country, the greatest country history has known, the land of the free because of the brave. Visitors should know that there is a small building where one can enter a name on a screen and learn the location of that person’s grave. I entered my last name to see if there was anyone there with the same last name (there was not). Everyone who visits Hawaii should visit Punchbowl and take a Pearl Harbor tour.

    Reply
    • Winona

      Aloha, thank you for your beautiful words and valuable information. there are so many emotions one goes through when in the presence of Punchbowl. Mahalo, Winona

      Reply

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