Fort DeRussy Waikiki is actually one of four DeRussy military installations in the United States. However, Fort DeRussy may be one of the most beautiful installations as its located in a natural paradise of Honolulu, Hawaii. The installation is under the jurisdiction of the US Army and is largely open to the public as it contains various parks, landscaped areas, picnic grounds and more. It’s also home to the Battery Randolph, which has the Museum of Hawai’i, which is also open to the public.
History of Fort DeRussy Waikiki
During the Spanish-American War, it became clear how important Hawaii was as a strategic location for the US military. Originally, the fort was built as an Army reserve area in 1915 to protect Pearl Harbor and Honolulu during World War I. There were large cannons constructed in two battery sites within the fort. The cannons were eventually replaced with antiaircraft guns. Fort DeRussy became an important player in the Honolulu coastal defense system.
The fort was named after General Rene Edward De Russy who lived between 1789 and 1865. He was a military educator, engineer and a US Army officer who helped build many of the eastern United States coastal fortification systems. He also became the superintendent of the US Military Academy and held the office of brigadier general throughout the American Civil War.
Fort DeRussy was built right on Waikiki Beach, which is very close to Moana Hotel and Royal Hawaiian Hotel. These are two historic landmarks as well as the former Shore Battery Randolph, which was used as a place for Rest and Recuperation during the Vietnam War. There are a number of different shore batteries located on Oahu that joined the coastal defense system as well. However, many of the guns were removed or retired in the 1950s.
The guns were only fired once. It was once after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Army fired the 14-inch guns at the Shore Battery Randolph for a test. The windows at nearby historic Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian Hotels were shattered. The guns were never fired after this incident.
There are still active facilities at Fort DeRussy including the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the Fort DeRussy Chapel, Welfare and Recreation facility and the Hale Koa Hotel.
While the base is a wonderful location for recreation and history, it’s currently inactive. The fort became an excess location after World War II. The Army Museum would open here in 1976.
There was another installation of two 6-inch guns at Battery Dudley, which was named for General Edgar S. Dudley who died in 1911. The Artillery District of Honolulu was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 5th, 1984.
Visiting the US Army Museum of Hawai’i
To get a closer look at the old cannons and check out the remnants of Fort DeRussy, the US Army Museum of Hawai’i at Fort DeRussy Beach provides an incredible look into the history of this area. It was built in 1959 and is housed inside Battery Randolph, which was the former coastal artillery battery used on the island. This was constructed in 1911 in order to protect Honolulu Harbor on Oahu from outside threats.
The Battery Randolph was equipped with two 14-inch guns on disappearing carriages. The guns had a range of 40,000 yards. The area was named after Major Benjamin H. Randolph who died in 1907.
The museum had free admission and is open to the public. The collection contains World War II armor pieces, small arms indoors, the battery and an AH-1 Cobra helicopter. The exhibits go over the history of US Army warfare spanning the Pacific hemisphere and its significance to Hawaii. The army museum is located at Kalia Road.
Many of the exhibits focus on lesser known military figures like General Eric K. Shinseki, which is the only exhibit of its kind and features the first Japanese-American soldier to become the Chief of Staff in the US Army.
Fort DeRussy Beach Park
The Fort DeRussy Armed Forces Recreation Center is one of the most treasured jewels on the island of Hawaii. This beach sanctuary is free and open to the public. It became a recreation area for military, civilian and Honolulu residents in 1950. There are coconut palms decorating the gorgeous landscape of this park as well as monkeypod trees, grassy hills and tropical wildlife. The beach park also is home to picnic benches, exercise areas, public grills and volleyball courts.
The area is a very active place for recreation. Visitors enjoy swimming, jobbing, volleyball and paddle boarding. There are also several grassy areas to lay out and enjoy the sun or picnic with your family. It’s one of the best free places to enjoy the beautiful beach of Honolulu.