Hawaii Loses a Great Patriot – Harold B. Estes, U.S. Navy (ret.)

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BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. – Harold B. Estes and many of his peers are part of a generation that is known as “The Greatest Generation.”  Estes, a World War II veteran credited with helping bring the USS Missouri and Bowfin museums to Hawaii, and who gained Internet fame with a letter written to President Barack Obama telling him to “shape up and start acting like an American,” died Tuesday May 17, 2011.

Bringing the battleship Missouri to Pearl Harbor started as an idea tossed around in 1994 by Estes, retired Adm. Ron Hays and Navy veteran Edwin Carter, according to the museum.


It was a day in mid-February 1994 when Ronald Hays, a retired four-star admiral who had headed all U.S. forces in the Pacific, said to Estes, a retired chief boatswain’s mate, something like: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get the Missouri here?”.

Anyone who has served in the United States Navy knows that the people who get things done in the Navy are chief boatswain’s mates.  This includes four-star admirals.

Estes,  who had been out of the Navy since 1954, had worked with Carter to arrange for the deactivated submarine USS Bowfin  to be brought to  Pearl Harbor as the centerpiece of a submarine memorial complex.

Estes served over 20 years in the Navy.  He took to the Navy like the proverbial duck takes to the water. Estes loved the Navy and the Navy returned that love.  His first ship was the battleship California, later sunk at Pearl Harbor.

When Estes called Carter about the Missouri, Carter arranged for Estes and Hays to meet with him for lunch at the Waialae Country Club. “Cheap lunch,” Carter has been quoted as saying.  “Nobody ordered booze.”

All three – the admiral, the chief boatswain’s mate and the naval reservist – agreed it should be possible to get the deactivated Mo here. Hays, who was going back east on a business trip, said he would  talk to our congressional delegation (all approved) and to the vice chief of naval operations, Stanley Arthur, who had been a fighter pilot over Vietnam with Hays.

Arthur approved, too. Interestingly, he shared a story about a Japanese delegation that  had startled him by asking to have the Missouri towed to Tokyo Bay in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the surrender ceremonies on the battleship.

“Why?” Arthur asked them. The Japanese delegation told him that the Missouri represented a new beginning.  It turned the rhetoric of democracy, freedom and prosperity into reality for Japan.

This idea was welcomed by the three. As it has turned out, the Japanese have become major visitors to the Missouri.

It’s interesting to note that when the Missouri opened as a museum ship at Ford Island, it become a “bookend” to the Arizona Memorial. The beginning and end of the Pacific war is dramatically portrayed by these two ships.

This Author of this article had the pleasure of meeting Estes. I can attest that he was a true gentleman. He didn’t have a political bone in his body, and  he loved America and his fellow veterans.  I have no doubt that Harold Estes and Fred Ballard are sitting together with the Supreme Commander talking story.

A letter critical of Obama penned by Estes several years ago went viral on the Internet and references to it are still numerous. Estes began his letter with these words, “One of the benefits of my age, perhaps the only one, is to speak my mind, blunt and direct even to the head man.”

Estes will join his wife Doris at Court 11, niche 129P,  at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.





  1. The Japanese thinking of the Missouri as a symbol of a new beginning. That is most excellent, and explains some of the reaction of some Japanese tourists at the National Atomic Museum towards the models of Fat Man and Little Boy. Paul Tibbetts was there autographing his book, and the Japanese tourists seemed happy to meet him. His actions led to a fork in the road, one way leading to increasing nationalism and a certain repeat (the road Germany took at the end of WW1, pushed there by the "victors"), the other to a fresh start. MacArthur strongly shoved Japan towards the fork Germany didn't take the first time. Part of what allowed Japan to become such an economic powerhouse is that, with so much of their infrastructure destroyed, they rebuilt with newer designs and technology. Here in the US, more and more old big cities like Boston and Philadelphia are having issues with sewers more than 100 years old, sometimes almost 200 years old. This new start left Japan open to new ideas, like the industrial management and quality control pushed by Edward Deming (which were essentially ignored here until Japan validated them). Maybe this country needs to have its collective asses kicked like Japan in order to wake up.

  2. Forgive me for quoting a current cartoon on this matter ….

    Peter Griffin: We will have equal rights for all …… Except blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Jews, gays, women, Muslims. Uhmm…Everybody who's not a white man ….. And I mean white-white …. so no Italians, no Polish, just people from Ireland, England, and Scotland ….. But only certain parts of Scotland and Ireland. Just full blooded whites ….. No, you know what? Not even whites. Nobody gets any rights. Ahhh…America!

    This is the most sarcastic, blunt and truthful statement made about this country since this freak show hit HD television. America is the land of the free, and always should be. Currently we have a president with hands like an eagles wing when we need one with hands that know what it feels like to carry a big stick.

    Thank you, for all you've done, Soldier of the once FREE AMERICA, for everything you've put on the line in the battle for our freedom. Let's hope your blood, sweat and tears won't turn out to be something thought upon by the government as "something that happened back when …" Viva Liberty.

  3. by WWII vet Harold Estes from back during Obama’s first term. It is a very powerful message. Estes died Tuesday May 17, 2011. Now nearing the end of Obama’s second term, I thought you all might like to read it and see twitters

  4. The most disgusting thing, and scary, that has happened to our nation ever, is our current "president", Barak H. Obama!!!!
    I hope we are not destined to have another 4 years of someone who is even worse, in the name of Hillary!!! Our country which MOST of us love and cherish, is in danger like we've never seen before, and we had better think long and hard about what they have done, and be careful with our next vote.

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