The Friends of the Natatorium, which maintains this site, advocates for the preservation and restoration of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial. We seek the return of this spectacular facility to active recreational use by the families of Oahu and by visitors to Hawai’i.
The 100 by 40-meter ocean swimming course was opened in 1927 as a tribute to more than 10,000 servicemen from Hawai’i who served in World War I, including at least 101 who died in that war. It was Territorial Hawai’i’s official monument to their service and sacrifice, designed as a “living memorial” and as a symbol of the way of life they fought to defend. The Friends believes that, in allowing the Natatorium to deteriorate and eventually to close, the State of Hawai’i and City and County of Honolulu shamefully broke faith with and dishonored those World War I soldiers and sailors.
Neglect of the Natatorium also broke faith with the generations of Hawai’i families who brought children to learn to swim in its waters, with the athletic icons of Hawai’i who competed there in national and international aquatic competitions, and with all who love the history and cultural legacy that make Hawai’i unique among the 50 states.
The Friends of the Natatorium was incorporated in 1986 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Since then, its all volunteer directors and supporters have worked tirelessly to educate government officials and the general public about the Natatorium’s epic past and potential future.
Allies in our Cause
Preservation, repair and reopening of the Natatorium has been formally endorsed by a broad base of stakeholders, including veteran, Native Hawaiian, and historic preservation groups. Among them:
- American Institute of Architects, Honolulu Chapter
- American Legion, National Executive Committee, representing 2.4 million members nationwide
- American Legion, Department of Hawai’i
- Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs (58 clubs located in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, Washington State, Tennessee and Texas)
- Disabled American Veterans, Department of Hawai’i (4,000+ members)
- Fleet Reserve Association, Honolulu Branch 46 (2,000+ members)
- Historic Hawai’i Foundation
- McCully-Moiliili Neighborhood Board
- Military Order of Foreign Wars, Hawaii Commandery
- National Association for Uniformed Services (138,000 members)
- National Association for Uniformed Services, Hawaiian Division (850+ members)
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Oahu Veterans Council (107,000 veterans and family members, 30 member organizations)
- Society of Military Widows, Aloha Chapter 25
- United States World War I Centennial Commission
- U.S. Water Polo, Hawaii Committee
- Veterans of Foreign Wars, Hawaii District
- Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 8616, Diamond Head
- Waikiki Roughwater Swim Committee Inc.
Mahalo to the leaders and members of each of these outstanding organizations for their valuable support.
We’ve also been proud over the years to have had the support of prominent government leaders, including Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii; Sen. Spark Matsunaga, D-Hawaii; Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii; and Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii; well-known watermen, including Brian Keaulana; and Olympic gold medal swimmers and diver Bill Smith, Aileen Riggin Soule and Bill Woolsey. In 1988, Duke Kahanamoku’s widow, Nadine, wrote, “Always be a Friend of the Natatorium for Duke’s sake!”
Since 1989, the Friends has sponsored a Memorial Day Weekend observance in the park outside the Natatorium to honor America’s war dead and veterans and to keep faith with those in whose memory the Natatorium was built. Veterans Day services at the Natatorium have been led each year by VFW Post 8616.
What You Can Do
To learn more about what you can do to help us Remember, Respect and Renew the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial, visit our “What else can I do?” page. To donate to our effort, go to our contributions page. You can contact us here.
The Board of Directors
The present board of directors, carrying on the Friends’ more than a quarter-century legacy of ardent advocacy, includes Mo Radke, president; Donna L. Ching, vice president; Jim Anderson, treasurer; Nicole Hudspeth, secretary; and director Frank Weight.
We owe an unpayable debt of gratitude to avid supporters and past members of the board of directors of the Friends of the Natatorium. Far too many of them have dedicated decades of tireless advocacy and died without seeing the Natatorium restored to its intended use. See also our past members of honorary and regular boards.
I am a recent first time visitor to your beautiful island. I was saddened when I saw the memorial in its current state. I can tell it was and still could be an impressive memorial. I am glad to know that Friends will not allow the structure to be torn down. It should be restored to its original glory. I think a reasonable option that would bring in the funds necessary to continue the upkeep would be a wedding venue. The setting is perfect and it could still be a public swimming area. I could always come and run it for you! ??