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The Conversation: The origins of the Red Hill fuel storage facility


Our Red Hill contaminated water crisis has dominated the headlines for months. Today we switch the focus from the future of the massive underground tanks to the past.

We talk about the history of Red Hill, and go back to the beginning to understand the seemingly impossible project, a system of tanks and tunnels that was shrouded in wartime secrecy.

For that history, we tracked down two men who drafted the application to designate it as a civil engineering landmark in 1995. James Gammon spent 24 years at the facility, as the superintendent and general engineer for the fuel department at the Naval Supply Center Pearl Harbor. James Murray is a retired editor and public affairs officer for the Fleet Logistics Center Navy facilities command. He served for 30 years.

We get the stories of Red Hill City. The community had its own newspaper and athletic leagues. Miners came from across the continent to work in what was described as "working inside of hell." The work was not without casualties: 17 in total. Some drowned, some fell to their death, some electrocuted, one was shot. We pause to reflect on what it took to build it almost 82 years ago.

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Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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