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Palm Circle rides again: polo’s place in Hawaiʻi and military history

Top allied generals were in town this past week to talk about the future of land forces. The 10th anniversary of the Land Forces Pacific meeting drew Army top brass and military vendors — and kicked off with a throwback to the cavalry.

The sport of polo returned to Fort Shafter’s Palm Circle where Army officers live in historic homes. One of its most famous residents, George Patton, was an avid polo player.

"It was said that Patton was a fierce competitor, and was sent off the field in one match for ungentlemanly conduct. The legend has it that after one stinging defeat there, Patton commandeered an airplane and dumped bags of flour on the houses of his opponents," former sports broadcaster Russell Shimooka announced at the event.

Retired Army medic Allen Hoe of the Hawaii Polo Association helped resurrect the sport on the historic oval at Fort Shafter with the help of Gen. Francis Wiercinski, then the U.S. Army Pacific commander.

"He knew my love for horses and the sport of polo and one day he asked me, 'Why can't we play polo on Palm Circle? Because I know they used to do a lot of equestrian stuff there.' And I said, 'I don't know. You're the boss. Why haven't we done it?' So he made it happen," Hoe said. "We've done polo matches here for a number of different occasions over the past 11, 12 years."

The sport has also given Chris Dawson a platform to talk about his Native Hawaiian culture and history. His company does contract work with the military.

"Horses have a very unique way of taking us back in time and history. It's a very important part of our culture, our Native Hawaiian and our Hawaiʻi community culture. So being able to offer these types of opportunities to showcase horsemanship polo in a relationship with the U.S. Army Command is an absolute pleasure. We'll do it every time anytime asked," Dawson said.

Editor's note: Dawson’s company is an underwriter of HPR’s Hawaiian Word of the Day.

This interview aired on The Conversation on May 22, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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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