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Trump signs bill to add Pacific War memorial to Honolulu WWII sites

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JAMM AQUINO / jaquino@staradvertiser.com

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Lloyd R. “Joe” Vasey holds a group photo of the crew of the USS Gunnel at his home on Jan. 21, 2017, in Makiki. Vasey, who died at age 101 in March, had long sought a World War II memorial that specifically commemorates the service members who fought in the Pacific theater.

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law today that was inspired by the late Adm. Lloyd R. “Joe” Vasey, who wanted to commemorate U.S. service members who fought in the Pacific theater.

Vasey’s bill directs the National Park Service and the nonprofit Pacific Historic Parks to create a Pacific War memorial at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which includes the USS Arizona Memorial.

Vasey, a Honolulu resident and World War II hero, died in March shortly after his 101st birthday. During his lifetime he was best known for founding the Pacific Forum, a think tank dedicated to world peace, and for his tireless fight to bring a Pacific War memorial to Honolulu.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who introduced the bill along with U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), said the memorial will “share the stories of the brave warriors who lost their lives during World War II while fighting in the Pacific theater. It will provide their families and loved ones a place to go to pay their respects, and most importantly, to learn how they lived, and why they fought.”

Vasey, who was saddened that a Pacific War memorial had not been built during his lifetime, estimated that wartime conditions prevented the retrieval of the bodies of about 150,000 fallen service members who fought in WWII’s Pacific theater, and wanted a place where friends and family could mourn them.

“My only regret is that Adm. Vasey, who dedicated his life to the pursuit of peace after witnessing the brutal realities of war, is not around to see his dream realized,” Hanabusa said. “That is why it is up to all of us to ensure that the experiences of Adm. Vasey and the Greatest Generation are memorialized and passed on. We should all stand with the admiral’s firm belief that in any disagreement, peace is our only option.”

The measure Vasey inspired unanimously passed the U.S. House on the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) shepherded the legislation through the Senate, which unanimously passed it shortly after his death.

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