Freedom Tower: Past and Present

Victoria D’Andrea-Roy
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Morale, Welfare and Recreation

Annually, a beautiful tower lighting celebration takes place in December to gather the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) community for the holidays. This festive event takes place at Freedom Tower. Out of curiosity, do you happen to know the tower’s history?

JBPHH is home to an abundance of historical memorials and buildings related to World War II. There are a variety of well-known sites such as the USS Arizona Memorial, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Courtyard of Heroes — just to name a few. However, Freedom Tower is an example of one of the sites that is not so well known.

The structure was actually built as a water tower in 1938. Capt. Howard B. Nurse led the construction of the Moorish or European-style building for a total of $43,160.

The 166 ft. tower was able to store about 500,000 gallons of water for emergencies. Interesting fact, above the steel water tank there’s a very small room, only 20 feet in diameter, which was used as a radio transmitter facility prior to and during World War II.

Luckily, during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack, the Japanese didn’t bomb the tower. It is rumored that they believed the tower to be some sort of religious structure, causing them to fear and not bomb it. Although it was never directly hit, the steel tank and inner staircase became damaged. Due to the surrounding bombings on the base it was never reused as a water tower.

On the 50th anniversary of Hickam Air Force Base, May 15, 1985, the water tower was officially dedicated and renamed as “Freedom Tower.”

On the front of the tower, above the entry door a plaque was placed in dedication and reads, “To honor those that have served, and will serve, in the defense of our liberties, and to honor those who paid the ultimate price so that others might live in freedom.”

Today, the tower stands as a monumental landmark on the base. As an annual tradition, the tower lighting celebration is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 14.

Among the usual event offerings are: a Santa Claus photo booth, live entertainment, holiday drinks and cookies, food vendors, bounce houses, holiday crafts, glow jewelry, and of course the tower lighting ceremony.

In the past, a large amount of lights covered the tower reachingtotheground.

However, in the interest of “staying green,” JBPHH now offers a laser light show on the tower.

For more information on the 49th annual Tower Lighting Celebration, visit

If you would like to learn more about the historical areas of Joint Base Pearl-Harbor Hickam take advantage of one of the MWR-run historical tours.

• Ford Island Historical Tour (Wednesdays) $25 for adults and $20 for children (3-11 yrs.)

• Hickam Historical Tour takes place (Fridays) $45 for adults and $40 for children (3-11 yrs.) Visit or one of the local Information, Tickets and Tours locations at JBPHH for more information.

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Category: Life & Leisure