Schofield Barracks jail that once housed violent criminals turns 100

Schofield Barracks in Hawaii


By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: November 3, 2018

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — High, concrete walls, iron bars over the windows and a wooden guard tower at one corner are what’s visible from the outside of the old Schofield Barracks stockade, built 100 years ago in what was then a remote section of the post.

It’s what happened within those concrete walls and in the adjacent “Execution Gulch” that breathes a century of life — and death — into the Schofield facility that was completed near the end of World War I.

In 1946, Pvt. Garlon Mickles was found guilty of larceny and rape — then a capital offense — in an attack on a female civilian on Guam. He was among more than two dozen prisoners who attempted a breakout from the Schofield stockade but was quickly recaptured.

Mickles, 20, was hanged in Execution Gulch 200 yards behind the stockade on April 22, 1947 — the last soldier to be put to death at Scho­field, and the last person in Hawaii to die by capital punishment.

The death penalty was abolished in Hawaii 10 years later in 1957.

Frank Sinatra was filmed at the stockade for 1953’s “From Here to Eternity.”

A commemoration of the history of the facility, which now serves as the provost marshal’s office and is used for military police functions, recently was hosted by the 8th Military Police Brigade.

“It has been said that a people, or in this case, an organization, without the knowledge of their past history is like a tree without roots,” Col. Michelle Goyette, commander of the police brigade, said at a ceremony last month in the stockade’s main courtyard. “So today we honor our history — a history rooted in the formation of our military police regiment when the provost marshal position was created in 1776 to address disciplinary issues within our Army.”

Brig. Gen. David Glaser, the provost marshal general of the Army, who came in for the ceremony, asked those present whether they’d ever sat at a table with a parent, grandparent or an older friend and been enthralled by the stories of their lives.

“Can you imagine the stories this stockade could tell?” he said.

In 1918, upon its completion, “all of the soldiers were deployed to France. This place was pretty empty,” he said.

The “premier” military correctional facility in the Pacific was fully operational with a maximum capacity of 350 prisoners by the spring of 1921, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii said.

By World War II, the stockade housed as many as 450 prisoners. A 1946 floor plan showed offices, a chapel, an open dormitory, three general cells, four solitary confinement cells and a “death” cell, according to a National Register of Historic Places nomination.

A main courtyard surrounded by 10-foot concrete walls 6 inches thick was used for recreation for the general population, while a smaller, adjacent yard was used for solitary-confinement prisoners.

In 1947, “30 prisoners attempted a dramatic prison break,” the National Register report states. “An officer of the guard and three enlisted men were taken hostage. Guards surrounded the stockade, and as the prisoners attempted to run out, the guards fired bullets and tear gas. One prisoner was killed and the rest were captured and returned to the stockade.”

Two prisoners escaped in 1955, and two more again in 1957.

Joseph Theroux reported in 1991 in The Hawaiian Journal of History that there were at least seven military executions in Hawaii — with most of them at Execution Gulch. But that total is not entirely clear.

Private 1st Class Jesse Boston, convicted of killing a woman by striking her in the head with a concrete weight while he was stationed on Maui, was put before a firing squad on Aug. 1, 1945.

An Army account said Boston was the only soldier to be “executed by musketry” in the isles in World War II — the method of death being ordered by a military commission. Mickles and Boston are among seven soldiers put to death in Hawaii and elsewhere whose corpses are buried in a separated section of the old post cemetery, their heads facing away from the American flag because of their dishonorable acts.

A 1956 renovation saw the removal of the original cells and replacement with 16 new cells. In 1989, the facility was renovated again for administrative use by military police.

Eight cells remain, locked with big, brass keys. Only a couple are outfitted with toilets and sinks, and unlike the violent prisoners of the past, the worst the stockade now locks up are the occasional drunks.

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