Honolulu’s Home of the Brave Museum collection headed to auction block
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — About half of the collection that made up the Home of the Brave Museum in Honolulu is now on the auction block, while the items most closely related to World War II and survivors of the 1941 Pearl Harbor surprise attack are headed for Colorado.
The museum had struggled to survive over the past three years, closing its doors in December in preparation for relocation from the city’s funky-but-cramped warehouse district to the tourist-laden Waikiki Beach, which has been a ghost town since late March in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This coronavirus has absolutely wiped us out,” said Glen Tomlinson, who has been operating the museum since the early 1990s with his wife, Janet.
The couple maxed out their bank credit and took out a second mortgage on their house to keep the doors open as they searched for a benefactor. An investor had stepped in to make the Waikiki Beach location a reality, Glen Tomlinson said, but the widespread economic setback from the coronavirus shutdown ended that possibility.
They now plan to move themselves and the remaining core collection to Colorado, where they hope to set up a similar but more modest operation.
The collection is chock full of military memorabilia from mostly World War II but also more recent wars – uniforms, equipment, buttons, insignia, weapons, gadgets, helmets and a whole lot more. The online auction at oahuauctions.com, where items are displayed, ends at 6 p.m. June 26.
“We got all the stuff out of the museum and into our garage,” Tomlinson said. “And then this damn coronavirus thing. It was like the perfect storm. We had an investor lined up to do this whole thing. We just lost it.”
The Tomlinsons also ran the Brewseum, a military-themed brew pub next door that generated decent revenue for the operation. But, like all bars on Oahu, it was ordered closed in March by Gov. David Ige in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Among the items up for online bidding are tables, chairs, taps and decorations from the brew pub, along with the 1942 Willys jeep that adorned the Brewseum.
While it no longer has an engine or transmission, the jeep is the same year and model used by Adm. Chester Nimitz as his so-called “land flagship” in Hawaii during World War II.
The couple went through the museum collection and withheld “the real historical items” from sale, particularly World War II-era items donated through the years by Pearl Harbor survivors – hundreds of whom toured the museum through the years.
One of the Tomlinsons’ three sons lives in Colorado and wants to help restart the Brewseum there.
They hope the auction will yield enough to pay off debt they’ve accrued through personal bank loans.
“There's some really cool items in there,” Glen Tomlinson said of the auction bill. “There are some really cool collectibles, one-of-a-kind things. But all of the signed prints – the ones that actually have meaning to me from all the Pearl Harbor survivors – I'm keeping all of that to try and do almost like a mini-museum over there in Colorado.”
He is reluctantly leaving behind some of the museum’s larger items, including a cherished customized table that was once on the carrier USS Enterprise and signed by a Pearl Harbor survivor.
“I didn’t want to let that go,” Tomlinson said, “but you can’t take everything.”