About Burl Burlingame

2burl-on-lavaBorn in Alaska bush territory and raised on a former Imperial Japanese Navy air base in Taiwan, author and historian William G. “Burl” Burlingame has a keen sense of Pacific history. While still a student in Hawaii schools, he worked with environmental and preservation associations, both as an activist and journalist. Burlingame focused on the social interplay between popular culture and the built environment, historical and otherwise.

Burlingame majored in both Journalism and Anthropology at the University of Missouri, and began to couple the discipline of scientific observation and the creativity of mass communications with the goal of popularizing historic interpretation. 

“During the 1970s, there was a great groundswell in preserving history, but little work was done to preserve the cultural landscape that created that history,” said Burlingame. “The real issue in historic preservation is recognizing that it engenders a sense of place. Communities aren’t defined solely by architecture, although architecture is the most visible and creates a sense of continuity and citizenship. Historic preservation needs to be seen as a development tool, and a vital part of community master planning.”

Within a year of graduating from college, Burlingame had written, photographed and designed “Da Kine Sound: Conversations With People Who Create Hawaiian Music,” the first work to deal with Hawaiian music as a uniquely ethnic art form. Nearly 20 years later, the book is still in print.

Burlingame worked as chief photographer for the Sun Press Newspapers, media advisor for Hawaii Pacific College and editor of Hawaii Coastal Zone News before joining theHonolulu Star-Bulletin in 1979. As a reporter specializing in cultural, historic and preservation issues, Burlingame has won several awards.

“At the same time, I recognized a need to create an organization that combines the latest in information theory, educational issues, emerging technology and historic preservation,” said Burlingame. In 1989, Burlingame founded Pacific Monograph, a company specializing in historic interpretation.

“History needs to be recognized as a force that shapes our lives and that of our children,” said Burlingame. “It is the interpretation of history that gives it form, and it takes varied skills — not just technical skills, but skills in thinking in new ways, of using new technologies and of tapping community potentials. It takes a kind of evangelism.”

Since that time, Burlingame’s ground-breaking book “Advance Force/Pearl Harbor” made nationwide news as it rewrote the history of that famous incident; he edited and published “Fortress Alcatraz” by John A. Martini, which deals with military preservation in the Bay Area; and coauthored “Coverama” with DeSoto Brown, detailing the rise and fall of a social phenomenon. 

In 1993, “Advance Force” was voted one of the top five nonfiction books from Hawaii during the last decade by independent judges from theHawaii Book Publishers Association. In 1995, “Coverama” was named one of “Hawaii’s Best Books” by HBPA.

Burlingame also served as Director of Collections and Interpretation for the Pacific Aerospace Museum, is a docent at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, created a use plan for the National Park Service in the closure of the Presidio in San Francisco, and has designed or built exhibits for the Pacific Aerospace Museum, the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, the Bowfin Museum, the Arizona Memorial, the Maritime Center and the defunct Hawaii Museum Center. He also served as chairman of the Barbers Point Museum Task Force. He is the author of the Task Force report “Hawaii Museum Center.”

In addition to the above, Burlingame is an Eagle Scout, restores antique military vehicles, was a member of the board of Seagull Schools, has won national awards for scale-model building, and plays in blues bands.  He lives in Kailua with wife Mary, an editor, daughters Amelia and Katie, two cats and two sleepy dogs that represent at least a dozen different breeds.

On the Big Muddy at Hannibal, Missouri.

On the Big Muddy at Hannibal, Missouri.

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21 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jim Redmond says:

    We have John Cairney coming over from Scotland for this year’s Burns Dinner on Saturday, January 29, 2011 at the Convention Center. I have some info. to promote John and the event but I wasn’t sure where to send it. Let me know of any good contacts to whom I might send some info. on the event.
    Mahalo, Jim Redmond-Caledonian Society of Hawaii

  2. Rachel Chesser says:


    I have figured out how to gain access to your site and have managed to mess up your caption contest with repeated posts. I leave it to you to delete the “bad” ones and keep the best. I cannot seem to delete anything!

    My bad,


  3. Steven Carruthers says:

    Did Japanese I-class submarines have deck lockers to store ammunition or were they hoisted from below before firing. Sources such as Hashimoto mention a deck locker. It’s a key point in my reconstruction of the Sydney bombardment in June 1942. Hope you can help clarify.

  4. Burl says:

    Steven — I frankly don’t know, primarily because the IJN used such a wide variety of submarine types, each with varying design details. Normal IJN procedure called for keeping ammunition below decks on surface vessels. However, watertight ammo lockers on deck allow for rapid reloading and shut-down times, critical for submarines that might have to shoot and scoot. They likely had smaller lockers that held maybe a dozen projectiles, enough for an engagement. Additional ammo could be hauled up from below for sustained shelling.


    We are going to show the Gidget doc to a few friends at Mark
    Fragale’s house tomorror Monday 1-17 at 6pm. Pot luck. (We are still having the Hawaii premier in July just before the surfboard auction, as Gidget will be on hand.) Let me know if you plan to come. 310-963-7860. I’m in Honolulu for the week.

  6. Pat Sanders says:

    aloha Burl :) Says my comment is too short so I had to come back to write you an aloha.

  7. Wallace Berry says:

    I-1 1942 Jan Hilo
    Have an item of interest for you.
    Evacuated Feb 42 USS Henderson PA1
    Was present during event
    Res: KBay Drive
    Regards Wallace

  8. Shawn Gehling says:

    Aloha Burl,
    Long time no see…
    Last time I saw you was the IPMS Show in California right?
    Hope all is well with you in paradise?
    I understand you are at the Pacific Aviation Museum out on Ford Island now? No longer downtown at Fort Derussy? I’ve got a buddy heading out your way and thought I would try and send him to the museum. Shawn

  9. dave swann says:

    hey burl howzit going? hows the job?

    say, do you still have the name of that AF guy who is a model builder – mark something or other?

  10. Andrea says:

    Aloha Burl,

    I have a brain wracking question for you … in the Monday, August 30, 1999 issue of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, your article “Forts guard century of history” has a picture of the pillbox at the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii. The caption states that “The pillbox was manufactured in Hawaii during World War II”. I don’t suppose you remember where you got that information?
    I have read elsewhere that these pillbox turrets were made by the Union Castings division of Blaw-Knox in PA. I have also seen these referred to as “Lord type”, and there is a LORD Corporation in PA that used to manufacture airplane parts for the military in WWII. Any ideas?

  11. Burl says:

    Nothing I like better than being asked about something I reported more than a decade ago. Let’s see … That info was from the US Army Museum of Hawaii. Interesting link!

  12. Warren Kundis says:


    Just finished watching the Nova episode on Killer Subs after spending the entire day watching various Pearl Habor flims and documentaries, under duress I might add.

    Wanted to ask about the captured footage of what appears to a midget sub inside Pearl. Has it been decided whether that was #2 or #5? And was it a midget that fired two torpedoes at the USS St. Louis?

    Held Hostage
    Radford class of 74

  13. doug coop says:

    I remember you with your volks bug hanging outside Foster village/Radford and playing jumping jack flash on the 8 trac—Good ole days

  14. Chris Preston says:

    Hi Burl,

    Could you e-mail me at home?


    Chris Preston,
    Victoria, BC

  15. Paul Bublitz says:

    A Japanese midget submarine was salvaged by the US Navy in 1960 just outside of the entrance to Pearl Harbor. I was on the ship that salvaged it (USS Current ARS-22). I am reading “Advance Force Pearl Harbor” and haven’t seen any thing in the book about this sub.

    Any comments?

  16. Sandy Tomezik says:

    Hi Burl–I’m not sure whether you would remember me from your days at Missouri, but I was one of the founders of the Missouri Science Fiction Society (MSFA). I remember you were one of our original members. I’m glad to se that you’re doing well.

  17. Burl says:

    Hey Sandy! Of course I remember you! You could speak Elvish!

  18. RE: H-3 magnetic anomaly.

    I’m no longer driving, and I lost my car compass somehow anyway.

    I did a repost via memory about the H-3 Magnetic anomaly, and it seems different than what I posted on HT 7 years ago.

    A mind is a terrible thing to lose!


  19. Kent Schrader says:

    Burl, as I understand you were a friend of WWII veteran James C. Nolan. Mr Nolan had a squadron mate at VB-101/VP-51 during the January 1943 to September 1943 time frame by the name of Herman P Kooy that I am researching. I have run across his name in Mr Nolan’s diary and can very loosely follow what may have been the squadron life of his wartime friend “Pete” Kooy. He passed away in 2003 in my hometown of Pensacola, FL and was buried at Barrancas National Cemetery.

    I am trying to research the squadron history of VB-101 during the Jan-Sep 1943 timeframe and would appreciate greatly any information/direction you could give me.

  20. Burl says:

    Check back with TDN — there are some references to Kooy.

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