Tag Archives: 1941

Response to Gerald Smith’s “Host Culture in Hawaiʻi is just a Myth”

Gerald Smith was right and wrong in his Civil Beat article “Host Culture in Hawaiʻi is just a Myth.” Hawaiians may not be the “host” culture, and it’s true as he says, that neither Hawaiians nor other non-indigenous groups are here by choice, nor by invitation. In fact, Kamehameha II gave the first group of foreigners to ask permission, the Congregationalist missionaries in 1820, a probationary period of one year. The deadline for reviewing their stay was neglected and within a generation they were entrenched in government and the economy. I often wonder if the term “host culture” is merely a convenient one for the tourism industry, as it creates the impression – a questionable one – that tourist are welcome guests. Smith is wrong, however, on several counts. His claim that “Many Native Hawaiians would like us all to leave and restore the kingdom that was taken away by the United States,” is unsupported by any evidence. Just as the Hawaiian Kingdom never ejected even its most troublesome residents, the Hawaiian movement has not called for non-Hawaiians “all to leave.”


Kūkaniloko march opposing Stryker brigade, 2006. Thatʻs me looking in the wrong direction as usual. Photo by Michael Puleloa

What is problematic is Smith’s assertion that everyone in Hawaiʻi is equal in the eyes of the law. Putting aside the quite valid claims of independence advocates for the moment, the State of Hawaiʻi recognized Hawaiians as the Indigenous people of Hawaiʻi in 2011. Over one hundred pieces of Federal legislation, beginning with the 1921 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act do the same. To simply brush aside these forms of recognition that Hawaiians are unique in the eyes of the law, is troublingly close to what has been called “white indigeneity.” What can be said of narratives of white indigeneity is that they are widespread. Such claims are seen in New Zealand, Australia, the US and elsewhere. What cannot be said is that they are taken seriously. I happened to observe the phenomenon in the New Zealand parliament: one conservative member cited the respected historian Michael King to support his contention that pakeha (Caucasians) were Indigenous. To this another member asked if the “honorable member” was familiar with the UN definition of Indigenous.

Smith establishes his kamaʻāina credentials by stating that he observed the attack on Pearl Harbor. If this is the case, he certainly did not take Hawaiian history in school, even if he went to school here, as it wasnʻt required until the 1970s. So one is left to wonder where his understanding of Hawaiian history comes from. Likely its from Gavan Daws’s Shoal of Time, still the most read general history of Hawaiʻi. The book’s chapter on Statehood is entitled “Now we are all Haoles.”

Smith’s contention that “the people who live here voted to become a state, so some will never accept their fate.” was roundly and very publically critiqued on its 50th anniversary in 2009, with very little in the way of counter- arguments.  The link in his article that ostensibly supports this “fact” takes the reader to history.com – as Hawaiian history is not well-known in Hawaiʻi, citing an external source does not inspire confidence in the reader. This was taken into consideration by the UN; in 1996 the Star bulletin headline read “UN may find statehood illegal.” It was even tacitly recognized by the local majority. There are fireworks in Waikiki every Friday, but none on the 50th anniversary of statehood. Apparently Friday is a more important event.


Filed under Environment, Hawaiian history, law

Pearl Harbor – Day of Infamy

This is a piece I wrote last year – 2011 – for the Hawaiʻi Independent. I thought Iʻd repost it this year on the “day that will live in infamy.”

Seventy years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the famous speech that marked a day, and a place, that would “live in infamy.” But Puʻuloa, or Wai Momi, later called Pearl Harbor, was not always associated with war. A kupua, or shapeshifter, Kaʻahupahau (named in the famous song “Pupu a o Ewa”) was said to guard the harbor in the form of a shark. Many ahupuaʻa, with names beginning with “wai,” met the shore at Puʻuloa—Waimalu, Waiawa, Waiau, Waipiʻo, Waikele—showing the importance of this body of water and its abundant seafood.

The association with Pearl Harbor in the popular imagination, however, began with Roosevelt’s speech: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

But the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor might have been averted. Some contend that officials had prior knowledge of the possibility of the attack. As Gwenfread Allen explains:

“At 3:42 a.m. on December 7, 1941, the minesweeper Condorsighted a submarine periscope off the entrance of Pearl Harbor. Since this was an area where no American submarine traveled submerged, the Condor immediately notified the destroyer Ward. Inshore waters were searched for an hour and a half but without success.

“At 6:30 a.m., the destroyer answered a similar alert from the target repair ship Antares and this time located the submarine, apparently trailing the Antares into Honolulu Harbor. The Ward fired on the intruder—the first American shots of World War II—and scored a hit. After the crippled submarine went down, a Navy plane joined the destroyer in a depth charge attack …

“Meanwhile, two Army privates were completing their three-hour training period at an isolated radar station in the hills between Waialua and Kahuku … Suddenly the radar screen was covered with markings unlike any they had ever seen before … Since the lookouts were officially off duty after 7:00 a.m., they debated whether or not to follow the usual routine of notifying the information center. At 7:20 a.m. they decided to phone, but by that time everyone had left the center except the telephone operator and a lieutenant … [who] assumed that the planes were the B-17s, which he knew were flying in from the Mainland and dismissed the matter.”

Just before 8:00 a.m. on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began. The Japanese planes fired at American planes at Ewa and Pearl Harbor, attacked “battleship row” next to Ford Island, and airfields at Hickham Field, Kaneʻohe Naval Air Station and Wheeler Field in Wahiawā. By 8:30 a.m., seven battleships had been hit, including the West Virginia, California, Arizona, Tennesee, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma. After attempting to escape to sea, theNevada was grounded to prevent blocking the harbor entrance.

Radio stations began to announce that the attack was happening. At 8:04 a.m., KGMB called all military personnel to report to duty. The first public announcement of the attack, at 8:40 a.m. said “a sporadic air attack has been made on Oahu. … Enemy airplanes have been shot down … the rising sun has been sighted on the wingtips!” Another announced “This is no maneuver … This is the real McCoy!” The public was ordered to stay off of telephones, store water, stay off the street, and listen to the radio for updates.

The attack took the lives of 2,323 military personnel, mainly from the Navy, and another 1,500 were injured. Civilians also experienced effects of the attack. Shells fell on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace (then Territorial Governor Joseph Poindexterʻs office), and Kamehameha Schools at Kapālama. Fires broke out in McCully, and 57 civilians were killed by fire from planes. This sequence of events is depicted in the film Tora! Tora! Tora!—the title refers to a torpedo attack—made by both American and Japanese filmmakers in 1970.

Just after noon on December 7, Lieutenant General Walter C. Short met with Governor Poindexter to discuss the instituting of martial law. Despite the fact that governor Poindexter, as a civilian, was “not very keen about having martial law,” General Short felt that the Territory “could be better handled through martial law than by civil authorities.”

General Short publicly announced: “I have this day assumed the position of military governor of Hawaii, and have taken charge of the government of the Territory.” He called President Roosevelt a few minutes later. The President urged imposing marital law for “a reasonably short time.” Firmly in place by the next day, martial law continued for nearly three years. While the military assumed control of most vital government functions, there was actually a complex division of powers that left some minor functions to the civilian government.

The governor’s power to declare martial law, contained in the 1900 Organic Act, included the right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus—the right to trail by jury—and allowed the military governor to “exercise the powers normally exercised by judicial officers” (Allen, 1950, 36). The general’s proclamation stated to the populace:

“The imminence of attack by the enemy and the possibility of invasion make necessary a stricter control of your actions than would be necessary or proper at other times. I shall therefore publish ordinances governing the conduct of the people of the territory with respect to the showing of lights [to deter attacks at night], circulation, meetings, censorship, possession of arms, ammunition, and explosives, the sale of intoxicating liquors, and other subjects.”

Some Hawaiʻi residents, including civil libertarians, professors, and some in the business community opposed the restrictions imposed by martial law. Others did not. There was some discussion of deporting Japanese American residents, but others called it “economic suicide” to deport the more than 40 percent of Hawaiʻiʻs population that Japanese Americans made up. Over 500 local Japanese were actually interned at Honouliuli Internment Camp and Sand Island on Oahu, Kilauea Military Camp on the Big Island, Haiku Internment Camp on Maui, and the Kalaheo Stockade on Kauai. Japanese newspapers such as the Hawaii Hochi and Nippu Jiji were carefully monitored by the Army. According to social historian Lawrence Fuchs, anti-Japanese sentiment did not only come from the military or Caucasian elites, but from other ethnic groups as well. Because of their numbers, however, most historians hold that Japanese in Hawaiʻi were treated better than those in the continental United States.

The true significance of the Pearl Harbor attack can only be estimated through “what if?” scenarios. But two facts are clear: For the world, the entrance of the United States into World War II was of monumental significance in turning the tide of the war for the allied forces, and for Hawaiʻi, Pearl Harbor began a period of martial law that has been understudied and under-appreciated.

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