The First Battle - The Battle for Equality in War-Time Hawaii

The First Battle: Script

Quick Links: Prologue | Act I | Act II | Act III | Epilogue


Swing band rendition of Japanese folk music

Early passage of film includes archivals of ...
... waving American flags ...
studying in school ...
reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

National POV Storyteller (David Hoole)

By the 1920s and 1930s, a conventional wisdom had developed about the U.S. Territory of Hawaii – crudely put, that Hawaii had "too many Japanese."

In the mind of the American President, three different categories of people – citizens of imperial Japan, immigrant aliens from Japan, and Americans of Japanese ancestry – represented one in the same thing.

Nyla Fujii – Local POV Storyteller

"Once a Jap, always a Jap" was an expression that cut into us like a knife.

Act I


David Hoole

"People debated Hawaii's 'Japanese problem' as if it undoubtedly existed. Nearly forty per cent of Hawaii's population was of Japanese ancestry, a hundred and sixty thousand people, compared to one per cent on the West Coast. And that was why the main security concern of the US government was not the West Coast of North America, but Hawaii."

Yoshida Voice (exploring/writing): "As much as we would hate to see a war between the United States and Japan ... it would be much easier for us, I think, if such an emergency should come, x x x (trail off) to face the enemy, Japan ... x x x

(Voice certain, rising) "It would be much easier ... to face the enemy, Japan, than to stand the suspicion and criticism constantly leveled against us.

"Why should we, who are American citizens, owe allegiance to Japan? We have never been there. We don't speak the language. We know only one country, one flag."

Local POV Storyteller (Nyla Fujii)

The parents who taught Shigeo Yoshida about loyalty were from samurai families in Japan who lived by loyalty.

Shigeo's father had laid down his swords as part of Japan's drive for modernization.

He had migrated to Hawaii in hopes of regaining status in the overseas plantation community, but instead had come to depend on his eight children for status.

At an early age Shigeo became widely known for his mastery of writing and debate, and for his willingness to speak freely in public.

Yoshida Voice/Testimony

"We were forced to attend Japanese language school by parents. I confess I didn't learn much. For me those six years were more like three – that's how often I played hooky."

(Tap of Gavel/Break)

Yoshida continues (writing)

"The international scene grew steadily worse.

"Relations between Japan and the United States became more and more strained, and there was a growing feeling of distrust, a rising tenseness which was unmistakable.

“Wild rumors coursed through Honolulu to the effect that the white firms were dismissing their Japanese employees, and that the Army was constructing concentration camps for the internment of Japanese nationals as soon as the ‘inevitable’ war began.”

David Hoole

A dozen community members came together in Honolulu in 1939 to make plans for how to get Hawaii's racially diverse citizenry through a war between the United States and Japan.

The group included Yoshida, along with his close associate, a Chinese American YMCA executive named Hung Wai Ching.

Hung Wai Ching, Founding Member, Council for Inter-racial Unity:

“I was trained to go lick Japanese kids, to hate Japanese. After Chinese school I go down Kukui Street looking for a little Japanese kid to lick. A big Japanese kid come along I run like hell!! To hate Japanese – I was trained!

“And all of a sudden I grew up, //I get mature, or whatever it was, but it was n-o-t a deliberate thing.
(Pause) “//A group of them were my YMCA kids. In clubs. I get them to camps. I get them to discussion groups. They like what I do.

“The Nuuanu ‘Y’ was like an oasis, right in that part of the world. Nuuanu Y has showers! Hot showers! And billiard tables, gymnasium, swimming pool!”

David Hoole

President Franklin Roosevelt had presented himself as a reassuring father figure in America's Great economic depression. But his role model for international affairs was a warrior at heart: Former President Theodore Roosevelt.

When the English explanation of the Bushido code of the samurai was published, Theodore Roosevelt bought sixty copies.

Theodore Roosevelt respected Japan's militarism and wondered if it might be he who would engage Japan in battle.

When Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933, Japan was pursuing its war of aggression in Asia. The possibility of a Pacific war between Japan and the United States was never far from Roosevelt's mind and with it the question of loyalty posed by the large Japanese-ancestry population in Hawaii.

David Hoole

The Japanese American community tried to reach out to him, but military intelligence continued to portray them as substantially disloyal and dangerous in the event of war.

Roosevelt reacted.

Nyla Fujii (reading Roosevelt’s memo)

" ... every Japanese citizen or non citizen on the Island of Oahu who meets these Japanese ships or has any connection with their officers or men should be secretly identified on a special list of ... the first to be placed in a concentration camp in the event of trouble."


Fear of the Japanese-ancestry population in Hawaii reached a crucial juncture in 1936, with a decision by the Joint Chiefs of the US military to actively spy on Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans.

Nyla Fujii

“In an island city with few secrets, we quickly became aware that the FBI had reopened its Honolulu office to ask again, "In the event of war, where would our loyalties lie?" And that was how people first got to know the FBI agent in charge, Robert L. Shivers.

David Hoole

Shivers was from Tennessee. He spoke disparagingly of "Negroes." He had never known an “Oriental” in his life.

Shizue "Sue" Isonaga:

"I was a school girl from Maui. He would call me into the living room and we would sit and he would ask me questions about my life and where I was born and if I went to Japanese school, and I said I did, and he asked me, 'What did they teach you? Did they teach you about Japan and the Emperor?' I said no, I had no idea about who the Emperor was. But we were taught, first, obedience, the Golden Rule and reading and writing."

David Hoole

Shivers was bombarded by intelligence reports alleging that Japanese aliens and Japanese Americans would turn against America in the event of war with Japan.

Dr. Robinson

"The military intelligence services in Hawaii produced a number of reports, all very pessimistic about the loyalty of Japanese Americans in time of war – and predicted they would be enormously dangerous in time of conflict between the United States and Japan."

David Hoole

For perspective, Shivers sought the advice of a highly respected business executive who was a driving force in the Council for Inter-racial Unity.

His name was Charles Hemenway. As a University of Hawaii regent, Hemenway had mentored hundreds of islands students.

Hemenway voice:

"We white people have to get over the notion that we are heaven-sent to rule the earth. I don't believe it any more. It's character and ability that count, and I know these boys. They are a fine group. Get to know them."


Mr. Shivers asked for five names of Japanese Americans he could completely trust. Hemenway replied, "How many do you need? I can give you any number that you want."

Dr. Robinson

"After his research, after his talking with people in the community, he realizes that the Japanese Americans and particularly the nisei are massively loyal. It proves that there was good intelligence available to Roosevelt if he cared to look at it."

David Hoole

Thereafter, Shivers developed circles within circles of Japanese American advisers.

Breaking with all previous intelligence, Shivers filed a report with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover stating his belief that in the event of war, Japanese Americans would be, in overwhelming numbers and sentiment, loyal to America.

Nyla Fujii

"In a stunning turn of events, the Council for Interracial Unity recruited the intelligence agencies as participants, and as chairman elected none other than ... Mr. Shivers.

The Council undertook a speaking campaign. In mid-summer of 1941, about two thousand mostly young Japanese Americans rallied at McKinley High School in a demonstration of loyalty to the United States.

Shunzo Sakamaki (dramatic speech)

"We are here to pledge our unreserved loyalty to the United States, and we wish to add that if war comes, we will give our lives if necessary for those democratic principles for which others have lived, and fought and died."

David Hoole

Security was a rapidly growing industry. Navy intelligence, Army intelligence and the FBI all had networks. A lot of people were getting better acquainted in a hurry, engaging in wrenching conversations about the President and the Emperor, the American public school and the Japanese language school, the new country, the old.

"The Honolulu Police Department joined in the FBI investigation, and that was when Jack Burns, then an intense young police lieutenant, came in with his team of investigators. Jack Burns's boys could speak Japanese and pidgin and anything in between.


"Young Mister Burns must have felt quite reassured, because suddenly he published an article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that staked his reputation on something no one could be totally sure of:

Burns voice:

"' ... units which have been investigating have not found facts which would prove disloyalty but rather the reverse. Let's be Americans. Equal justice. And ... not allow our people (to be) condemned without proper reason." JB (Jack Burns)

Burns continues: (As if reading from his notes)

"Shivers called me in this morning and broke down crying. He said, 'I'm not telling my men this but I'm telling you. We're going to be attacked before the week is out.' He told me to redouble my efforts ... check everywhere we could ... for anything suspicious, any suggestion of espionage or sabotage."

Yoshida Voice:

"The seeming calmness in the islands may be only a veneer, a thin veil of oil on a turbulent sea.

"The first incident of an actual war in the Pacific may turn loose all the forces of hatred and suspicion of race prejudice.

What the future holds, no one can foretell."

(Interlude: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor)


Sue Isonaga

“The morning of December 7th we were fixing breakfast for the Emergency Service Committee when the telephone rang and I answered the phone and they said, ‘Mr. Shivers, please.’ So I called Mr. Shivers and I could hear him say, ‘What, I’ll be right down.’ And with that he left, and when the men came – Masa Katagiri, Ernie Murai, Shigeo Yoshida – they turned right around and went to the office.”

Col. Fielder (Army Intelligence) voice: (Off mic atmospheric broadcast element):

“An inventory has been made of the food supply, and the consumption of gasoline has been curtailed. There must be absolutely no wastage of food or gasoline … ”

Hung Wai Ching:

“December 7 attack came, right? And Butch Fielder has to get on the radio to calm the people down. He says, ‘Hung Wai, write my speech.’ Me – write his speech. I didn’t write his speech. Buddhahead, Japanese guy, wrote his speech. Shigeo Yoshida.”

Shigeo Yoshida voice (interior)

"Your armed forces will bring this conflict to a successful end, regardless of how long it may take. Each and every one of you has a duty to perform. Assist the authorities. Beware of unfounded rumors and fantastic flights of imagination …”

Col. Fielder

"Each and every one of you has a duty to perform. Assist the authorities. Beware of unfounded rumors and fantastic flights of imagination. Promiscuous spreading of wild rumors will only contribute to confusion.

"There is no desire on the part of the authorities to organize mass concentration camps."

Shivers Voice:

“Yeh, I know this guy. He’s good.”

Burns Voice:

"'I'd come to the name of a person I knew and I would say, 'I think he's a damned fine American through and through.' Some of the names were tossed out.
"And then we arrested people by category."

Nyla Fujii

Priests, Japanese language teachers, businessmen with ties to Japan, volunteers at the Japanese consulate, and young people who had studied extensively in Japan, were arrested.

"The FBI arrests in Hawaii, as in the continental United States, had nothing to do with individual guilt.

“No one was charged, let alone tried or convicted.

“But while thousands of such arrests were being made by the FBI on the West Coast, Shivers held the line at fewer than four hundred arrests in Hawaii.

David Hoole

Martial law was declared almost immediately. An iron discipline, widely supported by Hawaii's people, became the order of the day.

The highly respected Charles Hemenway was the only person named a citizen advisor to the martial law government. He quickly used his access.

On December 15th, Hemenway called an emergency meeting of the Council for Interracial Unity. There the Coucil developed a proposal to place key members inside the martial law government.

December 16th. A widely respected Army general, Delos Emmons, arrived to serve as Hawaiian Department commander and martial law governor.

December 17th. After meeting with Hemenway – and reviewing Yoshida’s brief history of the Council for Interracial Unity – Emmons appointed Yoshida, Ching and a third person, Charles Loomis, to serve as the "Morale Section" of the martial law government.

Hung Wai Ching

“I was smart enough to say I can’t handle it by myself. So I want a committee of three. I want a haole and a Japanese to advise me, and I want to make them co-directors, so Shigeo Yoshida was my co-director, because he writes all the speeches for me, and he can communicate to these boys.”

David Hoole

December 18: Emmons appointed a council of advisors chaired by FBI Agent Robert Shivers.

December 19: Emmons designated Shivers as the sole authority to determine whether a person of Japanese ancestry was to be confined.

Nyla Fujii

The relationship of the martial law government to the citizens of Hawaii was now substantially in the hands of those who, two years earlier, had anticipated the war.

The scene was set for a protracted struggle, between fear and trust, between anxiety and calm, between factual communication and whispered rumor.

Yoshida voice

"Will there be acts of sabotage by the Japanese alien, or even by some of the citizens? Deep down in my heart, I am certain there can be none, as we have assured the intelligence authorities, but how certain can one be?"

"The old world is irrevocably gone.

"What the future shall be is partly for us to determine.

"How we in Hawai'i are going to live together after the war will depend on how we live together during the war."

Nyla Fujii

The Morale Section orchestrated a three-part strategy:

Vigorously denounce unfounded rumors of espionage and sabotage.

Display patriotism.

Seek to affirm the right of Americans of Japanese Ancestry to fight for the country.

Ted T. Tsukiyama

“Nobody asked any questions, no loyalty checks. They just handed us our rifle and five bullets each and we were ready for whatever orders that were, and the first order that came was that Japanese paratroopers had landed on top of St. Louis Heights and were advancing down to the lowlands and going to invade the city. The ROTC unit was assigned to get to the bottom of St. Louis Heights and repel the advance.

“I remember crossing Manoa Stream and our unit was spread out among those bushes there, and we were waiting for the enemy, for the paratroopers, to come down. The fear and the tension as I recall turned to just anger and fury realizing that, Hawai'i ... America ... is being attacked by the Japanese, and it’s going to be us or them."


While the U.S. Army was exploring the idea of teamwork in Hawaii, the U.S. secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, charged that people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii had engaged in espionage and sabotage in support of Japan’s attack.

Knox demanded a mass removal and incarceration of all Japanese aliens – 42,000 people -- immediately.

Dr. Greg Robinson

“Secretary Knox’s prestige undoubtedly helped the people who were arguing that all Japanese Americans posed a threat.

“And he had a special interest in protecting the Navy after the Pearl Harbor disaster, if he could throw the blame for America’s unpreparedness on somebody else.”


President Roosevelt and his cabinet discussed Knox’s proposal.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, guided by his field agent, Shivers, anxiously checked with the U.S. Attorney General. Was a mass incarceration in motion? Answer: No.

Hoover queried Shivers in Hawaii: Was the military starting a mass incarceration? Answer: No.

Shivers' short arrest list – what he described as "reasonable and intelligent" -- held.


General Emmons was told by Washington to begin relocating many thousands to the mainland. Instead he announced there would be no mass incarceration.

The brutal irony was that while rumors of espionage and sabotage flourished throughout the continental United States, the same rumors were being investigated and denounced at their source in Hawaii.

Dr. Richard H. Kosaki

“McKinley was under the gun so to speak because people often referred to us as Tokyo High.

“TIME magazine had an article in which it stated that some of the downed Japanese pilots (who) attacked Pearl Harbor wore McKinley High School rings.

“So we were encouraged to write letters to TIME magazine, which we did.

“And I wrote, ‘Sirs, you state that – quote – ‘that Jap high school boys from Hawaii had helped pilot the planes that attacked Pearl Harbor – unquote.

“’Our local papers and Army officials have openly denied this charge after examination of the bodies of the pilots who took part in the December 7th raid.

“’In other words, this is just another ugly rumor.”’

“And I signed it as president of the student body of McKinley High School.”

Ted Tsukiyama

“Somewhere the brass discovered to its horror that Honolulu is being guarded by all these hundreds of Japs in American uniform. And that had to stop.

“Of all the low points during the war, or even in my lifetime, that was just the lowest.”

Nyla Fujii

Demobilization of Japanese Americans from the Hawai'i Territorial Guard corresponded with President Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066, which empowered regional Army commanders to detain, remove, and incarcerate any or all people from military defense areas within the United States.

Shigeo Yoshida

“Sunday, May 3. Read some materials on the California situation. I hope the extremists never get control in Hawaii. Probably never will as long as men like Shivers and Fielder are around to help General Emmons.

“My heart goes out to those being evacuated. We in Hawaii gripe about our few restrictions but -- put ourselves in the place of those in the West Coast areas. What is going to happen to these people after the war? If there is justice, and if America is really fighting for democracy, there must be an attempt to correct the injustice that so far has been done.”

United States Moviehouse Propaganda film:

“A caravan of Japanese-owned trucks and pleasure cars heads inland from the Pacific. Aliens ordered out of strategic coastal zones, they are allowed all the personal belongings and household goods they can carry.

“Here in the land of Buffalo Bill the government is erecting model camp towns, towns in which they will live unmolested, not as prisoners but free to work and paid by the United States government.”

Nyla Fujii

The West Coast removal and incarceration of one hundred ten thousand people of Japanese ancestry raised dire fears among the one hundred sixty thousand people of Japanese ancestry living in Hawai'i.

Shigeo Yoshida voice

"The dominant feeling is fear – fear of further Japanese air raids, fear of what the other racial groups might do, fear of not knowing what might be in store."

Nyla Fujii

A rumor of mass relocation sent Hawaii's people to buying suitcases and warm clothes to protect against the cold of North America.

Ted Tsukiyama

“Japan is on a rampage in the Western Pacific and in Asia. They are slated to attack Midway and come to invade Hawaii next. These wild rumors of disloyalty and sabotage and all that were just flying around.

“The world really was caving in on everyone who was Japanese.

David Hoole

The rest of America was going to war.

Ted Tsukiyama

“February of '42 they stripped all nisei of their I-A military draft status, which meant that they were no longer eligible to serve in the military of the U.S., and so we can’t even fight for our country any more."

Hung Wai Ching

"I just sat down, chat with them, and suddenly I got an idea. ‘You don’t have to shoot a gun to win a war. For crying out loud. I said, like a good Christian, ‘You go the second mile."

David Hoole

The weave of history hung on the slender thread of an undignified idea: The formation of an unarmed, untrained, un-uniformed labor battalion.

Yoshida voice (drafting the petition to serve):

"Hawaii is our home, the United States our country.
"We know but one loyalty and that is to the Stars and Stripes.
"We wish to do our part as loyal Americans ... and we hereby offer ourselves for whatever service you may see fit to use us."

(Children singing – “God Bless America”

David Hoole

With the West Coast incarceration in full swing, pressure mounted for a mass internment of the entire ethnically Japanese community in Hawaii, citizens and non-citizens alike.

Greg Robinson:

“And in the middle of 1942 Chief of Staff George Marshall circulates JCS 111, a recommendation for mass action against Japanese Americans in Hawaii. He recommends that a concentration camp be established and that all Japanese Americans considered dangerous be moved there. He said the number could eventually be as much as one hundred thousand.”

David Hoole

Navy Secretary Knox insisted that all people of Japanese ancestry either be shipped to the mainland or to the isolated island of Moloka'i.

Roosevelt voice

"A memorandum … to the Secretary of the Navy: Like you, I have long felt that most of the Japanese should be removed from Oahu to one of the other Islands ... I do not worry about the constitutional question – first because of my recent order (9066) and, second, because Hawai'i is under martial law. The whole matter is one of immediate and present war emergency. FDR."

Greg Robinson

The attitude of President Roosevelt toward Japanese Americans in Hawaii is very different from his attitude toward Japanese Americans on the West Coast. On the West Coast he mostly listened to his advisers and followed the recommendations of the military.

“In Hawaii he actively campaigned for the mass evacuation of Japanese Americans.”

David Hoole

President Roosevelt again ordered General Emmons to begin extensive shipments of people to the mainland. Emmons argued that shipping was in short supply, and that people were needed in the labor force.

Roosevelt responded:

(Nyla, reading Roosevelt’s orders)

"General Emmons should be told that the only consideration is that of the safety of the Islands and that the labor situation is not only a secondary matter but should not be given any consideration whatsoever.

"Military and naval safety is absolutely paramount."

Dr. Tetsudent Kashima (Author/”Judgment Without Trial”)

“Hawaii was very fortunate in having someone like General Emmons. In order for him to do his job he needed the labor, in this case of Japanese Americans, but his view was that they weren't dangerous and were needed for the war effort, and a military commander really cannot be faulted for making that kind of decision.”

David Hoole

Emmons tactfully engaged in delaying tactics, shipping several thousand people out of Hawaii for reasons other than Roosevelt intended.

He shipped fourteen hundred Japanese Americans who had been drafted prior to the war for combat training in mainland military camps. They were designated the 100th Battalion.

Emmons also arranged passage for wives and children who wished to join husbands and fathers who had been interned by the FBI.

Seemingly unfazed by the pressure from Washington, Emmons pressed for the War Department to train and arm Japanese American fighting units, citing the patriotism that was on daily display in Hawai'i.


“Let’s go with the title "United Hawaii Incorporated," and we begin with the most central point. Everyone contributes, but we place the greater part of the responsibility on Japanese themselves.

“Let the loyal ones help to take care of the few who might be "on the fence." We preserve the right to serve in the military. We suggest the possibility of a better community than we had before the war started.

Nyla Fujii

Guided by the Morale Section, each ethnic group organized on each major island. Masaji Marumoto, a Harvard Law School graduate and a close friend of Robert Shivers, chaired the Japanese American Emergency Service Committee.

The Emergency Committee worked closely with a Japanese community contact group under the leadership of Police Captain John Burns.

Together they held hundreds of community meetings, calming fears, and spreading the gospel of patriotism and involvement in the war effort.

Increasingly ethnic communities communicated with one another, most interestingly the Japanese community leadership with white leadership.

David Hoole

Meanwhile, the Japanese American soldiers shipped from Hawai'i by General Emmons immediately made a name for themselves in training camp.

They hiked eight hours in full battle gear at three and a third miles an hour, compared to an Army training standard of two and a half miles an hour. They set up machine guns in an average of five seconds, compared to an Army standard of sixteen.

To the national audience, the harsh facts of the internment were being flagrantly distorted, and so were the essential facts of nisei military training.

The viewing public had no way of knowing that two drastically different policies were being presented: One of exclusion, the bitter fruit of prejudice on the West Coast; and one of increasing inclusion, rooted in Hawaii.

Backstage in Washington DC, arguments raged over inclusion versus exclusion. The War Department, Naval Department, and the White House itself were torn by opposing views. President Roosevelt's thinking ran repeatedly to exclusion, Mrs. Roosevelt's to inclusion.

Greg Robinson

“In the beginning of 1943 Mrs. Roosevelt discovered to her great surprise that there had been no documented cases of espionage or sabotage in Hawaii. And that Japanese Americans in Hawaii had acted in an exemplary manner. And this changed her attitude I think substantially.”


"Hung Wai Ching and I had a meeting at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel with the first lady, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. We found her a most gracious woman, intensely interested in our problems and willing to do all she could to help. She was deeply conscious of the contrast between Hawaii and the West Coast in the way people of Japanese ancestry were being treated by the authorities.

She said to us, "I think this story should be told to the President directly."

David Hoole

John J. McCloy, assistant secretary of war, had played a key role in the West Coast internment, subscribing to the view that since the government could not tell the loyal from the disloyal all people of Japanese ancestry had to be incarcerated.

His first-hand observation of the Labor Battalion, the Varsity Victory Volunteers, caused him to reverse his position. McCloy now supported Emmons' proposal for Japanese American fighting units.

Despite McCloy's considerable influence, a review board of army generals opposed him, arguing, "It is widely believed they (the Japanese Americans) cannot be trusted."

McCloy shelved the response of the generals and cast around Washington for other allies.

Elmer Davis, head of the Office of War Information, was not only thinking about winning the war but also organizing a United Nations as soon as the war was won.

Elmer Davis voice

"Japanese propaganda insists this is a racial war. We can combat this effectively with counterpropaganda only if our deeds permit us to tell the truth." – Elmer Davis, head, Office of War Information

David Hoole

High level officials of the Office of Naval Intelligence who had served in Hawai'i joined in the debate in Washington.

Captain Cecil Coggins voice:

"I have worked with them. I remember when the Hawaiian Territorial Guard was inactivated, how many tears there were in their eyes. Deal with them honestly and you get loyalty back. As for the mainland situation, you are breeding your own trouble in those camps." – Cecil Coggins, Naval Intelligence

David Hoole

When the President finally reversed his position on forming Japanese American fighting units, he did so with a flourish.

FDR Voice

"The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart. Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry."

David Hoole

Initially the call was for 1500 men from Hawai'i and 3000 from the Mainland camps.

The network of leaders in Hawai'i, who had vouched for the nisei and maneuvered against internment, sponsored hundreds of meetings, exhorting the young to volunteer.

Hawaii nisei clamored to serve in the new Four Hundred Forty Second regimental combat team.

They raced through the paperwork so quickly as to cause a shortage of typewriters.

The goal for recruitment from Hawaii was constantly revised upward, while the goal for recruiting from the Mainland camps plummeted.

Dr. Tetsuden Kashima

“In Hawaii when they asked for volunteers ten thousand volunteered. In the mainland when they asked for volunteers for military service, maybe a thousand volunteered. And they are all Americans. But you treat people well, you assume they are loyal, you get different results.”

David Hoole

A particular barrier in the mainland camps was the loyalty questionnaire devised by the Navy Intelligence officer, Cecil Coggins. Questions 27 and 28 became infamous for demanding an unqualified commitment to the US military and a total denunciation of Japan. Many wrote, "I will go, provided my family's constitutional rights are reinstated."

In Hawaii the loyalty questionnaire was widely publicized, filled out routinely and seemingly otherwise ignored.

In essence, the overseas territory of Hawai'i saved face for the United States government.

Nyla Fujii

On the famous day in Hawai'i's history, when the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was sworn in at Iolani Palace, the Varsity Victory Volunteers were given a place of honor in the front rows.

Hung Wai Ching served as an advance force of one in their journey to training, through California, to Mississippi.

Ching raced on to Washington, propelled by his memory of Mrs. Roosevelt's invitation to meet the President.

Hung Wai Ching

“Before I went up, Mrs. Roosevelt briefed me: ‘Don’t let him get talking.’ So I go up and he shook my hand. He was very pleasant to me.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, if you don’t mind, let me tell you what I’m supposed to tell you.’

“I said, ‘There’s still pressure on evacuating the Japanese population. The talk is in Molokai. All I want to tell you is we’ve gone this far. Why don’t we leave things alone with Mr. Shivers – that’s all I said.

“Mrs. Roosevelt stuck her head in and said, ‘Time for lunch.’ I thought I would be invited. I didn’t get invited. Guess who was a guest that day? The guy the president appointed to run the internment camps.

“Isn’t that something?”

Nyla Fujii

After the meeting, Eleanor Roosevelt held a press conference. Citing Hawaii as evidence that there was a better way to treat Japanese Americans, she called publicly for closing the internment camps.

In truth, the battle of the homefront in Hawaii was far from over. Japanese Americans continued to face criticism, prejudice and discrimination from many angles.

Labor-management issues were routinely construed as ethnic in nature and, even at this advanced moment, as an excuse to question Japanese American loyalty.

Many of those arrested on December 7th remained in custody, some on the U.S. mainland, others in an out-of- the-way camp in a gulch on Oahu called Honouliuli.

Martial law dragged on, over objections that it had long since served a purpose.

The martial law governor who had done so much to deflect pressure from Washington, General Delos Emmons, was reassigned elsewhere.

The FBI agent in charge, Robert Shivers, in declining health from the strain of the war, was also reassigned.

Yoshida voice

“We say aloha to you and Mrs. Shivers in all the ways the word implies. Largely through the groundwork you laid before the start of hostilities and your influence and good judgment since then, the people of Hawaii have been able to enjoy a life of security in freedom.

“In you we had a friend who understood. If it had not been for you we could very easily be in the same position today as our friends on the West Coast find themselves.”


Newsreel announcer

“Trapped for five days without supplies, the ‘Lost Battalion’ has been able to hold out only with the help of this cannonn-sent aid.

“American troops of Japanese descent, men who have distinguished themselves repeatedly in the European war, move out to rescue the lost battalion. In heavy fighting, they advance to cover the escape routes in the Nazi lines.

“German prisoners are taken as the breakthrough is made, and men of the Lost Battalion come back.”

Nyla Fujii

Gambatte, as was said in Japanese. Go on. Never give up.

With the horrible news from the field of battle, the tide of public sentiment began to turn.

Nyla Fujii

As soon as the restrictions of martial law were lifted, the Morale and Emergency Service Committees held a series of community conferences which developed the foundation principles on which a future Hawaii was to be built.

Shigeo Yoshida led off the discussions, stressing at every turn the integration of Hawaii's people based on freedom, democracy, and equality.

Person from audience: (reading a resolution)

Whereas, we do not approve of the perpetuation of any purely racial organization;

Now therefore be it resolved by the delegates here assembled that as soon as the war is over the Morale and Emergency service committees shall be dissolved and disbanded.

Quick muttering: I second.

Yoshida (quickly): Moved and seconded -- all in favor say aye.

(Resounding aye)

David Hoole

Nisei GIs held their own meetings far from home, envisioning a new Hawai'i. A dialogue set in between battlefront and homefront.

(442/100 battle footage)

Itagaki voice

"Since the veterans are all combat soldiers who have seen life and death in its most brutal forms ... (we) are not the same inexperienced, naive youth who left Hawai'i to fight our country's enemies ... we have risked life and limb time and time again that persons of Japanese extraction may walk the streets in dignity and honor after this holocaust is over." – Sergeant Joe Itagaki.

Army General

“Everywhere they were the soldiers most decorated for valor, most devoted to duty. Theirs was the combat team most feared by the enemy. Their only absences without leave were from hospitals, which they quit before they recovered from their wounds in order to get back into the fight for what they knew to be the right. You will live in our hearts and in our history as Americans, first class …”

"You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win – to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time." – Harry S Truman, President

(Nisei fighting units returning to Hawai'i)

Dr. Kometani Voice

"We who by God's will were permitted to return and you who are fortunate to be here have a challenge, an obligation, to those who now peacefully sleep under the white crosses in Italy and France.

"We have helped win the war on the battlefront but we have not yet won the war on the homefront. We shall have won only when we attain those things to which our country is dedicated, namely equality of opportunity and the dignity of man." – (Dr. Katsumi Kometani, 100th Battalion)

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye

"The theme was always the same. We have risked our lives and some of our brothers have given their lives. And I reflected and I said, 'Well, I'm here, I survived, so I suppose the second battle begins."


David Hoole

No sooner was the war over than John Burns, at age 37, resigned from the Honolulu Police Force and began recruiting war veterans to become involved in the political process.

In 1956 he was elected Hawai'i's territorial delegate to congress. Citing nisei war veterans at every opportunity, Burns overcame the idea that Hawai'i's people were somehow "different.”

Events rushed on. The sacrifices of the battlefront were honored, but the battle of the homefront was all but forgotten.

Yoshida voice

There were many injustices, chief among them the internment of innocent people. But despite all the sacrifices, suffering, and loss of lives ... Hawaii today is a better place to live in because of all that happened at home and on the battlefields. The war ... accelerated the process of racial integration, as well as statehood for Hawaii.

David Hoole

Lost in the archives for nearly sixty years was a memo written by Army intelligence that attempted to say why the work of the Morale Section was little known and quickly forgotten:

"The Morale Section ... worked behind the scenes ... through others ... It shunned publicity ... and widely distributed the credit for its ideas and its labors, as a way of strengthening the community."

(Superimposition on screen)

“ ... the mere existence of a legal right is no more protection to individual liberty than the parchment on which it is written ... mutual love, respect and understanding of one another are stronger bonds than constitutions.” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, 1973