1900 - 1950


The Organic Act

The Pineapple Industry

Lāna‘i City

Native Reef Fish of the Hawaiian Islands

Military Bases in the Hawaiian Islands

The U.S. Military

Immigrant Laborers

Duke Kahanamoku—Surfer, Olympian, Movie Star, Sheriff

Historic Waikīkī

Island Emblems

Lei Day—May 1

Island Flowers and Lei

King Kamehameha Hula Competition (Photo and Caption)

Lei Making Methods

Honolulu Hale

War Memorial Natatorium


The Massie Trial


Pearl Harbor

Martial Law

The 442nd/100th—Hawai‘i’s Nisei Soldiers



Nēnē—The Hawaiian Goose

The Organic Act

On April 30, 1900 United States President McKinley signed the Organic Act establishing a Territorial government in the Hawaiian Islands. As a result, Hawaiian citizens of the Republic became American citizens of the Territory of Hawai‘i. On June 14, 1900 the Hawaiian Islands were officially incorporated as a Territory of the United States.

The first governor of the Territory of Hawai‘i was Sanford Ballard Dole (1844-1926), one of the original revolutionaries involved in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Dole then served as president of the Provisional Government from 1893 to 1894, President of the Republic of Hawai‘i from 1895 to 1898, and finally as the governor of the Territory of Hawai‘i until 1903.

In November of 1900, Robert W. Wilcox, a member of the Home Rule Party and previously a participant in two attempted revolutions, was elected as the Territory’s first delegate to Congress (as a non-voting member). The Home Rule Party was organized by former royalists against the overthrow of the monarchy.

When the Hawaiian Islands became a Territory, Hawaiian residents became United States citizens, but were not allowed to vote in presidential elections. Hawai‘i was allowed to send one representative to Congress, and this delegate could debate and introduce bills, but could not vote.

Hawaiian voters elected a House of Representatives and a Territorial Senate. The United States Congress could veto any bill passed by the Hawai‘i Legislature.

Trains in the Islands

Hawai‘i’s first common rail carrier was the Kahului & Wailuku Railroad which began operating on Maui on July 20, 1879. The new railroad allowed central Maui’s sugar and pineapple crops to be brought to the wharves at Kahului, which eventually replaced Lahaina as the primary port.

Benjamin Franklin Dillingham (1844—1918) formed the Oahu [O‘ahu] Railway & Land Company in 1888. The first train, a Baldwin locomotive and two excursion cars, ran on September 4, 1889.

With the permission of King Kalākaua [David La‘amea Kalākaua], the first 9 miles (14.5 km) of track opened on November 16, 1889 (King Kalākaua’s 53rd birthday) when about 4,000 Hawaiian residents enjoyed free rides. The opening of the railroad had a significant influence on generating land sales and helping the sugar and pineapple industries.

The Hawaiian Islands once had 33 industrial railroads. The main use of these railroads was to transport sugarcane to mills and bring the workers to the fields. Seven common carrier railroads in the Hawaiian Islands also transported passengers and freight.

Railroad use in the Hawaiian Islands peaked in the early 1900s with seven major railroads running on about 160 miles (257 km) of track. The rails were mostly used to carry sugar and pineapple as well as construction materials. During World War II the rails carried significant amounts of military personnel as well as civilians.

Oahu [O‘ahu] Railway and Land Company’s “narrow gauge” line with its double-track main line was one of the most advanced rail systems, including Mikado locomotives and automatic block signals.

In 1922, a train belonging to the Oahu [O‘ahu] Railway and Land Company derailed at Waikakalaua gulch, killing four people and injuring two, and causing a pile-up of 28 pineapple-filled railroad cars.

The Oahu [O‘ahu] Railway & Land Train Terminal opened in 1927 at 325 North King Street near the piers of Honolulu Harbor. Designed by architect Bertram Goodhue, the building’s style is Spanish Mission Revival. The Terminal structure features a somewhat open arcade area on the ground floor, stucco walls, a red tile roof, and a four-sided clock tower.

The Dillingham Transportation Building was constructed at 735 Bishop Street in Honolulu in 1929. The architect was Lincoln Rogers of San Diego, California, and the building was constructed in the Italian Renaissance/Mediterranean Revival style.

The arcade and entrance lobby display different colors of bricks and marble used with Art Deco patterns and paneled beams. A plaque on the building commemorates Benjamin Franklin Dillingham. The family’s connection to transportation also shows in the twisted-rope decorations lining the street openings.

The location of the Dillingham Transportation Building is not far from Honolulu’s piers, and medallions on the arched entrances show sailboats and steam vessels. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

With the proliferation of paved roads in the early 1900s, train use gradually declined. In 1947, passenger service ended and the building was used as a bus depot, then sat empty for a time before being utilized by other businesses (a $1.6 million major renovation took place in 2001).

The 1946 tsunami dealt the final blow to the Oahu [O‘ahu] Railway & Land rails when large sections of track were destroyed. Labor strikes also led to a decline in freight.

In 1961, Oahu [O‘ahu] Railway & Land Company merged with Hawaiian Dredging and Construction Company to become the Dillingham Corporation.

The O‘ahu Railway & Land Train Terminal was placed on the Hawai‘i Register of Historic Places in 1987, and the National Register in 1979.

Today the Lahaina Kā‘anapali & Pacific Railroad, the “Sugarcane Train,” is Maui’s only passenger train. From about 1890 to 1950, the Sugarcane Train was used for transporting the sugarcane to the mill.

The 1890s vintage “Sugarcane Train” with replica Kalākaua coaches now provides a nice ride through the former sugarcane fields over the 6 miles (9.7 km) from Lahaina past Kā‘anapali to Pu‘ukoli‘i. The scenic train ride traverses a wooden trestle that spans 415 feet (126 m).

The Pineapple Industry

Spaniard Francisco de Paula Marín (1774-1837), a physician and adviser of King Kamehameha I, planted the first pineapples in the Islands in 1813.

Captain John Kidwell introduced the Cayenne variety of pineapple in 1885 in Mānoa, and it soon became the main variety grown in the Islands. In 1898, Alfred W. Eames cultivated and sold fresh pineapple, and his company later became Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc.

James Drummond Dole (1877-1958) formed the Hawaiian Pineapple Company on December 4, 1901, and he began growing the fruit on 60 acres in Wahiawā, O‘ahu. Dole’s first harvest occurred in 1903, resulting in the canning of 1,893 cases, increasing to 125,000 cases by 1905. In 1906, Dole constructed a pineapple cannery on O‘ahu in the Iwilei district. At the time it was the largest fruit factory in the world.

The processes of shelling and coring pineapples was mechanized in 1911 with the invention of the Ginaca machine, patented by Dole employee Henry Ginaca. In 1914, the Libby, McNeill & Libby pineapple cannery opened in Kalihi, employing about 1,000 workers.

Dole purchased 98% of the island of Lāna‘i in 1922 for $1,100,000, and soon had 19,000 acres of pineapples planted, producing almost one-third of the world’s pineapple crop. Dole became known as the “Pineapple King” and the industry dominated Lāna‘i for the next 65 years, producing as many as 250 million pineapples per year.

In 1930, eight pineapple canneries packed a total of nine million cases. The Hawaiian Islands led the world in pineapple production in 1940, and by 1946, nine pineapple companies operated nine canneries and 13 plantations on 60,000 acres, employing up to 20,000 people, making it the second largest industry in the Hawaiian Islands with products valued at $75 million annually. Pineapple production peaked in 1955, with 76,700 acres planted.

In 1985, businessman David H. Murdock purchased 98% of the island of Lāna‘i and initiated the construction of expensive townhouses as well as two new hotels: the Mānele Bay Hotel on the beach, and the Lodge at Kō‘ele in the mountains.

The last major commercial pineapple harvest on Lāna‘i took place in 1992 and the plantation was closed, though some pineapple “show fields” still adorn the landscape.

Lāna‘i City

Lāna‘i City is located about 1,700 feet above sea level and set beneath the hills of Lāna‘ihale on the island of Lāna‘i. Today Lāna‘i City remains the island’s central population area, and many brightly painted, early 1900s era homes line the streets.

A tourist oriented economy has replaced the industrious company town once awakened each morning by the plantation whistle.

[Photograph: Lāna‘i City]

Native Reef Fish of the Hawaiian Islands

About 1,143 species of fish are native to the Hawaiian Islands, including 149 endemic (unique) fish species, and five native freshwater fish species. Hawai‘i’s native fish also include five freshwater species, known as ‘o‘opu, which spend part of their lives in the ocean.

The five native ‘o‘opu fish species are endemic (unique) to the Hawaiian Islands and include four species in the family Gobiidae (commonly called gobies) and one species in the family Eleotridae (‘o‘opu ‘akupa, Eleotris sandwicensis).

All five Hawaiian ‘o‘opu species are born as larvae in freshwater streams. The tiny larvae are then washed down into the ocean where they develop into fish before returning to the stream where they were born and swimming back up through the current.

‘O‘opu have specially adapted pelvic fins, which are fused to form a sucking disc, allowing the fish to climb up rocks and waterfalls and reach the upper levels of the streams to lay eggs and complete their life cycle.

The list below is not a complete list, but contains some of the most prominent reef fish species in the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawai‘i’s native reef fish include:

Ø 5 species of angelfishes (Pomacanthidae).

Ø 24 species of butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae).

Ø 7 species of parrotfishes (Scaridae).

Ø 24 species (probably more) of surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae).

Ø 43 species of wrasses (Labridae).

Ø 8 species of filefishes (Monacanthidae).

Ø 25 species of scorpionfishes (Scorpaenidae).

Ø 11 species of triggerfishes (Balistidae).

Ø 1 species of trumpetfish (Aulostonus chinensis).

Ø 2 species of cornetfishes (Fistulariidae).

Ø 17 species of damselfishes (Pomacentridae)

Military Bases in the Hawaiian Islands

In 1887, King Kalākaua [David La‘amea Kalākaua] signed a lease of Pearl Harbor to the United States for eight years as a result of the Reciprocity Treaty. (See The Sugarcane Era.)

Camp McKinley, a tent encampment of United States infantry and engineers, was set up at Waikīkī’s Kapi‘olani Park on August 16, 1898. This was the first United States Army camp in the Islands, and home to the First New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Kahauiki Military Reservation was established in Honolulu in 1905, becoming the first permanent United States Army post in the Hawaiian Islands. The post was renamed Shafter Military Reservation in 1907 in honor of Civil War Medal of Honor winner, Major General William R. Shafter (1835-1906).

Fort Ruger Military Reservation was established at Diamond Head (Lē‘ahi) in 1906. The Reservation was named in honor of Major General Thomas H. Ruger, who served from 1871 to 1876 as the superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

A network of tunnels was carved into the mountain, and cannon emplacements were placed atop the crater rim along with observation posts and bunkers. Fort Ruger was reinforced during World War II, though the guns were never fired.

The fort included Battery Harlow (1910-1943); Battery Birkhimer (1916-1943); Battery Granger Adams (1935-1946); Battery Dodge (1915-1925); Battery Mills (1916-1925); Battery 407 (1944); Battery Hulings (1915-1925); and Battery Ruger (1937-1943).

In 1907, Fort Armstrong was built on Honolulu’s Ka‘akaukukui Reef near Kalehuawehe, a place known for its healing, cleansing baths. Fort Armstrong was named after Brigadier General Samuel C. Armstrong (1839-1893), son of Reverend Richard Armstrong (1805-1860), who arrived in 1832.

Fort Kamehameha Military Reservation was established in 1907 at the entrance to Pearl Harbor at Hickam Air Force Base, becoming the only United States fort to be named after a foreign king. Soon constructed was a series of coastal artillery batteries, a “Ring of Steel” including long-range guns and mortars to fortify O‘ahu’s harbors.

Coastal batteries at Fort Kamehameha included Battery Selfridge, Battery Randolph, Battery Jackson, Battery Hawkins, Battery Hasbrouck, and Battery Closson.

Battery Selfridge (1911) was the first to be constructed at Fort Kamehameha, with two twelve-inch disappearing rifles able to fire 1,046-pound projectiles 17,000 yards.

Battery Selfridge was named after Army aviator First Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge. Selfridge died when he flew as an observer in Orville Wright’s plane as it was being demonstrated to the Army.

The plane lost a propeller at 150 feet, damaging a wing and causing it to crash, seriously injuring Wright. Selfridge was the first death in a heavier-than-air craft crash.

See For DeRussy below for information about Battery Randolph (1911). Battery Jackson (1914) had two six-inch guns able to fire 106-pound projectiles 14,600 yards. Battery Jackson was named after Civil War veteran Brigadier-General Richard H. Jackson.

Battery Hawkins (1914) had two three-inch rapid fire rifled cannon able to fire 15-pound projectiles 11,100 yards (within range of the entrance to Pearl Harbor).

Battery Hawkins was named after Brigadier-General Hamilton Smith Hawkins, who led troops in the famous charge up the hill at the Battle of San Juan Hill (Cuba, 1898).

Battery Hasbrouck (1914) had eight twelve-inch mortars able to fire projectiles 15,200 yards. Battery Hasbrouck was named after West Point graduate and Civil War veteran Brigadier-General Henry C. Hasbrouck.

Battery Closson (1920) had two twelve-inch guns able to fire 975-pound projectiles 17.1 miles (27.5 km). Battery Closson was named after civilian veteran Brigadier-General Henry Whitney Closson (1832-1917).

In 1908, construction of naval facilities began in Pearl Harbor, formerly known by the Hawaiian name “Pu‘uloa.” Schofield Barracks Military Reservation was established in 1909 on 14,000 acres (5,666 ha) in Wahiawā, O‘ahu, eventually becoming the biggest permanent United States Army post.

The Barracks were named for President Andrew Johnson’s Secretary of War, Lieutenant General John M. Schofield (1831-1906).

Fort DeRussy was constructed in 1915 to protect Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Two battery locations within the fort held large cannons, which were later replaced with antiaircraft guns.

The fort was disbanded on June 28, 1950. The guns were removed and the site was designated an Armed Forces Recreation Area. In the 1970s the fort’s Battery Randolph became home to the U.S. Army Museum of Hawai‘i.

Camp McCarthy opened on the grounds of the old state capitol in 1917 as a state national guard camp. In 1917, Pearl Harbor (Ford Island) Military Reservation (Pearl Harbor Naval Base) was designed to protect Pearl Harbor, and the site included Battery Adair (1917-1925) and Battery Boyd (1917-1925). Pearl Harbor naval station was established in 1918. In 1919, an Army-Navy air facility opened at Luke Field on Ford Island.

Barbers Point Military Reservation was established in 1921 at Barbers Point Beach. Battery Barbers Point was operational from 1937-1942. Wheeler Field, now known as Wheeler Air Force Base, was established in Wahiawā, O‘ahu near Schofield Barracks in 1922. The base was named after Sheldon H. Wheeler, an Air Force major who died in a plane crash in 1921.

Kāne‘ohe Bay was dredged in 1939 by the Navy to create an air station, but the unit stationed there was decommissioned in 1949 and moved to Barbers Point Naval Air Station.

The Kāne‘ohe Bay location was reopened in 1952 as Marine Corps Air Station Kāne‘ohe Bay. In 1993, a federal commission voted to close the Barbers Point site, also known by its Hawaiian name Kalaeloa, which was returned to the state in 1999. Note: Some less significant military sites/batteries are not included in this list.

The U.S. Military

It wasn’t long after the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States in 1898 that the U.S. military began utilizing the Islands for military purposes.

In 1903, U.S. warships carrying 3,000 men arrived in Honolulu Harbor to take on supplies. The warships included the cruisers New Orleans, Albany, Cincinnati, and Raleigh; battleships Wisconsin and Oregon; and the flagship Kentucky.

On March 25, 1915, the Navy submarine Skate (F-4), one of four based in the Islands, exploded and sank 306 feet (93 m) to the bottom of Honolulu Harbor about ¾-mile (1.2 km) offshore, killing the 21-man crew.

The incident was the first submarine disaster in American naval history. The wreck of the submarine was too deep for divers to reach, and five months passed before the submarine could be brought to the surface.

On February 4, 1916 in Honolulu Harbor, the crews of seven interned steamships, including the German cruiser Geier, set their vessels on fire to prevent them from being used by the United States military. The U.S. was officially neutral in the conflict until declaring war with Germany on April 6, 1917. World War I ended on November 11, 1918.

The Pearl Harbor barracks became the home of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1923. In 1927 the War Memorial Natatorium was built on the waterfront at the eastern end of Waikīkī as a memorial to the 179 men and women of the Hawaiian Islands that died as soldiers in World War I. (See War Memorial Natatorium.)

Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, entering the United States into World War II. (See Pearl Harbor.) On June 4, 1942, American fighter pilots and dive bombers sank four carriers of the Japanese naval fleet along with three Japanese destroyers and two cruisers near Midway Atoll in the Battle of Midway, securing the strategic Navy base location for the duration of the war and also providing a strategic port location for submarines and ships.

United States forces also lost an aircraft carrier, the Yorktown, in the Battle of Midway, as well as one destroyer. Japanese ships that were sunk to the north of Midway Atoll included the Hiryu, Akagi, Soryu, and Kaga.

On June 5, 1942, United States Admiral Chester William Nimitz (1885—1966), the commander of the Pacific Fleet, announced the United States victory over the Japanese Fleet at Midway, which became a turning point of World War II

On February 1, 1943, the government announced the formation of the all-Nisei (second generation Japanese-American) 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. About 10,000 Hawai‘i Nisei volunteered within days, though only 1,256 United States Mainland Nisei volunteered.

The volunteers wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to the U.S. despite the harsh racism they experienced in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. (See The 442nd/100th.)

On September 2, 1943, the all-Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion from Hawai‘i landed in Oran, North Africa, and then in June of 1944 they were joined by the 442nd Infantry Regiment.

On February 13, 1944, the United States Navy submarine rescue vehicle U.S.S. Macaw, on a mission to retrieve the submarine U.S.S. Flier, ran aground at Midway Atoll due to bad weather. A crew manned the ship’s pumps until a March storm finished off the vessel.

Between 1944 and 1946, five thousand Italian prisoners of war captured in 1943 by the British in North Africa were held at four locations on O‘ahu: Schofield, Kalihi Valley, Kāne‘ohe, and Sand Island. In all, approximately 50,000 Italian P.O.W.’s captured in North Africa were shipped to the United States.

In June of 1945, about 250,000 U.S. Army troops and 250,000 Navy and Marine Corps members were stationed in the Hawaiian Islands. Millions of servicemen passed through the Islands on their way to combat areas in the Pacific.

Victory in Japan Day (“V-J Day”) was declared on August 15, 1945 after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japan in Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9), leading to the imminent defeat of Japan. The forces of Japan officially surrendered on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship on September 2, 1945.

On August 15, 1946, a tribute to Hawai‘i’s World War II veterans was held on O‘ahu at Kapi‘olani Park, and attended by more than 80,000 people. The ceremony included the official returning to the territory of the colors of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion.

On August 16, 1947, an Army B-17 crashed into the ocean about 45 miles (72 km) off Barbers Point, O‘ahu, killing 10 of the 13 aboard, including the ranking United States diplomat in Japan, George Atcheson Jr. The plane was scheduled to land at Hickam Air Force Base about 35 minutes after the time of the crash.

In 1948, sixteen of twenty crew members of a fully loaded Superfortress were killed in a fiery crash at Hickam field.

On September 10, 1948, Tripler Army Hospital on O‘ahu was dedicated by the United States Army.

North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, beginning the Korean War. The United States sent troops to the war, including an estimated 17,000 Hawaiian residents, and 341 were killed with another 79 missing in action. The war ended on July 27, 1953, and the last troops of the 25th Division returned to Schofield Barracks on October 17, 1954.

From November 27 to December 9, 1950, the United States First Marine Division, including the 32nd Infantry Regiment named “The Queen’s Own” by Queen Lili‘uokalani [Lydia Kamaka‘eha Pākī-Dominis Lili‘uokalani] in 1916, engaged in a fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.

Facing extremely low temperatures as well as huge numbers of Chinese troops, the United States forces inflicted heavy damage on ten Chinese infantry divisions.

The last troops of the 25th Division return

In 1957, the communist regime of North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam, beginning the Vietnam War. The conflict lasted until 1975, with 221 Hawaiian residents dying in the war, and an estimated 13,000 Hawaiian residents taking part, including many who were wounded and then treated at O‘ahu’s Tripler Army Medical Center.

Four Air Force members were killed in 1957 when their six-jet B-47 bomber crashed into a Wai‘anae Range mountainside at 400 miles (644 km) per hour. In 1959, the Swordfish became the first nuclear submarine to homeport in Pearl Harbor. The Swordfish submarine was deactivated on November 19, 1987.

On January 17, 1991, Operation Desert Storm began in the Persian Gulf in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1989. The war eventually required the services of more than 7,000 troops based in Kāne‘ohe before Iraq accepted United Nations conditions and resolutions on April 7, 1990.

Kaua‘i’s Pacific Missile Range Facility began conducting STARS missile tests in 1993. The Korean-Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated at Hawai‘i’s State Capitol in Honolulu in 1994.

On March 9, 2003, the U.S.S. Cheyenne, a Pearl Harbor-based submarine, launched the first Tomahawk missile to begin the second Iraq War. The target was a bunker believed to be the location of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises that took place in Hawaiian waters from June 29 to July 27, 2004 involved more than 35 ships, 90 aircraft, 7 submarines and 11,000 soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard. The RIMPAC exercises also took place in 2000, 2002, and 2006.

On August 17, 2004, about 1,000 marines stationed at Kāne‘ohe who were attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit received orders to serve in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

Immigrant Laborers

When the Masters and Servants Act passed Hawai‘i’s legislature in 1850, it established a contract labor system that began the mass importation of laborers to work on the sugar plantations. The Act allowed persons over twenty years of age to sign a contract binding them to an employer for up to five years.

Under the Masters and Servants Act, workers could be punished for absenteeism or refusal to work, resulting in an extended term of service usually twice as long as the time of work missed.

The first contract laborers to come to the Hawaiian Islands arrived in 1851 from China on the Thetis, with 195 men and 20 boys on board. Pay for the men was $3/month plus room and board.

The Chinese workers were referred to as coolies. Houseboys earned $2/month. Workers from the South Sea Islands began arriving in 1859.

The first mass emigration of Japanese workers coming to the Hawaiian Islands to work on sugar plantations included 142 men and six women who arrived aboard the Scioto in 1868. These initial migrants, mostly tradesmen and craftsmen, did not have contracts or government permission, and were called gannenmono (“first year men”), referring to the first year of Japan’s Meiji era.

Portuguese workers arrived aboard the Priscilla from the Madeira Islands in 1878, beginning an influx of laborers from that region that totaled 20,000 by 1913. Most Portuguese came from the Madeira and Azores Islands.

Being Europeans, the Portuguese were given land and citizenship (after 1898), and unlike Asian workers, the Portuguese were often hired as lunas (overseers), supervising Asian workers for Caucasian owners.

The Portuguese workers were virtually all Catholics, thus strengthening the presence of the Catholic church in the Islands.

More than 3,500 workers arrived from China in 1879, and Norwegian and German workers began arriving in 1881. King Kalākaua [David La‘amea Kalākaua] visited Japan in March of 1881 and asked Emperor Meiji to allow workers to come to the Hawaiian Islands where there was a shortage of laborers to work on the sugar plantations.

The two leaders signed a treaty in 1885 permitting the large-scale immigration of laborers. The first official (government sponsored) Japanese contract workers—676 Japanese men and 158 Japanese women—arrived in Honolulu on the City of Tokio on February 8, 1885.

The importation of Chinese laborers was halted in 1886 by the passage of the Hawaiian Kingdom Chinese Exclusion Act. Laborers employed on Hawaiian plantations totaled 25,881 in 1898.

Also in 1898, the Hawaiian Islands were annexed to the United States via the Newlands Resolution, which stated, “There shall be no further immigration of Chinese into the Hawaiian Islands, except upon such conditions as are now or may hereafter be allowed by the laws of the United States; no Chinese, by reason of anything herein contained, shall be allowed to enter the United States from the Hawaiian Islands.”

On June 14, 1900, the Organic Act went into effect and contract labor was no longer legal. Within one month 8,000 laborers went on strike demanding higher wages and better working conditions as well as the hiring of Japanese lunas (overseers).

On December 23, 1900, the SS City of Rio de Janeiro arrived with 56 contract laborers who became the first Puerto Rican residents of the Hawaiian Islands, with more than 2,000 arriving during the next two decades. The SS China arrived in 1900 with the first Okinawan immigrant workers. By 1902, Japanese workers having arrived over the previous two decades totaled more than 31,000.

The first Korean contract laborers arrived aboard the Gaelic on January 13, 1903, and by the end of 1905 more than 7,500 Korean workers had arrived. The first fifteen Filipino farm workers, known as sakada, arrived on the Doric on December 20, 1906. Spaniard workers arrived in 1907.

On May 9, 1909, Japanese sugarcane plantation workers on O‘ahu’s ‘Aiea Plantation went on strike, followed by other plantation workers, totalling 7,000 strikers in less than one month. The island-wide strike lasted until August, 1909, costing the industry millions of dollars.

Honolulu journalists and merchants formed the Higher Wages Association in 1909 and made pro-labor demands on the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association. The rejection of these demands led to a strike by sugar workers. On October 21, 1909, one hundred and fifty Russian laborers arrived in the Hawaiian Islands.

By 1910, 75% of the annual sugar crop was controlled by Hawai‘i’s “Big Five” companies: Theo H. Davies; American Factors (Amfac); C. Brewer & Co.; Alexander & Baldwin; and Castle & Cooke.

In the following decades, living conditions on plantations became exceedingly harsh for many plantation workers who had little recourse against extremely powerful plantation owners. Significant labor unrest on sugarcane plantations in the Hawaiian Islands led to many strikes and protests.

By 1916, more than 18,000 Filipino workers had arrived, rising to 120,000 by 1931 as Filipinos replaced Japanese as the majority of plantation workers. Many more Filipinos arrived in the Hawaiian Islands after the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act allowed reunification of family members as well as professionals and skilled workers.

The Filipino Labor Union was established in 1919 by Filipino labor leader Pablo Manlapit to improve working conditions and demand higher wages for Filipino laborers.

Japanese comprised more than 40% of the total population of the Hawaiian Islands in 1920 when the Japanese Labor Federation was established to negotiate for better working conditions.

The Filipino leader Manlapit along with Japanese labor leaders led the Higher Wages Movement, but the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association continued to reject their demands. Separate strikes by Japanese and Filipino workers in 1920 were unsuccessful, and more than 12,000 workers were evicted.

In 1924, immigration from Japan was prohibited when the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Immigration Act. At the time, the total number of Japanese immigrants was about 200,000 since they began arriving in 1885.

On September 9, 1924 on Kaua‘i, 16 Filipino sugarcane plantation workers and four Hanapēpē police officers died as a result of a brutal suppression of an eight-month strike. The event later becomes known as the Hanapēpē Massacre.

The strike had begun months earlier, on April 1, 1924, when it was called for by Filipino labor leader Pablo Manlapit (a Tagalog). The Filipinos were protesting the fact that they earned only about $10 per day, which was only about half as much as Chinese and Japanese plantation workers.

The striking Filipino plantation workers were primarily Visayans (from the northern Philippines). They sometimes had disagreements with other Filipino sugar plantation workers, including the Ilocanos (from the south-central Philippines).

When two Ilocano boys rode their bikes from their camp at Makaweli to Hanapēpē on September 8, 1924 to buy shoes, they were confronted by about 100 Visayans who wanted them to join their strike.

The two Ilocano workers resisted and were held by the Visayans in a former Japanese schoolhouse. The next day police arrived to rescue the two workers being held by the strikers.

The police retrieved the two workers and were leaving the Japanese schoolhouse without any problems when the first shots were suddenly fired, which quickly led to a pitched battle lasting several hours, with police hunting down the fleeing workers including some who hid in the sugarcane fields. More than 100 workers are arrested and more than 50 are imprisoned up to four years for “rioting.”

News reports of the incident reported that the first shots were fired by workers, but later accounts and interviews determined it was unclear who began the shooting,

Some have blamed the incident on the lack of training among the sheriffs and armed police officers who were sent to retrieve the workers. These “special service” police officers were said to be predominantly local farmers and hunters (mostly Chinese, Portuguese, and Hawaiians) who were deputized as police officers, and were not prepared for such a tense and volatile situation.

More than 200 National Guard soldiers arrived in the days after the incident to keep order. A “mass funeral” was held for 15 of the 16 workers, who were buried in rough wooden caskets in one large trench dug above Hanapēpē Bay, near a Chinese graveyard where one of the sheriff deputies was buried.

By 1930, Filipinos comprised 70% of the plantation work force in the Hawaiian Islands, up from 19% in 1917. The Filipino Labor Federation was revitalized in 1932 by Pablo Manlapit and renamed Vibora Luviminda. In 1933, Manlapit formed the Hawai‘i Labor Association.

A 1937 strike in Pu‘unēnē, Maui won Filipino workers significant benefits, but those responsible for organizing the strike were arrested. Labor leader Pablo Manlapit was permanently deported. (See Unions.)

Duke Kahanamoku

Surfer, Olympian, Movie Star, Sheriff

Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulihohola Kahanamoku was a muscular man, standing 6 feet, 1 inch tall. He was known for his humility and kindness as well as his soft-spoken demeanor.

Growing up near Kālia Beach in Waikīkī, Duke Kahanamoku surfed Waikīkī in 1905, beginning the rebirth of Hawaiian surfing, which had largely disappeared in the Hawaiian Islands after the arrival of New England missionaries in the early 1800s. Duke’s brother also surfed.

Duke’s 16-foot (4.9-m) surfboard was made of koa (Acacia koa) and weighed 114 pounds (52 kg).

In 1911, Duke and his friends organized Hui Nalu (Club of the Waves), a swimming, paddling, and surfing club. The main reason for the formation of Hui Nalu was to meet the United States’ requirement that swimmers had to belong to a recognized club if they wanted official sanction for any aquatic records. Also in 1911, Duke set three world records in freestyle swimming in Honolulu Harbor.

[Photograph: Duke Kahanamoku]

On July 6, 1912, Duke Kahanamoku won a gold medal in swimming in the Stockholm, Sweden Olympics, completing the 100-meter freestyle event in a world record time of 63.4 seconds, and also winning a silver medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

In the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, Duke won two more gold medals, breaking his own 100-meter freestyle world record. He also helped to set a world record in the freestyle relay, earning yet another gold medal. Hawaiian Pua Kealoha Warren Kealoha became the youngest male gold medallist in Olympic history when he won the 100-meter backstroke in the Antwerp Olympics.

At age 34, in the 1924 Paris Olympics, Duke took the silver medal in the 100-meter freestyle, losing to Johnny Weissmuller, who later became famous as the actor who played Tarzan.

Other Hawaiians winning medals in the Paris Olympics included: Warren Kealoha (gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke); Sam Kahanamoku (bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle); Marchen Wehselau (silver medal in the woman’s 100-meter freestyle); and a gold medal for the women’s relay team.

Duke Kahanamoku earned a total of six Olympic medals (three gold, two silver, one bronze) in four different Olympics. Other swimming victories for Duke Kahanamoku included 100-meter freestyle victories in the 1916, 1917, and 1920 American Athletic Union Outdoor Championships.

Duke was known for his use of the “flutter kick,” which he used instead of the common scissors kick. This became known as the Hawaiian crawl and eventually was called the American crawl.

Duke is also credited with saving many lives through brave ocean rescues, including using his surfboard to single-handedly save eight lives from a capsized boat in rough waters in Coronal del Mar, California on June 14, 1925.

He kanaka no kaulu hānai.

A man from the top of the cliff.

Praise of a hero.[i]

From 1922 to 1933, Duke had a career in Hollywood, appearing in more than 20 movies and playing opposite such stars as John Wayne. On August 2, 1940, Duke married Nadine Alexander. He also served as Sheriff of the City and County Honolulu for 26 years, from 1934 to 1960 (13 consecutive terms).

Always known as a generous and caring person, Duke Kahanamoku was officially appointed as Hawai‘i’s “Ambassador of Aloha” in 1960. Newspapers around the world showed pictures of Duke dancing hula with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during her visit to the Islands.

In 1964 Duke was honored at the Word’s Fair as Sports Champion of the Century. In 1965, Duke became the first person ever inducted into both the Surfing Hall of Fame and the Swimming Hall of Fame.

Duke Kahanamoku passed away on January 22, 1968, at the age of 77. Thousands attended the “Beachboy” funeral ceremony, and Duke’s ashes were scattered in the waters off Waikīkī.

In 1984, Duke was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. In 1999, Surfer Magazine declared Duke Kahanamoku the Surfer of the Century.

A ceremony to dedicate the new United States postage stamp featuring Duke Kahanamoku took place on Saturday, August 24, 2002, which was the 112th anniversary of Duke’s birth.

A Hawaiian legend, Duke Kahanamoku was a first class Hawaiian waterman, an Olympic champion, a lifesaver, movie star, sheriff, and the quintessential representative of the Hawaiian spirit of aloha.

Duke Kahanamoku will forever be remembered as a real-life folk hero for the people of the Hawaiian Islands.

In Hawai‘i, we greet friends, loved ones or strangers with aloha, which means with love. Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawai‘i renowned as the world’s center of understanding and fellowship. Try meeting or leaving people with Aloha. You’ll be surprised by their reaction. I believe it and it is my creed. Aloha to you.

Plaque on the Duke Kahanamoku Statue in Waikīkī.

Duke Kahanamoku’s Olympic Medals

1912 Olympics

Place: Stockholm, Sweden)

Gold Medal (100-Meter Freestyle - World Record)

Silver Medal (4x200-Meter Freestyle Relay - Anchored team)

1920 Olympics

Place: Antwerp, Belgium

Gold Medal (100-Meter Freestyle - World Record)

Gold Medal (4x200-meter Freestyle - World Record)

Notes: Also played on Water Polo Team; placed fourth

1924 Olympics

Place: Paris, France

Silver Medal (100-Meter-Freestyle)

Note: Duke’s age was 34.

1932 Olympics

Place: Los Angeles, California

Bronze Medal (Water Polo Team)

Note: Duke’s age was 42.

[Photograph: Picture of Duke stamp; picture of Duke Kahanamoku in a movie scene]

Historic Waikīkī

Waikiki means “Spouting water,” a reminder that the region was once covered with wetlands and marshes. In ancient times, Waikīkī encompassed more than 2,000 acres of marshland. The entire area was a vast drainage basin for the Ko‘olau Mountain Range.

Early Hawaiians settlers converted the marshland into loko i‘a (fishponds), lo‘i kalo (taro patches), and other agricultural uses. Fertile and productive, the lands of Waikīkī were fed by the waters of the Mānoa and Makiki Valleys.

[Photograph: Old Waikīkī]

Waikīkī was also the site of the 1795 landing of Kamehameha the Great’s war canoes during his last military conquest, which culminated in the Battle of Nu‘uanu.

In the late 1800s, duck ponds replaced many areas of Waikīkī that were formerly taro patches and fishponds. Land converted into duck ponds included the area that is now the site of the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

By the 1870s, Waikīkī was dominated by rice fields planted primarily by Chinese immigrants.

In 1893, the Sans Souci Hotel opened in Waikīkī along the shoreline of Kapi‘olani Park, and hosted Robert Louis Stevenson (1850—1894) for a five week visit (he visited again in 1889). Stevenson sang its praises, as did many other influential tourists.

[Photograph: Robert Louis Stevenson with Queen Lili‘uokalani.

On March 11, 1901, the Moana Hotel opened in Waikīkī, becoming the tallest building in the Hawaiian Islands. Designed by architect Oliver Green Traphagen for Matson Navigation Company, the 75-room hotel was known as the “First Lady of Waikīkī.”

Fifteen years later, the Moana Hotel added 100 more rooms as well as a seaside courtyard. King George V of the United Kingdom and Edward, Prince of Wales stayed at the hotel in 1920, garnering national attention.

In 1902, Waikīkī’s horse-driven tram cars were replaced by an electric trolley (tram line) connecting Waikīkī and downtown Honolulu. The tram line and hotel construction began the process of popularizing Waikīkī as a resort destination.

Waikīkī gradually became a place of quiet palm-lined beaches where the wealthy built their gingerbread-trimmed cottages. It was also home to Hawaiian royalty, and was considered a place of healing, peace, and hospitality.

Beginning in 1907, plans were made to develop tourism and commercial properties in Waikīkī, including street-widening and bridge building. The marshlands of Waikīkī were drained by the building of the Ala Wai Canal, constructed from 1919 to 1928 with funds provided by the Waikīkī Reclamation Project. The Wakīkī Reclamation Commission was formed by the Territorial Government in 1907.

The prominent waterway runs for 25 blocks and separates Waikīkī from Honolulu. Filling Waikīkī’s duck ponds, taro patches, rice paddies, and marshland with coral rubble created some of the most valuable real estate the Hawaiian Islands.

[Photograph: Ala Wai Canal]

On September 25, 1926, Aloha Tower opens on the waterfront at Honolulu Harbor, becoming the first skyscraper in the Hawaiian Islands and tallest building. Designed by architect Arthur Reynolds, the square-shaped tower stands 184 feet, 2 inches high with a domed cupola with balconied openings and topped with a 40-foot flagstaff and seven-ton clock.

The clock in Aloha Tower was the biggest in the Territory of Hawai‘i and one of the biggest in the United States. Each side of the tower has a clock face and the word “Aloha.”

On February 1, 1927, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel opened in Waikīkī with the Royal Hawaiian Band playing for 1,200 guests. An earlier Royal Hawaiian Hotel was located near ‘Iolani Palace at the site of the rehabilitated YMCA building. That first Royal Hawaiian was torn down when the new Royal Hawaiian was constructed.

Nicknamed the “Pink Palace of the Pacific,” the Moorish-style hotel began the restructuring of Waikīkī’s coastline. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel cost $4 million and was designed by New York’s Warren and Wetmore, featuring elegant chandeliers, high ceilings, pink stucco walls, and pink turrets.

Construction of the Royal Hawaiian utilized thousands of blocks of sandstone, about 35,000 barrels of cement, 50 tons (45 mtons) of stucco, and 75 miles (121 km) of wire. At least 9,000 gallons (34,100 liters) of paint were used.

The Royal Hawaiian was leased to the Navy in 1942 to house more than 200,000 Marines and sailors during their 10-day leaves. On February 1, 1947 the hotel reopened to the public.

The Royal Hawaiian was built and owned by the Matson Navigation Company, which also built a $7.5-million premier cruise ship, the Malolo, which held up to 650 passengers and provided luxurious transportation to the fine new hotel. The Matsonia began service between Honolulu and San Francisco in 1914.

By the time of William Matson’s death in 1917, he ran a fleet of 14 large, modern ships, providing the fastest freight service in the Pacific.

The opening of Aloha Tower and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel increased Waikīkī’s reputation as a playground for the rich and famous. Guests such as Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Ford II, Babe Ruth, and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s accommodations.

Over the next several decades the hotel attracted a whole multitude of heirs, heiresses, and Hollywood stars such as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel during World War II.

The Moana Hotel is now called the Moana Surfrider Hotel and is a National Historical Landmark, as is the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

[Photograph: Royal Hawaiian Hotel]

Island Emblems

In 1923 the Territorial Legislature designated an emblem for each Hawaiian Island. The State of Hawai‘i also has its own emblem. These symbols are all flowers or plants, except for Ni‘ihau’s emblem, which is a seashell. Each Hawaiian Island is also represented by a color associated with its emblem.

The State of Hawai‘i’s emblem is pua ma‘o hau hele, also known as the yellow hibiscus. When hibiscus was named the official flower of the Territory of Hawai‘i in 1923, the Legislature didn’t specify any particular one of the many varieties of the hibiscus, and the various colors and types of hibiscus (including numerous introduced species) were said by some to represent the unique ethnic mix of the Hawaiian Islands.

Eventually many considered the native red hibiscus or the red Chinese species to be the state flower. Hawai‘i’s State Legislature clarified the issue in 1988 when it named the endangered native yellow hibiscus, Hibiscus brackenridgei, to be the official state flower. Hibiscus brackenridgei is on the federal endangered species list.

[Photograph: Pua ma‘o hau hele lei]

Symbols of the Hawaiian Islands

Island: Hawai‘i

Emblem: Pua Lehua

Color: Red

Name: ‘Ōhi‘a lehua (flower)

Species: Metrosideros species

Island: Maui

Emblem: Pua Lokelani

Color: Pink

Name: Lokelani (flower)

Species: Rosa species (Damask Rose)

Island: Moloka‘i

Emblem: Pua Kukui

Color: Green (leaves)

Name: Kukui (flower)

Species: Aleurites moluccana (Candlenut)

Island: Lāna‘i

Emblem: Kauna‘oa

Color: Orange

Name: Kauna‘oa (vine)

Species: Cuscuta sandwichiana (Dodder)

Island: Kaho‘olawe

Emblem: Hinahina

Color: Silver-gray

Name: Hinahina (leaves)

Species: Heliotropum anomalum var. argenteum

Island: O‘ahu

Emblem: Pua ‘Ilima

Color: Yellow

Name: ‘Ilima (flowers)

Species: Sida fallax

Island: Kaua‘i

Emblem: Mokihana

Color: Purple

Name: Mokihana (berries)

Species: Pelea anisata

Island: Ni‘ihau

Emblem: Pūpū Ni‘ihau

Color: White

Name: Pūpū Ni‘ihau (shells)

Species: Kahelelani (Leptothyra verruca)

Momi (Euplica varians)

Laiki (Mitrella margarita)

[Photographs: Pua lehua lei; pua lokelani lei; pua kukui lei; kauna‘oa lei; hinahina lei; pua ‘ilima lei; mokihana lei; kahelelani; momi; and laiki in Ni‘ihau shell lei.]

Hawai‘i Island

The emblem of Hawai‘i Island (the Big Island) is pua lehua, the blossom of the native ‘ōhi‘a lehua tree (Metrosideros species). Lehua flowers are tufts of scarlet red, orange, yellow, or white (rarely).

Beautiful lei are woven from the flowers, unopened buds and young silvery leaves (liko) of ‘ōhi‘a lehua. ‘Ōhi‘a lehua is also considered sacred to Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes.


Maui’s emblem is pua lokelani (Rosa species), the aromatic flower of the small pink damask rose.

Pua lokelani, also known as the “rose of heaven,” is a post-contact introduced species that is often used for lei and commonly mixed with other flowers as well as ferns.


Moloka‘i’s emblem is pua kukui, the flower of the kukui tree (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut), which is also the official tree of the State of Hawai‘i.

Kukui’s small white flowers have five petals, grow in clusters, and are covered with a silvery-gray down. The leaves and the flowers are strung into lei, as are the polished kukui nuts.

The oil from kukui nuts was traditionally used as a light source, and for various other purposes including numerous medicinal uses.


Lāna‘i’s emblem is kauna‘oa (Cuscuta sandwichiana), a rusty-orange vine that is also known as dodder. Kauna‘oa has tiny round fruits and pointed flowers. The stringy stems are often braided together into strands for lei.


Kaho‘olawe’s emblem is a perennial herb called hinahina (Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum).

Hinahina grows on the beach above the high water line, and has hairy, silvery-green leaves and stems, and fragrant white flowers with yellow centers. The leaves and flowers of hinahina are twisted into open-ended garlands.

Today the non-native Spanish moss (also called Florida moss, gray beard, and hinahina) is often substituted for the native hinahina.


O‘ahu’s emblem is pua ‘ilima, the flower of ‘ilima (Sida fallax). ‘Ilima is a small, thin hibiscus flower that is yellow to orange in color, and about one inch across with five petals.

‘Ilima is a popular lei flower in the Hawaiian Islands today, just as it was in ancient Hawai‘i. Honor and respect among dignitaries is often shown with a velvety rope of carefully strung, bright orange ‘ilima petals.

‘Ilima flowers are extremely thin, and a lei may take 700 to 1,000 of the blossoms. ‘Ilima flowers are sometimes interwoven with maile.


Kaua‘i’s emblem is the fruit of the mokihana plant (Pelea anisata), a member of the rue family. Mokihana’s yellowish-green to purplish seed capsules are about ½-inch (1.3 cm) in diameter.

A mokihana lei is made by stringing together the seed capsules after piercing them through their centers. Mokihana is often strung together with strands of maile.

Mokihana’s seed capsules are leathery to the touch, and have a very strong anise-like fragrance that becomes stronger as the seeds dry. Some people are sensitive to the oily substance from mokihana, which may cause blisters.

Traditional lei stringers are proud of the scars on their fingers from stringing mokihana lei.


Ni‘ihau’s emblem is the prized Ni‘ihau shell, pūpū Ni‘ihau, which is actually a general term for three different varieties of shells collected on the island beaches and strung into beautiful lei.

The three primary types of shells used for the traditional Ni‘ihau shell lei are kahelelani (Leptothyra verruca), momi (Euplica varians) and laiki (Mitrella margarita). The colors of the shells range from deep brown to pearly white.

While these shells are also found on other Hawaiian Islands, they lack the rich luster of the prized Ni‘ihau shell lei. Pūpū Ni‘ihau show many variations caused by waves and sunlight as well as genetic differences. At least 30 different Hawaiian names describe the particular colors and patterns.

Lei DayMay 1

May Day is Lei Day in the Hawaiian Islands. On May 1, everyone is encouraged to make, give away, and wear lei. Lei Day became an official holiday of the Territory of Hawai‘i in 1929.

Mainland visitor Don Blanding, a journalist and poet, helped popularize the concept of Lei Day. Some say the holiday has its origins in 1927 when, on May 1 in downtown Honolulu, some lei lovers gathered.

Others consider the beginning of the holiday to be in 1928 when Nina Bowman was chosen as the first Lei Day Queen. 1928 was also the year that Red Hawke penned the song, “May Day is Lei Day in Hawai‘i.”

In 1934 the Honolulu city government began sponsoring a celebration of the holiday. Most schools celebrate Lei Day with festivals, and there are many events held throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Honolulu selects its Lei Day Queen on the first Saturday of March.

Island Flowers and Lei

The lei is the very symbol of aloha. In ancient Hawai‘i, respect and honor was bestowed upon someone by placing a lei upon their head and shoulders, which are considered sacred parts of the body. The Hawaiian goddess associated with lei making is Kukuena, whose daughter Laka may take the form of ‘ilima.

[Photograph: Person presenting another with a lei]

Ancient Hawaiians utilized various lei materials, including flowers, ferns, fern allies, vines, seeds, nuts, feathers, wood, shells, and teeth. The lei niho palaoa (whale tooth pendant) utilized the tooth of the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). Also used in lei was human hair as well as bones, including human finger bones.

In ancient Hawai‘i, lei were often woven to pay paid tribute to gods, show reverence, and give thanks for all that was provided by the land and sea. Particular lei had ceremonial and medicinal uses. For example, a lei woven from hala fruitlets was worn during Makahiki, the ancient harvest festival, to symbolize the passing of the old year and the beginning of a new year.

A lei for the head is known as lei po‘o, while a lei worn around the neck is known as lei ‘ā‘ī. Lei made to be worn on the wrists or ankles are known as kūpe‘e. A lei worn around the neck should be worn not just hanging in the front, but more centered, so both the front and back are comfortably arranged.

To show appreciation to the giver of a lei, one may give a kiss and an embrace. It is said that if one makes a lei for another and thinks of that person as they make it, the lei will carry those feelings and expressions of love.

After Western contact was established in 1778, many introduced plant species were utilized for making lei. For example, the missionaries who came to convert natives to Christianity brought roses.

The Chinese who came to work in the sugarcane fields brought pīkake (Arabian jasmine) and pakalana (Chinese violet). From Tahiti came plumeria, from Mexico came Bougainvillea, and from the Philippines came the jade vine, and all of these blossoms were fashioned into beautiful lei.

Later many other flowers were introduced and lei gained even more popularity as a symbol of aloha.

A Hawaiian saying from ancient times is: “E lei no au i ko aloha” (“I will wear your love as a wreath”), which is explained to mean, “I will cherish your love as a beautiful adornment.”[ii]

Today the lei remains an important symbol of friendship, love, and aloha. The lei is a traditional welcome, and is used on many different occasions, including birthdays, dances, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, and of course Lei Day. Lei are also made and worn for lū‘au, the traditional Hawaiian feasts often involving large gatherings of ‘ohana (extended family).

Lei are commonly given on Secretary’s Day, Father’s Day, and Mother’s Day, and to anyone leaving or arriving in the Hawaiian Islands. Lei are also given to honor athletes at the end of a season or career. They are also placed on the bier at funerals, and on gravestones to pay respect to the departed.

The King Kamehameha Hula Competition celebrates the ancient practice of hula, and many spectacular lei are worn by the participants. Aloha Week and many local and statewide hula events also are celebrated with plenteous lei. In Island parades, pā‘ū riders on horses are adorned with extravagant displays of lei and greenery.

The King Kamehameha Floral Parade takes place in the summer and stretches out for nearly 4 miles (6.4 km) from downtown Honolulu to Waikīkī with colorful pā‘ū riders, floats and brass bands, including the Royal Hawaiian Band.

Beginning at ‘Iolani Palace, the parade passes by the statue of King Kamehameha and then takes Punchbowl Street to Ala Moana, then following Kalākaua Avenue to Kapi‘olani Park.

[Photograph: Floral Parade]

Lei Making Methods

Ø Wili—Twisted.

Ø Hīpu‘u—Knotted.

Ø Hili—Braided.

Ø Haku—Mounted.

Ø Humupapa—Sewed onto backing.

Ø Kui—Strung with a needle.

Ø Micronesian-style—Tied or woven flat.

The wili method (wili means “to twist or wind”) involves winding flowers, leaves, fruits, or ferns around a solid core. Traditionally this core was made from a coconut palm midrib, a kī (ti) leaf, a piece of a banana plant stalk, lau hala (leaves of hala), or more modern material (e.g., pipe cleaners).

Wili also refers to the twisting of the material itself or to the process of twisting finished strands together.

The hīpu‘u method (also called kīpu‘u) involves knotting stems or vines such as maile into a lei. The hili method involves braiding or plaiting material such as the pala‘ā fern. The hili (braided) method is also used for making kī (ti) and maile lei.

The haku method is similar to the hili method, but with flowers or fruits added during the plaiting process, or sewn face out onto a wreath of greenery. The haku method is also used with various non-traditional flowers, such as zinnias, roses, chrysanthemums, and pansies.

The traditional meaning of haku is “to arrange” or “to compose,” and involves incorporating the lei materials into a braid, securing the blossoms around a central core using a kī (ti) leaf or a piece of banana stalk, hau, raffia, or other material.

The humupapa method (also known as kui papa) involves sewing flowers and plant materials onto a backing, traditionally kī (ti) leaves that have been folded and deboned, or dried fibers of mai‘a (banana stalk). Humupapa was also one of the methods used for feather lei.

The kui method involves stringing flowers (e.g., ‘ilima) or fruits through their centers lengthwise (kui pololei); stringing the blossoms crosswise through the calyx or corolla tube, and arranging them around the string facing outwards (kui poepoe); or stringing the blossoms flat or crosswise through the calyx or stem, and arranging them alternately on each side of the string (kui lau method, also now called lei maunaloa).

The Micronesian-style lei involves tying or weaving the stems and blossoms into a flat collar and securing them with bast or raffia. This plaiting may be done with two, three, or four strands.

[Illustration: Lei constructed using wili, hīpu‘u, hili, kui, haku, humupapa and Micronesian-style methods]

Honolulu Hale

Built in 1927, Honolulu Hale opened in 1929 to serve as Honolulu’s City Hall with offices for the mayor and city council. Located at 530 South King Street, the building was designed by architects Charles William Dickey (1871—1942), Hart Wood (1880—1957) and others, and modeled after Florence, Italy’s 13th century Bargello Palace, featuring pillars and arches, decorative balconies, ceiling frescoes, and a tiled roof.

Inside the front door of Honolulu Hale is a bell from the World War II ship U.S.S. Honolulu, with a commemorative plaque that states, “Launched August 26, 1937. Commissioned June 15, 1938.” The spacious lobby of the building is the site of art exhibits and other events, and the building’s central open-air courtyard is the site of musical performances and other events.

War Memorial Natatorium

In 1927, the War Memorial Natatorium was built on the waterfront at the eastern end of Waikīkī as a memorial to the 179 men and women of the Hawaiian Islands that died as soldiers in World War I.

The memorial includes a 20-foot (6.1-m) high Memorial Archway with a Beaux Arts facade and a 100-meter-long, tide-fed, saltwater pool. Champion swimmers such as Duke Kahanamoku and Johnny Weissmuller used the War Memorial Natatorium pool for training.

The pool remains today as the largest saltwater pool in the United States, though it is in serious disrepair. A court order in 1999 allowed the City of Honolulu to proceed with an $11 million restoration project that disallowed work on the pool itself until state rules were met.

In May of 2004, a section of the pool’s deck collapsed, and the rest of the structure was determined to be at risk of collapsing unless the sea walls and pool deck were shored up and stabilized.

Scheduled restoration work was cancelled by Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann on January 3, 2005, his first day in office. (See War Memorial Natatorium.)

[Photograph: War Memorial Natatorium]


Aviation in the Hawaiian Islands began on October 10, 1910 when Malcolm and Elbert Tuttle (ages 14 and 13) carried their home-made, 40-pound (18 kg) glider to the top of O‘ahu’s Kaimukī Crater where Malcolm flew the craft, which measured about 15 feet (4.6 m) long and 18 feet (5.5 m) across, for a distance of about 40 feet (12.2 m) at a height of about 10 feet (3 m) off the ground.

On December 31, 1910, about seven years after the Wright brothers made their famous first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the first airplane flight in the Hawaiian Islands took place at O‘ahu’s Moanalua Polo Field when J. C. “Bud” Mars flew a Curtiss P18 biplane, the Honolulu Skylark, to an altitude of 500 feet (152 m).

Thousands of onlookers paid $1 each to watch the pioneering flight, and on a subsequent flight Mars reached 1,500 feet (457 m). Mars was with a group from New York’s Glenn Curtiss Aircraft Company who had brought two Curtiss P18 biplanes to the Hawaiian Islands.

On June 10, 1911, Clarence Walker crashed his biplane into a hala tree in Hilo and lived. This was the first airplane crash in the Hawaiian Islands. Tom Gunn, a pioneer of Hawaiian aviation, completed the first passenger flight in the Hawaiian Islands on July 13, 1913 when he took two people (a theater worker and a tailor) for a flight over Schofield Barracks.

The first interisland flight in the Hawaiian Islands was completed on March 15, 1918 by Army Major Harold M. Clark of the Fort Kamehameha Aero Squadron, who flew from Honolulu to Moloka‘i and back.

Corporal Mark Grace, a member of the Sixth Aero Squadron, became the first aviation fatality in the Hawaiian Islands on November 19, 1918 when his plane went into a tailspin and crashed. Two Army seaplanes flew from Luke Field at Pearl Harbor to Hilo in 1919, carrying the first interisland mail.

Wheeler Field (now known as Wheeler Air Force Base) was established in 1922 near Schofield Barracks in Wahiawā, O‘ahu. The base was named after Sheldon H. Wheeler, an Air Force major who died in a plane crash in 1921.

On August 31, 1925, Commander John Rodgers and his four-man crew flew a two-engine PN-9 Navy seaplane from near San Francisco toward the Hawaiian Islands, attempting the first flight between the Hawaiian Islands and the United States Mainland.

The plane ran out of gas 300 miles (483 km) from Maui, and the crew used improvised sails and tow assistance to reach Kaua‘i’s Ahukini Harbor on September 10, 1925. John Rodgers Airport, the first official civilian airfield in the Hawaiian Islands, was dedicated in Honolulu on March 21, 1927, and was later renamed Honolulu International Airport. Hilo Airport was dedicated in 1928.

On June 28, 29, 1927, Albert Hegenberger and Lester Maitland, two lieutenants in the United States Army flew the Fokker C-2-3 Wright 220 tri-motor plane Bird of Paradise to complete the first non-stop flight to the Hawaiian Islands (Wheeler Field at Schofield Barracks, O‘ahu) from the United States Mainland (Oakland, California) in 25 hours and 50 minutes. At the time it was the longest all-water flight.

On July 14, 1927, Emily Bronte and pilot Ernest Smith crash landed their 27-foot (8.2-m) monoplane named The City of Oakland on Moloka‘i, becoming the first civilians to fly to the Hawaiian Islands from the United States Mainland (Oakland, California), covering about 2,200 miles (3,541 km) in 26 hours and 36 minutes.

On August 16, 1927, eight planes competed in the Dole Air Derby, leaving Oakland, California for the Hawaiian Islands in an attempt to win prizes of $25,000 and $10,000 offered by James Drummond Dole, president of Hawaiian Pineapple Company. This was the first race from the United States Mainland to the Hawaiian Islands.

Two planes crashed on take-off, two planes encountered difficulties and had to turn back, and two planes disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. In all, ten lives were lost in what was billed as the first trans-oceanic flight race.

The winner of the trans-oceanic race was Art Goebel (with navigator William Davis) in the monoplane Woolaroc, with just 4 gallons (15 liters) of fuel to spare. Taking second place was Martin Jensen (with navigator Paul Schluter) in the Aloha.

On May 31, 1928, Charles Kingsford-Smith and a three-person crew flew the Fokker tri-motor plane, Southern Cross from Oakland, California to Australia via the Hawaiian Islands and Fiji, finishing the first complete crossing of the Pacific Ocean by air when they arrived in Sydney on June 10, 1928.

Interisland airmail service was established on October 8, 1928. Hawaiian Airways, Ltd., the first interisland airline, began regular sightseeing trips between the Hawaiian Islands on November 9, 1929, but the company went out of business in the following year.

Inter-Island Airways Ltd. (later renamed Hawaiian Airlines), was founded on November 11, 1929 by Stanley Carmichael Kennedy Sr. (1890—1968), a resident of the Hawaiian Islands and a World War I Navy pilot.

Kennedy soon began interisland commercial air service operations using a Bellanca monoplane and two Sikorsky S-38-C seven-passenger amphibious airplanes, launching a new era of aviation in the Hawaiian Islands.

The planes initially made three weekly round trips between Honolulu’s John Rodgers Airport (now called Honolulu International Airport) and Hilo, with stops on Maui (the flight took about 3 hours and 15 minutes). Trips to Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i were made by prior arrangement. Outrigger canoes were used to ferry passengers from the water to the shore.

Stanley Carmichael Kennedy Sr. was the son of James Kennedy, an interisland shipping boss. After attending Punahou School and Stanford University, Stanley earned a Silver Star in World War I flying H-16 flying boats over the North Sea. He became head of Inter-Island Steam Navigation in 1932.

In 1931, a 16½-hour Army glider plane flight taking off from the Kāne‘ohe experimental grounds was completed by Lieutenant John C. Crain in a glider designed by Lieutenant W. A. Cocke Jr..

In October of 1934, Charles Kingsford-Smith and Patrick Gordon Taylor flew the single-engine Lockheed Altair Lady Southern Cross from Brisbane, Australia to Oakland, California via Fiji and Honolulu, completing the first eastbound flight from the Hawaiian Islands to the United States Mainland, arriving in Oakland on November 3, 1934.

Amelia Earhart completed the first solo flight from the Hawaiian Islands (Wheeler Field, O‘ahu) to the United States Mainland (Oakland, California) on January 11-12, 1935 in a single-engine Lockheed Vega monoplane.

On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart’s plane disappeared en route to Howland Island from Papa New Guinea on the second leg of an attempted 27,000-mile (43,452-km) trip around the world, 7,000 miles (11,265 km) short of her goal of becoming the first woman to fly around the world.

On April 17, 1935, the 19-ton, 32-passenger amphibian Pan American Clipper Ship made its pioneer flight from Alameda, California to the Hawaiian Islands with no passengers, landing at Pearl Harbor after a 19 hour and 48 minute flight (an average flight speed of about 140 miles per hour (225 kilometers per hour)).

The pilot, Captain Edwin Musick, and his crew of five, were greeted by about 2,500 people including Governor Joseph B. Poindexter (1869—1951).

In November of 1935, Pan American World Airways begin mail service across the Pacific Ocean.

On October 21, 22, 1936, Pan American World Airways flew a Martin M-130 flying boat, the Hawaii Clipper, from San Francisco to Honolulu with seven customers who paid $360 each (one-way), for the 21 hour and 33 minute flight. The plane had a range of 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers) and could carry 52 passengers.

The plane’s cabin resembled a luxury hotel. Dinner was served on linen tablecloths with fine china. After dinner passengers played bridge and then slept in plush rooms.

Pan American soon ran twelve flights daily in and out of Honolulu on their “luxury flying boats,” and also ran flights from San Francisco to Manila, via Honolulu. The first flight of a Pan American World Airways Clipper from Los Angeles to Honolulu was completed on January 31, 1940.

Inter-Island Airways Ltd. was renamed Hawaiian Airlines in 1941, and the company introduced a 24-passenger DC-3 airplane. After being interrupted by World War II, commercial airlines resumed service in 1945, and the first to begin was Pan American World Airways.

On July 26, 1946, Honolulu publisher Rudy Tongg founded Trans-Pacific Airlines (later renamed Aloha Airlines). The first flight carried 21 passengers to Hilo from Honolulu in a war surplus DC-3.

On October 26, 1948, Captain Paul Ramsey piloted the first jet aircraft flight in the Hawaiian Islands, flying the Lockheed TO-1 Shooting Star from Barbers Point Naval Air Station to Honolulu and back in 25 minutes.

On September 2, 1949, a new airport opened in Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i. On November 11, 1950, the Hāna Airport on Maui was dedicated. A Trans-Pacific Alohaliner became the first plane to land at the new airport.

In 1952, the 44-passenger Convair 340 airplane provided the first pressurized and air-conditioned cabins in the Hawaiian Islands.

On December 13, 1955, the first commercial jet to come to Honolulu Airport is a swept-wing Comet III, a British transport arriving from Fiji. The jet was on an around-the-world flight.

Also in December of 1955, final approval was given by the Hawai‘i Aeronautics Commission for a new jet-age terminal to be built on the mauka (mountain) side of the Honolulu Airport. The first air terminal on Moloka‘i was dedicated on July 13, 1957.

Trans-Pacific Airlines was renamed Aloha Airlines in 1958 under company president Dr. Hung Wo Ching and his brother Hung Wai Ching, who served on the board. The company also used a new fleet of Jetprop F-27’s. Hawaiian Airlines purchased a four-engine DC-6 in 1958 for trans-Pacific military charters.

On July 29, 1959, commercial jet service between the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, Nadi, and San Francisco was offered by Qantas Empire Airways, utilizing Boeing 707 aircraft, beginning with the arrival of the City of Sydney after its 4 hour and 49 minute flight from San Francisco.

Greeting the plane was the Royal Hawaiian Band playing “Waltzing Matilda.” Pan American soon offered flights from Tokyo to the west coast of the United States, stopping at Honolulu and Wake Island.

In 1966, Hawaiian Airlines introduced the first interisland jet, a 99-passenger McDonnell Douglas DC-9, reducing interisland travel time to one half hour or less.

In 1969, Aloha Airlines replaced their fleet with Boeing 737-200s, and in 1970 Pan American began flying 362-passenger Boeing 747 jumbo jets to the Hawaiian Islands from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Maui resident and famous American aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) passed away at his home in Kīpahulu near Hāna, Maui in 1974, and he is buried at Palapala Ho‘omau Congregational Church. His wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh passed away in 2001, and is also buried there.

Charles Lindbergh was known affectionately as the “Lone Eagle” for his completion of the first solo flight across the Atlantic. The inscription on his granite headstone is taken from the Bible’s Psalm 139, and reads, “If I take the wings of morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea...”

On November 12, 1986, a British Airways Concorde became the first supersonic transport (SST) flight to come to the Hawaiian Islands, flying from Oakland to Honolulu in a record two hours and fifteen minutes.

In September of 2002, Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines received federal approval of an antitrust exemption allowing the two airlines to coordinate capacity on interisland flights. Both airlines later declared bankruptcy (Hawaiian Airlines in 2003; Aloha Airlines in 2004).

The Massie Trial

On September 12, 1931, Thalia Massie, the 20-year-old wife of United States Navy lieutenant Thomas H. Massie, attended a party at Honolulu’s Ala Wai Inn (a Honolulu nightclub formerly on the site of the present location of the Hawai‘i Convention Center), and was later found beaten and assaulted with her jaw broken in two places.

Thalia Massie told authorities that she had been forced into a car and taken to Ala Moana Park where she was raped. Five Hawaiian and Japanese plantation workers who allegedly raped Thalia Massie (a Caucasian) were detained that night and taken to her hospital room, where she apparently identified the driver of the car, though later evidence claimed she only identified the attackers as “Hawaiian.” The defendants were represented by William Haehae Heen (1883—1973).

Despite evidence pointing to the innocence of the detained men, they were assumed guilty by the national press, which ran stories about the brute locals preying on white women. The accused men were later set free due to lack of evidence, with a deadlocked jury that had taken 97 ballots in more than 100 hours of deliberation.

The first trial of the accused men ended in a deadlock, and a mistrial was declared. The release of the accused men fueled racial tensions and violence in Honolulu, including animosity between the military and local residents. The story garnered national attention.

A few days after the mistrial was declared, one of the defendants, 20-year-old Joseph Kahāhāwai, who was said to have been the leader of the “School Street gang,” was kidnapped by Thalia Massie’s husband and mother and two sailors, and then shot and killed.

They placed the slain Kahāhāwai’s body in the trunk of their car and drove toward the rocky coastline near Koko Crater where they planned to dump the body. During the drive they were stopped by police and Kahāhāwai’s body was discovered in the back of the car.

All four—Lt. Thomas H. Massie, Grace Hubbard Bell Fortescue, E. J. Lord, and Albert O. Jones—were indicted for second degree murder. Thomas H. Massie took responsibility for shooting Kahāhāwai, but his lawyer, the renowned Clarence Darrow, told the court his client was temporarily insane.

The four were convicted only of manslaughter by Judge Charles S. Davis, and they were sentenced to ten years hard labor at Oahu [O‘ahu] Prison. Governor Lawrence Judd immediately commuted the sentence to one hour, to be served in his office.

The attack on Thalia Massie, as well as the subsequent vigilante action and controversial court decisions contributed to racial tensions in the Islands for years to come. Thalia Massie later lived in Florida where she committed suicide in 1963.


The first electric telegraph in Honolulu was put into operation on October 19, 1872. Charles H. Dickey installed the first commercial telegraph system in the Hawaiian Islands in 1877 between his stores in Ha‘ikū and Makawao on Maui, and the system was soon connected to Wailuku and Lahaina.

The first telephone line in the Hawaiian Islands was installed between Wailuku, Maui and Kahului in 1878 by the East Maui Telegraph Company under the direction of Charles H. Dickey. The Hawaiian Bell Telephone Company, organized by Charles O. Berger, was incorporated on December 30, 1880.

In 1889, the first interisland undersea cable connected Moloka‘i and Maui. The first interisland radio message was sent in November of 1900 from Kaimukī, Honolulu to Moloka‘i, via a kite flying at Wai‘alae, Maui. Commercial radio service was established on March 2, 1901, allowing communication between the Islands.

The Hawaiian Islands were linked to the United States on December 28, 1902 by a Commercial Pacific Cable Company telegraph cable beneath the Pacific Ocean. The submarine cable, laid by the cable ship Silvertown, was more than 2,000 miles (3,219 km) long, extending from Ocean Beach in San Francisco to Waikīkī’s San Souci Beach.

The first message across the new undersea cable was sent to San Francisco from Waikīkī on January 1, 1903. The westward extension of the undersea cable to Midway, Guam, and the Philippines was completed on July 4, 1903, allowing the first round-the-world message.

President Theodore Roosevelt sent a message to the United States and all of its properties and territories, wishing all a happy Independence Day.

The first wireless message between the United States and Japan was relayed from Tokyo through Kahuku, O‘ahu to New York on July 27, 1915.

The first radio broadcast to California from the Hawaiian Islands took place in 1930 when KGMB transmitted a ten-minute Christmas program. Honolulu and London were connected by commercial radio service in 1932. On November 2, 1933, the Mutual Telephone Company established interisland radio telephone service.

The Hawaii Calls radio series began on July 3, 1935. Webley Edwards produced and directed the show from beachside at Waikīkī’s Royal Hawaiian Hotel and later the Moana Hotel (now the Sheraton Moana Surfrider).

Hawaii Calls featured top Hawaiian music, including live performances by many top Hawaiian artists. The show was broadcast on hundreds of radio stations all around the world and ran until 1975, making it the longest running radio program ever.

The first scheduled television show in the Hawaiian Islands was broadcast by station KGMB-TV on December 1, 1952. The programming began with a series of live interviews that were followed by a Gene Autry movie.

On May 5, 1957, the first color television program in the Hawaiian Islands was broadcast, though only about 50 residents of O‘ahu owned color televisions at the time. The program was shown by station KHVH-TV and included color slides and a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

The first message sent via an undersea telephone cable connecting the United States and the Hawaiian Islands was sent to New York on October 8, 1957. In 1964, an $84 million undersea cable linked Tokyo and the Hawaiian Islands.

On October 26, 1966, a small, drum-shaped communication satellite, officially known as Intelsat II and affectionately known as the “Lani Bird,” broadcasted the Islands’ first live television show from the United States Mainland.

Pearl Harbor

On Dec. 7, 1941, more than 350 Japanese bomber planes attacked Pearl Harbor and other O‘ahu military sites. The first planes to arrive struck the Mōkapu Peninsula’s Pacific Naval Air Base, killing or wounding 84 Americans and damaging 36 seaplanes.

Seven minutes later, at 7:55 a.m., the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor began, entering the United States into World War II. Newly installed United States Army radar equipment at ‘Ōpana had picked up a large blip, but assumed it was from incoming American B-17’s, and ignored the danger.

Deaths of United States military personnel at Pearl Harbor totaled 2,323, with 60 civilians also killed in the attack. Another 1,178 people were wounded.

Eight huge American battleships were sunk or damaged, along with three light cruisers, three destroyers, and four smaller ships.

In all, 21 United States ships were damaged (19 sunk) and 347 planes were destroyed in the Pearl Harbor attack, including planes on Ford Island and at Wheeler Airfield. (Note: At the time of the attack, Pearl Harbor held 145 vessels, including 96 warships.)[iii]

The United States suffered a total of 3,566 naval and military casualties in the attack along the deaths of 48 O‘ahu residents.

1,177 men perished in the fiery sinking of the U.S.S. Arizona, which was at its moorings on Battleship Row, and sunk just nine minutes after being hit by a 1,760-pound (798-kg) armor-piercing bomb.

The bodies of 945 of the crew members of the Arizona were never recovered, and remain entombed in the sunken vessel; 334 of the crew members survived. The U.S.S. Oklahoma was struck by several torpedoes, trapping 400 men in the ship as it rolled completely over.

United States anti-aircraft guns responded to the attack 15 minutes after the start of the bombing and destroyed 29 Japanese planes and sunk five midget submarines.

The first shot of December 7, 1941 came from the destroyer USS Ward, which sank a 78-foot (24-m) Japanese miniature submarine outside Pearl Harbor more than an hour before the aerial attack by the Japanese planes began.

A 4-inch (10-cm) shell pierced the submarine’s conning tower, depth charges were dropped, and the submarine sank. (Note: The Japanese miniature submarine was located on August 28, 2002 by the deep-diving submersibles of the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory of the University of Hawai‘i.)

One Japanese pilot crash landed on Ni‘ihau after the Pearl Harbor attack. Ni‘ihau resident Benehakaka Kanahele’s confrontation with the downed pilot was the only combat in the Islands against an armed enemy during World War II.

Other sites on O‘ahu that were hit included Hickam, Wheeler, Bellows, and Kāne‘ohe airfields as well as ‘Ewa Marine Corp Air Station and Schofield Barracks. In all, fifty-five Japanese airmen and 9 submariners were killed along with one man captured.

On December 30, 1941, Japanese submarines shelled the ports of Kahului on Maui, Nāwiliwili on Kaua‘i, and Hilo on Hawai‘i Island. On January 28, 1942, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the Army transport ship Royal T. Frank in Hawaiian waters, killing 21 people.

A lone Japanese plane bombed Honolulu on March 2, 1942, and throughout the Islands there was a general fear of being attacked by Japan.

On September 2, 1945, the forces of Japan officially surrendered on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship, now berthed at Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row.

Victory in Japan Day (“V-J Day”) was declared on August 15, 1945 after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japan in Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945), leading to the imminent defeat of Japan.

Martial Law

In response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Martial Law was declared in the Hawaiian Islands at 4:30 p.m. on December 7, 1941 by Territorial Governor Joseph B. Poindexter (1869—1951), in consultation with United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, suspending the writ of habeas corpus and stripping Poindexter of his administrative powers.

With the imposition of Martial Law, Governor Poindexter turned civilian duties over to Lieutenant General Walter Short, who became military governor of the Islands.

All residents of the Hawaiian Islands were subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the Territorial constitution was suspended, as was the authority of the Supreme Court and the Legislature. Civilian courts were replaced with military judges.

Honolulu’s ‘Iolani Palace was barricaded and trenches were dug around the building for security. The building was used by a military governor, Major General Thomas H. Greene, appointed from the United States Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

Martial Law imposed many restrictions on residents of the Hawaiian Islands, including enforced blackouts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Curfews were imposed and blackout wardens patrolled neighborhoods.

All residents over the age of six were fingerprinted, and the media was censored along with all mail (questionable letters were confiscated). Civilians were required to turn over all communication devices as well as all cameras and weapons.

Food and gas were rationed, saloons were closed, alcohol was prohibited, and business hours were restricted. Japanese-owned property was confiscated including stores, schools, and banks.

The United States military was allowed to take whatever land it needed, and the Army eventually controlled about one-third of O‘ahu, including the campus of Punahou School, which was taken over by the Corps of Engineers. All civilian residents in the Islands were fingerprinted and given personal identification cards that had to be in their possession at all times.

Laws imposed by the military governor were known as General Orders, and any transgressions were dealt with by military tribunals—there were no appeals. Many Japanese were arrested and interned under suspicion of espionage or sabotage, though none were ever found guilty. (See The 442nd/100th.)

In 1943, the Territorial Government regained control of most civilian functions, but Martial Law would remain in effect until October of 1944, into the term of governor Ingram M. Stainback. Curfews, censorship and gas rationing ended in 1945.

In 1946, the declaration of Martial Law in the Hawaiian Islands was determined to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

The 442nd/100th—

Hawai‘i’s Nisei Soldiers

After the 1941 attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government discharged 5,000 Japanese-American soldiers and declared Japanese-Americans “4-C,” non-draftable enemy aliens.

The Japanese and Japanese-American population of the Hawaiian Islands at this time was about 100,000, including 35,000 first generation Japanese.

Many of the most influential Japanese in the Hawaiian Islands were detained, including community leaders, ministers, Buddhist priests, and principals of Japanese schools. Initially these Japanese and Japanese-Americans detainees were taken to Sand Island, which began its use as an internment camp on December 8, 1941.

In all, about 1,500 residents of the Hawaiian Islands were part of about 115,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry interned in ten internment camps on the United States Mainland. (Note: The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided restitution for the internment, allocating $1.6 billion to 82,000 people in 1999.)

Despite the United States government’s suspicions about Japanese residents of the Hawaiian Islands, and the harsh and often racist treatment Japanese-Americans received after the Pearl Harbor attack, many wished to show their loyalty and join the war effort.

Initial plans called for 1,500 volunteer soldiers from the Hawaiian Islands—more than 10,000 volunteered. Recruiting was not as successful on the United States Mainland where recruiters hoped for 3,000 soldiers but only 1,200 volunteered.

Nisei soldiers formed a civilian workforce called the Varsity Victory Volunteers to help build roads, construct barracks, and dig ditches. The War Department appreciated these efforts, and in 1943 created an all-Nisei combat unit.

In the summer of 1942, approximately 1,300 Americans of Japanese ancestry from the Hawaiian Islands traveled to Wisconsin’s Camp McCoy for training, and then formed the 100th Infantry Battalion.

On February 1, 1943, the government announced the formation of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, initially consisting of Nisei (second generation Japanese-American) volunteers from the Hawaiian Islands and the United States Mainland who wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to the United States.

In June of 1944 in Italy, the 100th Infantry Battalion joined ranks with the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd/100th, which was comprised mostly of Hawai‘i’s Nisei soldiers, fought in Italy before participating in the invasion in southern France. For their heroic efforts despite heavy losses in Italy, France, and Germany, the 442nd became known as the “Purple Heart Battalion.”

The motto of the 442nd was “Go For Broke,” a Hawaiian slang term referring to risking everything. In October of 1944 they broke through German forces and liberated the French town of Bruyeres from the Nazis, and then rescued 211 members of the “Lost Battalion,” a Texas Battalion (1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Battalion, 36th Infantry Division), in Biffontaine, losing more than half of their own soldiers in the process—800 soldiers in a one month period.

The “Lost Battalion,” known as the Alamo Regiment” was trapped behind enemy lines for five days, surrounded by Germans and out of food and ammunition. The rescue of the “Lost Battalion” was considered a pivotal battle in the war, and one of the most famous battles of military history.

The 442nd/100th, which eventually became the most decorated unit in United States history, earning more than 18,000 total awards for their stellar war performance record, and their valorous fighting in numerous battles despite suffering high casualty rates.

Awards given to the 442nd included 9,486 Purple Hearts, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 8 Distinguished Unit Citations, and 21 Congressional Medals of Honor.


[North shore big wave surfing scene]

At an outer reef that is miles from shore, a surfer on a surfboard holds onto a tow rope as he is pulled behind a jet-ski. A huge wave forms on the horizon and continues to grow as it approaches.

The jet-ski driver swings the craft around to pull the surfer in the same direction of the wave, which has now welled up to a monstrous size. The person on the surfboard lets go of the tow rope and surfs the giant wave.

The jet ski driver powers the craft out of harm’s way, and then quickly drives back around to retrieve the surfer.

[Photograph: Big wave surfing]

Hō a‘e ka ‘ike he‘enalu i ka hokua o ka ‘ale.

Show [your] knowledge of surfing on the back of the wave.

Talking about one’s knowledge and skill is not enough; let it be proven.

(Pukui: 1013-108)

Perhaps more than any other place in the world, Hawai‘i is famous for its large waves. Surfers, sunbathers, and visitors from all over the world flock to the Hawaiian Islands from all parts of globe for a chance to visit the famous surfing beaches, point breaks, and outer reefs.

During summer, large swells arrive from far to the south and break along the Hawaiian Islands’ southern shores. However, it is the giant north shore winter surf that is the source of legends.

Every winter, huge storms are generated off of the Asian landmass and grow over the Bering Sea. These storm systems create enormous swells, consistent and organized systems of large ocean waves that move toward the Hawaiian Islands’ north shores.

Types and Properties of Waves:

Technically, a wave is defined as any disturbance (energy) that moves over or through a medium, such as air or water. There are many different kinds of waves, from radio waves to sound waves, to tsunamis traveling 7,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

A wave’s speed is determined by the properties of the medium through which the wave is traveling. For example, sound waves move four times faster in water than they do in air, because water has a higher density than air.

A dolphin’s high frequency echolocation pulses (sound waves) have extremely small wavelengths, while a tsunami may have a wavelength of 50 to 300 miles (80 to 483 km), as well as a period as long as 30 minutes, and a speed through the ocean of more than 500 mi/hr (805 km/hr).

Anatomy of a Wave:

The highest point of the wave is called the crest and the lowest point is called the trough. The vertical distance between the wave’s crest and trough is the wave’s height. Waves also have a length, which is the distance from the crest of one wave to the crest of the next wave (the wavelength).

An ocean wave is really just energy moving through the water. A wave’s energy reaches to a depth equal to about one-half of its wavelength. If the water is shallower than that depth, the wave starts to collapse on itself, or break. In other words, a wave breaks when it reaches water that is about half as deep as the wave is long (which is also usually about half the wave’s height).

The time it takes one complete wave to pass a given point is known as the wave’s period. If the swell period is 14 or more, then it usually means sizeable waves were generated from a distant storm system, and are arriving in the Hawaiian Islands to the great delight of experienced surfers.

A wave period of 14 might bring waves with heights of about 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 m) high. This wave height may vary considerably, especially considering that locals judge the waves height not by the face but by the back of the wave, which is about half as big as the face. In general, however, if the wave period is 14, there will be great surfing waves.

[Illustration: Diagram of wavelength, height, period, crest, and trough]

Ocean Weather Buoys

Four ocean buoys are placed hundreds of miles to the north, south, east and west of the Hawaiian Island chain. Each boat-shaped weather buoy is about 20 feet (6 m) long, weighs more than 14,000 pounds (6,350 kg), and is anchored to the ocean floor.

Real-time buoy data is transmitted each hour via satellite to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologists, posted on the Internet (http://seaboard.ndbc.noaa.gov/Maps/Hawaii.shtml) and reported on local news forecasts.

The ocean buoys report sea and air temperatures, barometric pressure, wind direction, wind speed, wave height, and wave and swell period at the buoy location. This provides fishermen with advance notice of high surf and possibly dangerous conditions, as well as alerting surfers when conditions may be particularly formidable.

For example, if the buoy to the north of the Hawaiian Islands (Buoy 51001—193 nautical miles west-northwest of Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i) reports that the height of the swell is 15 feet (4.6 m) with a period of 20 seconds, then surfers know there will definitely be big waves arriving on the north shore within several hours, and fishermen know it may not be the best time to go out to sea.

Be Careful—Avoid Dangerous Waters

The ocean can be a very dangerous place, especially when currents and waves make for difficult conditions. Drownings do occur, and at a rate that continues to confound officials.

On Kaua‘i alone, from 1970 to 2001, there were more than 200 reported drownings (including 63 from 1995-2002, with 12 in 1999, 12 in 2000 and 8 in 2001. Twenty-eight of these drownings occurred at just one Kaua‘i beach, Hanakāpī‘ai, and most of the victims were never recovered.

Another beach just miles away, Lumaha‘i, had 19 drownings. Most drownings occur in winter when big swells and strong currents are more frequent. Statistically, most victims of drowning in the Hawaiian Islands are male, from 30 to 50 years old.

With an estimated 18 million beach visitors on O‘ahu in 2001, there were 1,360 rescues, and first aid was given to 92,717 people. One particularly dangerous place is near the surf spot known as China Walls as well as the surrounding area for about 1 mile (1.6 km), including the area near Spitting Cave. In this stretch of water more than 24 people have drowned since 1977, with an estimated 50 more near drownings.

Beaches all over the island have potentially dangerous conditions, and often areas that seem safe pose potential hazards for people inexperienced in the water. On O‘ahu, in a period of less than one month—between June 6 and July 2, 2002—there were seven drownings, mostly tourists in shallow water. Two more persons died on July 19, 2002 near a spot called Witch’s Brew at the mouth of Hanauma Bay.

On June 30, 2002 an 18-year-old male became the third person since 1969 to die at Hālona Blowhole, a famous wave-generated spout of water on O‘ahu’s southeast shore near Hanauma Bay. As he leaned over the blowhole, a spout of water sent him flying up into the air and then down into the blowhole.

On April 13, 1986 an 18-year-old man fell into the Hālona Blowhole and died, and on July 24, 1969 a 26-year-old man died after falling into the blowhole. In 1967, a soldier from Schofield Barracks fell into the blowhole and survived. He later said that he found himself in a large cave before a wave arrived and caused him to hit his head. The next wave washed him out into the ocean where he was rescued.

Always stay behind railings and heed warning signs. Blowholes may be completely quiet one moment and the next moment sends an explosive plume of water more than 50 feet (15 m) into the air.

Water Safety

When venturing into the ocean in the Hawaiian Islands, be extremely careful, no matter how safe it may appear. Waves are often more powerful than they look, and currents along the shoreline may be hard to detect until you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

Always pause and look before going in the ocean. For at least 20 to 30 minutes before going in, patiently watch the ocean area where you plan on swimming. You need to observe the largest waves that are coming toward shore, and these “sets” may only be arriving every 30 minutes or so, so you must wait and see.

There is often an extended period of smaller waves or calm between the bigger sets, and this may be extremely deceptive, causing some people to think conditions are safe when they are not.

Things Aren’t Always As They Seem

Don’t always assume that just because there are numerous people in the water it’s safe to go in. Many Hawaiian Island residents have grown up around the water, and are experienced in dealing with powerful currents and waves that are extremely dangerous for inexperienced swimmers. Most of the drowning victims in the Islands are visitors, rather than the surfers and locals who frequent the ocean waters.

Many drowning victims are strong swimmers, but the powerful waves and ocean currents add another dimension to the situation, a dimension not always anticipated by those unfamiliar with the ocean. Visitors often overestimate their own abilities, and underestimate the ocean conditions.

E ‘au mālie i ke kai pāpa‘u, o pakī ka wai a pula ka maka.

Swim quietly in shallow water lest it splash into the eyes.

A cautioning to go carefully where one isn’t sure of conditions.

(Pukui: 267-33)

What To Do In a Rip Current—Remain Calm

If you do find yourself in trouble in the water, remain calm. Panic causes added difficulties in getting enough air, especially if you have to dive beneath waves.

If you are unable to swim closer toward shore or feel yourself being pulled out (away from shore), you are probably in a rip current. A rip current is an area where all the incoming water from the waves has found a channel to flow back out to sea. Rip currents tend to be fairly narrow and usually dissipate as they get farther from shore.

Don’t use up all your energy fighting the current. Instead the best thing to do is to calmly go with the flow as you slowly merge out of the rip current. Swim parallel to shore until you can feel that you are out of the current, and then make your way diagonally toward shore.

Some Tips on Water Safety—When In Doubt, Don’t Go Out!

Don’t swim alone, and always supervise children closely. Shorebreak waves are often very powerful, and body surfing or swimming even small waves, has the potential of causing extreme back and neck injuries if you are caught in the downward force of the breaking wave over a shallow sand area.

Sandy Beach is particularly known for this, making it one of the two most dangerous places on O‘ahu, along with China Walls (described above).

Water Safety—Key Things to Remember:

Ø If you get caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore until you are out of it, then swim diagonally toward shore.

Ø Never turn your back to the waves when you are in or near the water! Occasional rogue waves have been known to surprise unwary swimmers.

Ø Swim with a buddy—never swim alone.

Ø Swim at beaches with lifeguards, and ask questions if you are unsure. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Ø When in doubt, don’t go out—always be cautious around the ocean!

[Photograph: Big Waves]


[Illustration: Tsunami]

Tsunamis have killed more people in the Hawaiian Islands than all other natural disasters combined. The Hawaiian Islands have been hit by numerous tsunamis, some generated thousands of miles away, others the result of earthquakes and landslides occurring within the archipelago.

Given the numerous tsunamis in historic times, it is quite certain that the ancient Hawaiian were also familiar with this global ocean phenomenon. An ancient Hawaiian proverb states, “Kaha aku la ka nalu o ku‘u ‘āina.” (“The surf of my land has swept everything away,” and this is said to be “...a retort to one who boasts about the value and beauty of his own land.”[iv]

Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions. Potentially (and possibly historically) tsunamis may also be caused by meteor impacts. The word tsunami comes from the Japanese language, in which tsu means “harbor,” and nami means “wave.”

Major Tsunamis

That Have Hit the Hawaiian Islands

Year: 1837.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 15.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island; Maui.

Origin of Earthquake: Chile.

Year: 1868.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 47.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Hawai‘i Island (Localized Tsunami).

Year: 1877.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 5.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Peru.

Year: 1923.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 1.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Kamchatka, Russia.

Year: 1923.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 1.

Islands Affected: O‘ahu; Maui; Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Aleutians.

Year: 1933.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 0.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Japan.

Year: 1946.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 159.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island; Maui; O‘ahu; Kaua‘i.

Origin of Earthquake: Aleutians.

Year: 1951.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 0.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Hawai‘i Island (Localized Tsunami).

Year: 1952.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 0.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Northwest Pacific Ocean.

Year: 1957.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 0.

Islands Affected: Kaua‘i; O‘ahu.

Origin of Earthquake: Aleutians.

Year: 1960.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 61.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Chile.

Year: 1964.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 0.

Islands Affected: Maui.

Origin of Earthquake: Alaska.

Year: 1975.

Deaths in Hawaiian Islands: 2.

Islands Affected: Hawai‘i Island.

Origin of Earthquake: Hawai‘i Island (Localized Tsunami).

Tsunamis That Have Hit the Hawaiian Islands 

1837, Nov. 7—Kahului, Maui: An earthquake near Chile generates what becomes one of the first recorded tsunamis in the Hawaiian Islands. In Kahului, Maui the beach mysteriously begins to drain out, and people rush out to pick up stranded fish.

Minutes later a tsunami arrives. People, livestock, canoes, and the village’s 26 grass houses are all swept inland and deposited in a small lake. In Hilo, 100 houses are destroyed. In all, at least 15 people in the Hawaiian Islands are killed.

1868, April 2—Hawai‘i Island: An earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale on the island of Hawai‘i causes a landslide that destroys a village and creates a localized tsunami reported to be more than 60 feet (18.3 m) high.

Nearly every European-style home in the Ka‘ū district of Hawai‘i Island was destroyed

The mud flow buries a village of 31 people along with about 50 animals, killing 40 people in all. The tsunami kills 48 people when water surges ashore up to 60 feet (18 m) high, sweeping away the ancient village of ‘Āpua in Puna.

1877, May 9—Hawai‘i Island: A large earthquake occurs near Peru, and a tsunami arrives in Hilo before dawn. 37 houses are destroyed, 45 people are killed, and many more injured.

1901—Kailua-Kona: An 8.0 earthquake on the Tonga Trench generates a 4-foot (1.2-m) high tsunami that hits Kailua-Kona, causing minor damage.

1918—Hilo: A 5-foot (1.5-m) high tsunami arrives in Hilo, doing little damage.

1923, February 23—Big Island, Maui: An earthquake in the Aleutian Islands generates a tsunami that sends waves to more than 20 feet (6 m) above normal in the Waiākea area of Hilo, also causing serious damage in Kahului, Maui.

1946, April 1—Hawai‘i Island, Kaua‘i, Maui, O‘ahu: An earthquake in the Aleutian Islands generates a tsunami that hits the island of Hawai‘i, killing an estimated 159 people in the Hawaiian Islands, including 96 in Hilo and 24 in Laupāhoehoe on Hawai‘i Island.

The tsunami brings 15 waves in all (the third is the biggest), rising up to 56 feet (17 m) above sea level in some places, and 33 feet (10 m) in Hilo where close to 500 homes and businesses are destroyed and more than 1,000 more damaged, causing an estimated $26 million in damage, including railroads, bridges, piers and ships.

The 1946 tsunami also hits other Hawaiian Islands, killing 17 people on Kaua‘i, 13 on Maui, and six on O‘ahu, including one at Makapu‘u, two at Kahuku, and three at Kahana.

1957, March 9—Kaua‘i: An earthquake in the Aleutian Islands generates a tsunami that destroys 75 homes on Kaua‘i’s north shore.

1960, May 22—Hawai‘i Island: Sixty-one people in Hilo are killed when a large earthquake near Chile about 6,600 miles (10,600 km) from the Hawaiian Islands moves a piece of land the size of California 30 feet (9 m) in just minutes.

About 15 hours later, on the morning of May 23, Hilo is hit by at least seven significant tsunami waves over a two-hour period.

The third wave is the most destructive, creating a bore in Hilo Bay that rushes ashore over a 4-mile (6.4 km) section of the Hilo waterfront at a speed reported to be more than 37 miles per hour (60 km./hr.), surging water as high as 36 feet (11 m) above sea level. The tsunami kills 61 people and also destroyed 229 homes and 308 public buildings and businesses.

122 are killed in Japan. In all an estimated 2,000 are killed, mostly in Chile.

1964—Maui; Hawai‘i Island: One of North America’s largest earthquakes ever recorded (magnitude 8.4 on the Richter scale) occurs in Alaska, sending tsunami waves toward the Hawaiian Islands.

The tsunamis cause flooding in Kahului, Maui, where the waves rise to more than 11 feet (3.4 m) and in Hilo where the waves rise to more than 12.5 feet (3.8 m). No people die in the Hawaiian Islands, but waves also strike in Alaska and California. In all, 122 are killed (nine from the earthquake, the rest from tsunamis).

1975, November 29—Hawai‘i Island:

Two strong earthquakes shake the southeast region of Hawai‘i Island, causing a small eruption of Kīlauea Volcano and generating a localized tsunami that hits the remote Ka‘ū area on the southeast shore of the island of Hawai‘i. One of the 1975 earthquakes registered at least 7.2 on the Richter scale.

The tsunami comes ashore near the site of an old Hawaiian village that is now a campground area called Halapē. The ground in the area sinks some 12 feet (3.7 m) and rocks fall from the cliffs above.

A tsunami wave sweeps campers onto a rugged lava field and washes some of them into a huge crack in the lava, killing two people and injuring many more. This tsunami also causes damage in California.

Anatomy of a Tsunami—Period, Wavelength, Speed

The time it takes one complete wave to pass a given point is known as the wave’s period. A typical tsunami may have a period from 9 to 30 minutes (e.g., the 1946 tsunami had a 15-minute period).

A typical tsunami has a wavelength of 50 to 300 miles (80 to 480 km), with some wavelengths exceeding 465 miles (750 km). A tsunami may travel across the ocean at about 475 mi/hr (764 km/hr).

The deeper the ocean, the faster the tsunami travels. For example, in water 20,000 feet (6,100 m) deep a tsunami travels in excess of 540 miles per hour (870 km/hr), but if the water is only 3,000 feet (915 m) deep, the tsunami travels less than 350 miles per hour (563 km/hr).

The Pacific Ocean is on average about 12,000 feet (3,658 m) deep, making it the deepest of the world’s oceans. Because of this extreme depth, Pacific Ocean tsunamis travel particularly fast.

When traveling across the open ocean, a tsunami is typically only several feet high. This low wave height is due to the fact that a tsunami’s wavelength reaches all the way to the seafloor, which may be more than 20,000 feet (6,100 m) from the ocean’s surface. The small surface height of a tsunami on the open ocean makes tsunamis hard to predict. Often the full terror of a tsunami becomes apparent only when the wave finally reaches shallow waters.

When a Tsunami Arrives

As a tsunami wave reaches land, the front of the wave moves slower in the shallower water. The back of the wave, still up to 100 miles (160 km) out to sea where it is much deeper, continues to move at hundreds of miles per hour while the front of the wave may slow to 30 mi/hr (48 km/hr).

When there is unequal speed between the back and front of the tsunami (or any wave), it causes the wave’s water to pile up upon itself. The result is that the tsunami grows in height, and may rise from 10 to 30 feet (3 to 9 m) or more. The extremely long wavelength of a tsunami may also cause a tremendous surge of water onshore, and may send water up to ½-mile (.8 km) inland.

When a tsunami nears shore, the trough of the wave arrives first, and may drain out a bay before the surge arrives about five to ten minutes later. Once a tsunami collides with a shoreline, it may then bounce (reflect back into the open ocean. The oscillations of a major tsunami may ripple back and forth across the whole Pacific Ocean for several days.

Each tsunami has unique characteristics depending upon its wavelength and direction, as well as how the tsunami was generated (e.g., landslide, earthquake, etc.) among other factors. Two other factors important in determining how severely a tsunami will affect any particular stretch of coastline are the angle at which the tsunami approaches the coast and the seafloor and bay configurations of the coastline area.

The 1946 tsunami hit Kaua‘i like huge breaking surf, but the 1957 tsunami arrived on Kaua‘i more like a massive flood tide, causing the sea to rise up to 32 feet (9.8 m) above normal.

The 1946 Tsunami

The 1946 tsunami that inundated part of the city of Hilo on Hawai‘i Island, was similar to one that hit Lisbon in 1775. During both tsunamis people drowned because they were curious at the sight of an empty bay and went out to look around, only to have the tsunami waves arrive a few minutes later to sweep them away.

The 1946 tsunami was caused by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, 2,400 miles (3,862 km) north of the Hawaiian Islands. Forty-seven minutes after the quake, a tsunami sheared the Scotch Cap Lighthouse at Unimak Island off its base, killing five people. The first of the tsunami waves hit the Hawaiian Islands about four hours later, around 6:30 a.m.

The first wave was said to resemble an extra high tide surrounding homes and buildings. The third and fourth waves were the biggest of some 15 tsunami waves, each arriving about 15 minutes after the previous one, with some of the waves reaching heights up to 56 feet (17 m) above sea level, killing people and destroying property. The natural shape of Hilo Bay amplified the waves, which then surged onto land.

As each wave receded it revealed the floor of Hilo Bay. Then the tremendous surge of water would arrive again, sweeping inland and destroying everything in its path. Ninety-six people in Hilo were killed by the waves. Nearly 500 homes and businesses were destroyed and more than 1,000 more damaged along with railroads, bridges, piers and ships, totaling an estimated $26 million of damage.

Other coastal areas on the island of Hawai‘i were also affected, including Laupāhoehoe where 24 people were killed. The 1946 tsunami also hit other Hawaiian Islands, killing 17 people on Kaua‘i, 13 on Maui, and six on O‘ahu (one at Makapu‘u, two at Kahuku, and three at Kahana).

1957 Tsunami

Certain bay shapes (e.g., Hilo Bay) tend to increase the size of tsunami waves approaching from particular directions. When Hawai‘i Island’s northeast coastline was hit by a tsunami in 1957, the tsunami waves rose to great heights only in certain places.

The greatest wave heights occurred in small open bays with underwater topographies that had an amplifying effect on the wave’s size as it approaches shore.

The 1957 tsunami destroyed or severely damaged more than 75 homes along Kaua‘i’s north shore, including 25 of the 29 homes in the area called Hā‘ena. At O‘ahu’s Pōka‘ī Bay, more than 50 boats and six yachts were smashed against the breakwater.

An ancient Hawaiian proverb states, “Mimiki ke kai, ahuwale ka papa leho.” (“When the sea draws out in the tidal wave, the rocks where the cowries hide are exposed,” meaning, “secrets will out on the day of wrath.”)[v]

[Photograph: 1957 tsunami]

The 1960 Tsunami

The last major Pacific-wide tsunami to hit the Hawaiian Islands was on May 22, 1960, and was caused by an earthquake in Chile. The Chilean earthquake occurred 6,600 miles (10,622 km) away from the Hawaiian Islands, moving a piece of land the size of California about 30 feet (9 m) in just minutes. The tsunami waves generated by the earthquake took more than 15 hours to reach Hawai‘i’s shores.

Hilo once again took the brunt of the damage as it was hit by at least seven significant tsunami waves over a 2-hour period. The third wave was the most destructive.

In Hilo Bay, the tsunami created a bore that rushed ashore at a speed reported to be more than 37 miles per hour (60 km/hr), surging water as high as 36 feet (11 m) above sea level.

In all, 61 people were killed in Hilo, with 43 more requiring medical care for their injuries. In addition, at least 229 homes were destroyed, as well as 308 public structures and businesses. The destruction was most severe near Hilo’s Kamehameha Ave., where entire city blocks were washed away. Damage was estimated up to $50 million.

Many people died because they went to the shoreline to investigate what was happening as the water drained out from the bay and river. In all, the Chilean earthquake and the resulting tsunami caused the death of an estimated 2,000 people, mostly in Chile, but also 122 in Japan.

Localized Tsunamis

1868—Ka‘ū District, Hawai‘i Island

In 1868, an earthquake estimated to have a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale struck the south end of the island of Hawai‘i. The quake caused a giant mudslide that killed hundreds of people and buried a small village, destroying nearly every European-style home in the Ka‘ū district.

The 1868 earthquake also generated what is known as a localized tsunami. Water reportedly surged ashore high enough to cover the tops of coconut trees, at least 60 feet (18.3 m) high at some spots along the Ka‘ū coast. The ancient village of ‘Āpua in Puna on Hawai‘i Island is swept away. The localized tsunami killed 48 people.


1975—Halapē, Hawai‘i Island

On the morning of November 29, 1975, two strong earthquakes shook the southeastern coastal area of the island of Hawai‘i. One of these earthquakes registered a magnitude of at least a 7.2 on the Richter scale.

The epicenter of the earthquake was located near an old Hawaiian village site called Halapē. The ground in the area sunk some 12 feet (3.7 m) and rocks fell from the cliffs above.

The earthquakes caused a small eruption of Kīlauea Volcano and generated a localized tsunami. When the tsunami came ashore at Halapē, it swept some Boy Scouts and their leaders (who were camping there) up onto a rugged lava field, and many were washed into a huge crack in the lava.

Nineteen people were injured, many severely, and two were killed, including a scout leader and a local fisherman. A huge piece of land actually slid into the ocean and the tops of the palm trees were sticking up from the water. One of the tsunami waves traveled more than 300 feet (91 m) inland.

Ancient Landslides and Tsunamis

Until recently many scientists accepted one researcher’s assertion that a giant landslide about 105,000 years ago had generated a tsunami that sent a wave as high as 1,000 feet (305 m) up the slopes of Lāna‘i. This theory has recently been largely discredited, though it may have occurred on a smaller scale.

It is likely, however, that about 1½ million years ago a massive landslide occurred on O‘ahu. Researchers believe this ancient landslide on O‘ahu involved nearly one-fourth of the island and sent a 100-mile (161-km) long piece of coastline on the Ko‘olau’s up to 50 miles (80 km) out to sea.

The landslide involved an estimated 25% of the island of O‘ahu, and produced also produced a massive tsunami. Researchers believe that the tsunami reached a height of up to 100 feet (30 m) when it hit California.

Another landslide-generated tsunami is believed to have sent a wave over the “saddle,” the relatively narrow strip of land connecting east and west Maui. Mauna Loa volcano also shows evidence of similar massive landslides.

The next potential great landslide area is believed to be on Hawai‘i Island’s still-active Kīlauea Volcano where the entire south flank is moving about 4 inches (10 cm) per year—an average of about 3-1/3 feet (1 meter) every ten years—along the Hilina fault system. The moving piece of the volcano extends an estimated 5 miles (8 km) deep and covers an estimated 72 square miles (186 sq. km).

An increased rate of slippage occurred in November 2000 when it the flank moved about 3½ inches (9 cm) in just 36 hours, which is more than 200 times the normal speed. Satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment installed from 1995 to 1999 allowed precise detection of the rapid flank movement.

No earthquake was associated with the increased rate of movement, which may instead have been related to heavy rains that had fallen five to ten days earlier. About 3 feet (.9 m) of rain had fallen on the south side of Kīlauea Volcano over a period of several days. Though this type of movement is not associated with an earthquake, it is often referred to as a “silent earthquake.”

Researchers theorize that the water may act as a lubricant along the fault line, also adding weight to the massive piece of Earth. Water pressure may also act like a wedge to pry open the fault system, which may have been the same system that caused the 1975 localized tsunami that killed two people at Halapē.

A large earthquake that occurred in the region in the 1860s may also have been due to a movement of this flank area directly south of Kīlauea Volcano’s caldera.

Worldwide—Other Historic Tsunamis

In 1883, more than 36,000 people were killed near Java and Sumatra when an explosion of Krakatoa Volcano created waves more than 100 feet (30 m) high. More than 22,000 people were killed in 1896 by an earthquake that hit Japan, creating a tsunami that also caused great damage in California, the Hawaiian Islands, and Chile.

The March 2, 1933 tsunami that was generated off Japan caused damage on the island of Hawai‘i and also destroyed 2,800 homes in Japan, killing 1,600 people. Worldwide, one of the biggest tsunamis on record occurred in 1958 when a landslide in a small Alaskan bay sent a wave surging 1,740 feet (530 m) above sea level on the opposite shoreline.

The Alaskan earthquake of 1964 created a tsunami that killed 107 people in Alaska, 15 more in northern California, and caused damage in the Hawaiian Islands.

On September 1, 1992 an earthquake offshore of Nicaragua moved 170 miles (274 km) of seafloor and drained a 20-foot (6-m) deep harbor before the tsunami waves crashed ashore—170 people died and 13,000 were left homeless. In December, 1992 a tsunami killed more than 1,000 Indonesians.

One of the largest tsunamis ever to hit Japan occurred in July, 1993, when an earthquake occurred in the Sea of Japan. Waves from the tsunami inundated areas up to 97 feet (29.6 m) above sea level, resulting in 120 deaths.

A 7.7 earthquake in Java, Indonesia in 1994 created a tsunami that killed more than 200 people and sank 278 boats. More than 2,200 people died on July 17, 1998 when a wall of water up to 40 feet (12 m) high hit Papua New Guinea with little warning.

In the last century before 2004, there were more than 82 tsunamis worldwide, killing more than 70,000 people, and ten major tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean since 1990, killing more than 4,000 people.

On December 26, 2004, an earthquake caused a tsunami that hit Indonesia, killing more than 130,000 people. More than 36,000 others were listed as missing. Damage from the tsunami was estimated at about $4.75 billion, and more than one half of a million people were displaced.

One factor that has led to an increase in tsunami deaths is the increase of populations in coastal areas.

Tsunami Warning Systems

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center at ‘Ewa Beach in O‘ahu is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and can detect an earthquake anywhere in the Pacific Ocean. The Center uses computers to determine the strength of the quake, and to determine the likelihood that a tsunami is generated.

There are more than 100 tide gauges in the Pacific Ocean that report to satellites, and these tide gauges can generally reveal if a tsunami is coming toward the Hawaiian Islands. The exceptions, however, are tsunamis arriving from north of the Hawaiian Islands, where there is no land (or tide gauges) for thousands of miles.

Tsunamis generated in the Aleutian Islands and heading toward the Hawaiian Islands have historically been difficult to positively detect. For example, warning sirens in the Hawaiian Islands sounded in 1975 when a major earthquake occurred near Japan.

Coastal areas of the Hawaiian Islands were evacuated, and the daylong shutdown of businesses cost the state’s economy an estimated 30 million dollars. There was no tsunami.

A tsunami warning in Honolulu in 1986 caused massive traffic jams, but turned out to be a false alarm.

New tsunami warning devices are now overcoming the technological difficulties and providing reliable early warnings.

Ocean Floor Sensors

New technological advances are improving the ability of scientists to determine if a tsunami has been generated. This improved technology helps to avoid false alarms and allows advance warnings to be given as early as possible. The new detection tools include deep ocean sensors with seafloor pressure gauges, broadband seismic sensors, buoys, and hydrophone arrays.

In 2001, scientists began installing a new tsunami detection system utilizing ocean floor sensors throughout the Pacific Ocean. These ocean floor sensors cost about $250,000 each, and send sonic data to a buoy on the ocean’s surface. The information is then transmitted via satellite to system computers.

One device was placed off the Oregon coast, another off Vancouver, British Columbia, and three more devices were placed off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands Chain. The tsunami detection devices may be as deep 20,000 feet (6,096 m) deep on the ocean floor.

As detection improves, officials will be better able to alert the public, helping to avoid loss of life from future tsunamis.

In 2006, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) placed three new buoys off the coast of Costa Rica and Mexico, and their goal is to have a total of 39 in place by the spring of 2008.

Each Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) buoy is secured with a 3.4 ton (3 mtons) anchor, and the bottom pressure recorder is secured by a 720-pound (327-kg) anchor. The pressure recorder is comprised of a computer, a pressure sensor, and glass floats that are able to sense pressure changes caused by a tsunami as small as .4 inches (1 cm).

An acoustic modem transducer enables the data to be sent to a communication buoy at the surface (which also has weather instruments), and then the information is sent via radio waves to a GOES satellite, which relays it to a ground station where computers calculate the origin point of the tsunami, the tsunami’s speed, and when it will arrive at particular locations. Warnings are then sent to places that are in danger.

The Pacific Tsunami Museum, located near the Hilo Bayfront, provides tsunami education programs and historical information regarding tsunamis, including exhibits about the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis that devastated Hilo. (See Pacific Tsunami Museum, Chapter 2.)

[Photograph: Tsunami]

NēnēThe Hawaiian Goose

Many thousands of years ago, some Canadian geese were blown off course or perhaps caught in a storm, and ended up in the Hawaiian Islands. Their descendents evolved into an endemic (unique) Hawaiian goose species that is now Hawai‘i’s official state bird.

The nēnē (Branta sandvicensis) is about two feet long, which is a typical size for a goose. The nēnē’s head, face, and the back of its neck (the nape) are black, and the cheeks and the sides of the neck are a light tan color, with a buffy striped pattern (distinct horizontal bands). The nēnē’s lower body has this same light brown color and is striped, but the top of the body is a darker gray or brown.

The nēnē’s bill is black, as are its legs and feet. The webbing between the toes on the nēnē’s feet is much reduced compared to the fuller webbing on the feet of its ancestor, the Canadian goose. This adaptation is better for walking on high, dry lava flows and other nēnē habitats.

When nēnē fly they make a “ney ney” sound, but on the ground nēnē sometimes make a different noise, slightly similar to a cow’s moo. Nēnē aren’t very shy, and sometimes approach humans.

Nēnē eat grasses, seeds, buds, flowers, berries and leaves, and are especially fond of native plants such as berries of naupaka, ‘ōhelo, kūkaenēnē, pūkiawe and ‘ulei (Hawaiian hawthorn). Nēnē prefer high, dry areas like old lava flows as well as wetlands and forest uplands.

The nēnē builds its nest on the ground and lines it with feathers. One reason the nēnē became so endangered is due to ground predators including mongooses, pigs, rats, and domestic animals.

By the age of two, nēnē begin laying eggs. They nest between October and March, and one nēnē may lay from two to five (usually four or five) creamy, white eggs.

They sit on the eggs for about 30 days while the eggs incubate. Sometimes the mother leaves the nest during this time and when she does, she covers the eggs with the downy feathers that are part of the nest lining.

During nesting, the adults go through a four to six week process called molting, at which time the adult birds cannot fly. The infant chick is able to run around just as soon as the chick’s downy feathers dry. The parents provide food for the baby until the hatchling is about 10 to 12 weeks old, when the gosling learns to fly.

Predatory animals, habitat destruction, hunting, and egg collecting decimated nēnē populations of all the Hawaiian Islands. By 1951, there were only about 30 nēnē left in the wild as well as some captive nēnē in European and American zoos.

Beginning in 1949, scientists began raising nēnē in captivity. More than 1,600 birds were raised at Pōhakuloa on Hawai‘i Island. Beginning in 1951, nēnē were also raised at England’s Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust.

In all, more than 2,000 nēnē were raised in captivity between 1960 and 1990 and released on three of the Hawaiian Islands (Kaua‘i, Maui, and Hawai‘i).

Today the wild nēnē population has increased to more than 2,000 birds statewide. Kaua‘i is considered the ideal place for nēnē because there are no mongooses, as there are on the other main Hawaiian Islands.

On Kaua‘i the population of nēnē has rapidly grown, and they are seen in various low elevation habitats (e.g., lower Hanalei Valley) as well as higher elevations (e.g., Kōke‘e State Park). On other Hawaiian Islands, however, nēnē populations are generally restricted to higher elevations.

[Photograph: Nēnē]

[i] p. 75, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 669.

[ii] p. 41, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 333.

[iv] p. 140, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 1285.

[v] p. 235, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 2157.