Hawaii’s Home Front After Pearl Harbor
The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor forced the United States into war with Japan. The following day, Germany declared war on the U.S., and the country became embroiled in WWII. Within hours of the attack, the Territorial Governor stripped himself of his administrative powers, and Hawaii (still a territory at that time) was put under martial law.
Under military law, the normal judicial process is suspended, therefore courts, witnesses, and juries are unnecessary. Instead, a military tribunal handles all violations and metes out punishment as it sees fit. With more than a third of the residents being of Japanese descent, the government was in a quandary about what to do with them. Interning the individuals, as was being done on the mainland, was impractical for numerous reasons, therefore it was hoped that martial law would take care of the situation.
All residents over the age of six were fingerprinted and issued identification papers that were to be carried all times and produced upon demand. Curfews and blackouts (including electricity shutoff after sundown) were implemented, the media and mail were censored, and food, gasoline, and other items were rationed. Business hours were assigned and alcohol was prohibited. Traffic was monitored and special garbage collection was administered.
Civilians were banned from photographing coastal locations, but they were also used to dig holes for bomb shelters and place barbed wire around beaches, water pumping stations, electrical installations, and government buildings. Gas masks were issued and regular drills were held to prepare for gas attacks or air raids.
Waikiki’s beachfront hotels were closed to the public and taken over for the exclusive use of the military (whose five branches all had a presence on the islands). Seven POW and internment camps were located on Oahu, the big island, Maui, and Kauai.
Hawaii was forever changed as a result of WWII, and many scholars feel the statehood that followed fourteen years later had a direct correlation to the war.
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