Waikiki Magazine - - ILOVE WAIKIKI - By Chris Fleck

or res­i­dents and guests ei­ther va­ca­tion­ing or go­ing about busi­ness in Waikiki on the morn­ing of Dec. 7, 1941, the ini­tial re­ac­tion to the Pearl Har­bor bomb­ings, sur­pris­ingly enough, was not panic.

For the pre­vi­ous two years be­fore the bomb­ings, ten­sions had risen be­tween the United States and Ja­pan. As the Ja­panese mil­i­tary be­gan to creep closer to Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ca­tions, for­ti­fy­ing the Mar­shall Is­lands, U.S. pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt saw it im­per­a­tive to es­tab­lish a strong naval pres­ence in the Pa­cific. In 1940, Roo­sevelt moved the main United States Pa­cific Fleet from Cal­i­for­nia to Pearl Har­bor naval base on O‘ahu. For the nearly 18 months prior to the bomb­ings, the United States Navy con­ducted mock bat­tles and air ma­neu­vers. Th­ese rou­tine prac­tices were as com­mon as hear­ing fire or po­lice de­part­ment alert­ing horns.

“The at­tack on the morn­ing of Dec. 7, 1941 ini­tially con­fused many on the is­land of O‘ahu, although some won- dered why such a thing was hap­pen­ing on a Sun­day morn­ing,” says Desoto Brown, Hawai­ian his­to­rian and Bishop Mu­seum ar­chiv­ist.

“Grad­u­ally, the word got out that this was no prac­tice, but ‘the Real McCoy!’ as an­nouncer We­b­ley Ed­wards force­fully said on ra­dio sta­tion KGMB.”

At five min­utes to 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941 a Ja­panese dive-bomber ap­peared through a sheet of clouds hang­ing over O‘ahu. The dive-bomber, marked with the Ris­ing Sun sym­bol of Ja­pan was fol­lowed by 300-plus war­planes, armed with bombs and am­mu­ni­tion in­tended for naval de­struc­tion.

“The sur­prise at­tack had to be so quickly ex­e­cuted that the Ja­panese could not waste any am­mu­ni­tion on side­line, civil­ian ar­eas. It was pos­si­ble for peo­ple to stand in the street or on the beach and watch the planes and smoke in the dis­tance,” says Brown— who notes some U.S. anti-air­craft shells which did not ex­plode in the air, landed in the wa­ters off Waikiki, one even strik­ing Lew­ers Street in Waikiki, cre­at­ing a small crater and break­ing win­dows of a new, yet un­oc­cu­pied apart­ment build­ing.

“Friendly-fire was rain­ing down from ev­ery an­gle,” says Na­tional Park Ser­vice chief his­to­rian, Daniel Martinez.

Im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the bomb­ings at Pearl Har­bor, mar­tial law was de­clared for the en­tire ter­ri­tory of Hawai‘i and the ini­tial early morn­ing cu­rios­ity quickly shifted to ur­gency and un­cer­tainty on the part of the mil­i­tary and civil­ians.

“By mid-af­ter­noon the Army had taken charge,” adds Martinez. “It was ab­so­lute chaos how the is­land was re­act­ing. You had a city in a lot of fear. This was a take on the en­tire is­land of O‘ahu, not just Pearl Har­bor.”

For the days and weeks fol­low­ing the bomb­ings the usual calm, tran­quil at­mos­phere of Waikiki was re­placed by at­ti­tudes of tur­moil and de­fense.

Waikiki’s beaches were quickly

“FriendLy-Fire waS rain­ing down FroM eV­ery an­gLe” -na­tionaL Park Ser­Vice chieF hiS­to­rian, danieL MartineZ

lined with barbed wire to pro­tect against Ja­panese seaborne in­va­sions. Strict black­out and curfew or­ders were en­forced is­land-wide. Tourists and res­i­dents alike were to be in their homes or ho­tel rooms with lights out by sun­set each day.

1941 Waikki is a frac­tion of what stands be­fore you to­day. There were only two main ho­tels lin­ing, what wasn’t even fa­mous Waikiki Beach yet. The Moana, or as her ti­tle has been tai­lored, “The First Lady of Waikiki” and The Royal Hawai­ian were the two main­stay ho­tels. Other es­tab­lish­ments of Waikiki at the time would have been the Haleku­lani ho­tel and Wil­lard Inn on Kalia Road. Small busi­nesses such as an up­scale cloth­ing store, Ko­dak Hawaii and Waikiki Phar­macy sprin­kled them­selves in the Waikiki The­ater Block at this time. There were also a few bars and restau­rants, in­clud­ing Trop­ics and Waikiki Tav­ern, lo­cated very near to where the cur­rent Duke Ka­hanamoku statue stands to­day.

Those two prom­i­nent ho­tels, The Moana and The Royal Hawai­ian, re­mained open through­out the du­ra­tion of mar­tial law, which was not lifted un­til Oct. 24, 1944.

Although Hawai‘i was not yet an Amer­i­can state, sup­port came from ev­ery cor­ner, even from vis­it­ing ath­letes.

The Wil­lamette Bearcat foot­ball team was in Hawai‘i par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Shrine Bowl foot­ball se­ries on Dec. 6, 1942. Their in­ten­tions to tour the is­land on Dec. 7, 1942 were can­celled due to the bomb­ings.

“Many of Wil­lamette’s coaches were ex-of­fi­cers from World War I. Im­me­di­ately they stepped in with their team. Weapons were is­sued to the play­ers and the coaches took charge, drilling the team and set­ting up po­si­tions on Waikiki Beach,” says Martinez.

At the same time, Univer­sity of Hawai‘i ROTC mem­bers banded to­gether, scour­ing more in­ter­nal ar­eas of O‘ahu in de­fense of Ja­panese sol­diers who may have snuck onto the is­land through more re­mote lo­ca­tions.

In the months fol­low­ing the bomb­ings, the Navy Recre­ation and Mo­rale Of­fice leased The Royal Hawai­ian Ho­tel. Within weeks, the tourist palace was tran­si­tioned into a rest-and-re­lax­ation head­quar­ters for Navy per­son­nel, mostly for those re­turn­ing from duty in the Pa­cific.

The Moana re­mained open as a guest ho­tel, and not a room went va­cant through­out the en­tirety of World War II.

For eco­nomic se­cu­rity, the U.S. government with­drew all reg­u­lar Amer­i­can cur­rency, re­plac­ing them with spe­cially printed Hawai‘i notes. With the pos­si­bil­ity of Ja­panese in­va­sion loom­ing and in the event of an in­va­sion, the new ‘Hawai‘i’ notes would have be­come in­valid if Hawai‘i had been taken.

Although a cloud of anx­i­ety over­hung O‘ahu for years fol­low­ing the Pearl Har­bor bomb­ings, those in Waikiki made the best of it as they could, try­ing to re­store a sense of nor­malcy in a time of doubt and un­rest.

Christ­mas and New Year’s Eve din­ners and con­certs sched­uled be­fore the bomb­ings, took place as usual in the win­ter of 1941. Danc­ing, sports ac­tiv­i­ties and so­cial gath­er­ings at both the Moana and Royal Hawai­ian gave ser­vice­men glimpses of much-needed re­lief in be­tween tour du­ties.

Be­ing in a small, iso­lated is­land com­mu­nity dur­ing such an un­nerv­ing time was not par­adise, but kama‘aina and

aLthough a cLoud oF anX­i­ety oVer­hung o‘ahu

For yearS FoL­Low­ing the PearL har­bor boMb­ingS, thoSe in waikiki

Made the beSt oF it aS they couLd, try­ing to re­Store a SenSe oF nor­MaLcy in a tiMe oF

doubt and un­reSt.

ser­vice­men did an ex­tra­or­di­nary job, pre­par­ing for more un­ex­pected at­tacks.

Devel­op­ment was at a stand­still in Waikiki dur­ing WWII, as all build­ing ma­te­ri­als were set aside for the war ef­forts. It wasn’t un­til a few years af­ter the Al­lies had over­come the Axis coun­tries dur­ing WWII that Hawai‘i and Waikiki be­gan to flour­ish once again. The war years were a try­ing time for Waikiki, but it paved the way for the rise of its pop­u­lar­ity for decades to come.




Photo: courteSy nPS Photo ar­chiVeS at VaLor

thou­SandS oF Ser­Vice­Men FLock to a kaMe­haMeha day ceL­e­bra­tion Staged by the ju­nior chaM­ber oF coM­Merce in 1944.

the PoP­u­Lar kaMe­haMeha day ceL­e­bra­tion waS un­doubt­edLy a weL­coMe re­SPite For the Ser­Vice­Men who

gath­ered For the Stand­ing-rooM onLy FeS­tiV­i­tieS. barbed wire Lined the beacheS oF waikiki to Pro­tect againSt

Seaborne in­Va­SionS.

Photo: courteSy nPS Photo ar­chiVeS at VaLor Photo: courteSy Star­wood waikiki

Mar­tiaL Law in hawai‘i waS in Force FroM dec. 7, 1941 through Late 1944. here, SaiLorS PoSe on the beach. the Moana iS ViS­i­bLe in the back­ground.

wwii Ser­Vice­Men gather in the court­yard be­Low the iconic banyan

tree at the Moana.

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