Hawaiʻi On Defense

Tanks on Beretania Street

Martial Law Hawaii

Just after noon on December 7th, at the urging of the Army’s commander, Lieutenant General Short, and with the concurrence of the President of the United States, Hawai’i’s Territorial Governor Poindexter proclaimed martial law. Military officers moved into Iolani Palace and assumed all legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

Martial law suspended constitutional rights, turned the civilian courts over to the military, imposed blackouts and curfews, rationed of food and gasoline, censored mail and news media, tempered prohibition, realigned business hours, froze wages, and regulated currency.

All civilians over six years of age were required to be fingerprinted. Except for taxes, General Orders, issued by the Military governor, regulated every facet of civilian life, from traffic control to garbage collection. Violations were punished by provost courts or military tribunals; there was no right of appeal.

Martial law remained in effect for nearly three years, long after the immediate danger had passed.

Hawaiʻi’s Civilians At War

Hawai’i’s people rallied quickly to support the war effort by supplying manpower and materials, as well as giving food, clothing, and financial aid (often exceeding their quota in war bond drives). Home front Hawai’i was no stranger to showing its loyalty and patriotism.

Hawaiʻi’s Women At War

The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was created in July 1943, with the same benefits, rights, and restrictions as male soldiers. The first WACs arrived in Hawai’i, March 1944, and were stationed at Hickam Air Field to work administrative and motor transport jobs. Hawai’i’s women were not allowed to enlist until October 1944. Other Hawai’i women were mobilized to fill demands for labor in traditionally male jobs, such as local defense plants, salvage operations at Pearl Harbor, and many other roles.  Read more to learn how women were inspired to serve.

More Civilian Activity

By fall 1942, the Army formed the Organized Defense Volunteers (approx. 20,000 volunteers), to supplement regular military forces throughout the islands tasked with guarding beaches and key utilities, assisting with traffic control, and performing other paramilitary tasks like riot duty and destruction of facilities in case of invasion.

Many of the hospitals and medical personnel supported the war effort. In addition, schools and dormitories were converted to hospitals. Even small plantation infirmaries were pressed into service.