Hawaiʻi On Defense

Tanks on Beretania Street

Martial Law

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 blackout and curfew, rationing of food and gasoline, censorship of mail and news media, temporary 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 summarily 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 in all ways: supplying manpower and materials, and giving food, clothing, and financial aid (exceeding their quota in all war bond drives). Home front Hawai’i showed 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 in March 1944, and were stationed at Hickam Air Field to work administration 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.

More Civilian Activity

To supplement regular forces throughout the islands, the Army formed the Organized Defense Volunteers, some 20,000 by fall 1942, to guard beaches and key utilities, assist with traffic control, and perform other paramilitary tasks like riot duty and destruction of facilities in case of invasion.

Hawai’i’s established hospitals and medical personnel aided the military. Schools and dormitories were converted to hospitals. Even small plantation infirmaries were pressed into service.