Oahu Citizens Committee for Home Defense


Advisory group of Japanese Americans organized in 1941 to promote the loyalty of Hawai'i's Japanese population and suppress subversive elements.[1] Prior to World War II, advisory groups comprised of Japanese Americans were created to discuss issues of internal security within the Japanese community and the reaction of the Japanese population in Hawai'i in the event of war with Japan. The board of directors of the Oahu Citizens Committee for Home Defense, led by Dr. Shunzo Sakamaki, was comprised of forty-one Honolulu men, six women, and twenty-eight rural O'ahu members.[2] These individuals met with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Director Robert L. Shivers at least once a week and helped to create plans to control subversive elements within the population. The Oahu Citizens Committee for Home Defense, an outgrowth of one of the advisory groups but with a wider range of members, contributed to the loyalty program along with the Committee for Inter-Racial Unity that was formed to minimize any friction among the Japanese, Filipinos, and Chinese. According to Shivers, the Oahu Citizens Committee for Home Defense embraced three specific purposes:

a. To work with the constituted authorities in the continuing task of evaluating what went on in the Japanese community.

b. To plan for and carry out the task of bringing out more positively the inherent loyalty of the Americans of Japanese ancestry toward the United States.

c. To prepare the Japanese community psychologically to their responsibilities toward this country in the event of war and for the difficult position in which the war would place them in their relationship with the rest of the community.[3]

On June 13, 1941, the Oahu Citizens Committee for Home Defense organized a rally at McKinley High School to promote racial cooperation and unity in which over 2,000 Japanese and 200 special guests attended.[4] At this event, army officials announced publicly for the first time their attitude toward the Japanese in Hawai'i in the event of war. Colonel (later Brigadier General) M.W. Marston, then assistant chief of staff for military intelligence, Hawaiian Department, U.S. Army, delivered a message on behalf of Lt. General Walter C. Short, the commanding general of the Hawaiian Department, on the official attitude of military officials toward the Japanese in the event of war. He encouraged individuals of all races to maintain their trust in authorities and "refrain from any acts which might disrupt a united citizenry and place the Army in the position of having to enforce peace and order in the civilian community."[5] He also promised fair treatment for all citizens regardless of racial ancestry and severe punishment for those who engaged in acts of disloyalty. Marston also assured fair treatment to aliens of Japanese ancestry in the event of war if they did not engage in any subversive activities. Marston praised the actions of members of these advisory groups in promoting the loyalty of the Japanese in the Islands stating, "The fine spirit of interest and cooperation shows by Americans of Japanese ancestry in our national defense effort, as exemplified by this campaign of the Oahu citizens committee for home defense, has made a profound impression upon everyone in Hawaii."[6] According to Shivers, this meeting helped to allay much of the fear and insecurity in the community even as the prospect of war loomed ever closer. Many of the activities of these advisory groups were later replaced by the Morale Section of the Military Governor's Office after December 7, 1941. With the outbreak of war members went to the FBI office to "offer their assistance in putting into operation the plans they had helped to evolve during the months preceding the outbreak of hostilities."[7] They also joined the Emergency Service Committee, the Police Contact Group, the Citizen's Council, and other groups organized to promote unity among the Japanese in the Islands.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura, University of Hawai'i

For More Information

Allen, Gwenfread. Hawaii's War Years. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1950.

Shivers, Robert L. Cooperation of the Various Racial Groups with Each Other and the Constituted Authorities Before and After December 7, 1941. Honolulu: Territorial Emergency Service Committees, 1946.

Footnotes

  1. Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities.
  2. "Dr. Sakamaki Chairman of Defense Unit," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 14, 1941, 3.
  3. Robert L. Shivers, Cooperation of the Various Racial Groups with Each Other and the Constituted Authorities Before and After December 7, 1941 (Honolulu: Territorial Emergency Service Committees, 1946), 4-5.
  4. "Nisei Give Diplomatic New Pledge of Loyalty," Honolulu Advertiser, June 14, 1941, 1, 5; "Col. Marston Sees Asset in Americans of Japanese Race," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 14, 1941, 3.
  5. Shivers, Cooperation of the Various Racial Groups, 5.
  6. "Col. Marston Sees Asset in Americans of Japanese Race," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 14, 1941, 3.
  7. Shivers, Cooperation of the Various Racial Groups, 8.