Hawaii War Records Depository

The Hawaii War Records Depository (HWRD) is a collection of archival materials at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa that documents life in Hawai'i during World War II. In April of 1943, the Hawai'i Territorial Legislature passed a joint resolution designating the University of Hawai'i as the official depository of material related to Hawai'i's war experience. As a result of this legislation, the Hawaii War Records Depository was established. The majority of the collection was collected during the depository's early years of existence and contains invaluable memorabilia and other materials that provides critical insight into Hawai'i's World War II history.


Prior to the formation of the Depository, the Department of Sociology of the University of Hawai'i had been involved in research in the field of race relations. Shortly after the outbreak of war, during the spring of 1942, field work commenced by a small group of student volunteer assistants and continued throughout the war. In 1943, following the territorial resolution designating the University of Hawai'i as "the official depository of material, documents, photographs, and other data relating to Hawai'i's part in the war between the United States and Germany, Japan, and Italy," the university Board of Regents appointed a committee composed mostly of university faculty to direct the project. [1]

The committee employed librarians, researchers, and archivists to staff the depository and space to house the collection was designated within at the library which was then located in George Hall on the University of Hawai'i campus. A considerable number of personal and private documents, such as letters, journals, diaries, and confidential reports, were made available to the War Research Laboratory through the staff of reporters and student assistants and in response to requests by radio and newspapers. According to University of Hawai'i sociologist Andrew Lind, "The assurance of anonymity to the informants, and the appeal of an objective and impartial presentation of the 'facts' brought forth documents showing the most varied viewpoints, from the most rabid of race-baiters to the most sentimental of racial romanticisms." [2] Particularly insightful are the perceptions of the Japanese by other groups within Hawai'i's community during the war that are found in the collection. These information reports are scattered over the various islands and represent the middle and upper strata of Island society, from plantation managers to office clerks. Some eighty former university students and others also assisted in recording the opinions and sentiments of wider cross-sections of the population in their respective communities.

Additionally, government departments, civil war agencies, armed forces, and large corporations that specifically wrote reports of their wartime activities donated a large portion of the collection to the Hawaii War Records Depository. The original catalogue comprised seventy-three major headings with additional subheadings. Often, these subheadings represented the creating agencies of documents in the collection with materials originating from over 200 creators.

Publications and the Present

In May of 1947, the territorial legislature empowered the University's Board of Regents to publish a history of Hawai'i's contribution to the war with the names, pictures, and biographies of Hawai'i's soldiers who died during the war. Lloyd L. Lee, a member of the depository staff, compiled a memorial volume entitled In Freedom's Cause that was published by the University of Hawai'i Press in May 1949. One year later, Gwenfread Allen wrote Hawaii's War Years, 1941-1945 , a history of wartime Hawai'i based on the materials in the Hawaii War Records Depository.

Currently, researchers have access to the Hawaii War Records Depository that continues to accept donations in accordance with Hawai'i Revised Statues. However, there is no longer an official Hawaii War Records Committee at the university and it does not employ a full staff to actively manage the collection. It is currently housed at Hamilton Library at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and parts of its collections have been digitized.

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

For More Information

Allen, Gwenfread. Hawaii's War Years, 1941-1945 . Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1950.

Lee, Lloyd L. In Freedom's Cause: A Record of the Men of Hawaii Who Died in the Second World War . Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1949.

Lind, Andrew W. Hawaii's Japanese, An Experiment in Democracy . Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1946.

Official site.


  1. Official website.
  2. Andrew W. Lind, Hawaii's Japanese, An Experiment in Democracy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1946), 8.

Last updated June 18, 2024, 5:03 a.m..