Office of Civilian Defense (Hawaii)

During World War II, the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) served as a special department of the territorial government to mobilize the civilian population in Hawai'i. Many Japanese Americans participated in Morale Committees and later the Emergency Service Committee (ESC) which were sanctioned by the OCD. Initially, volunteers manned this office and were replaced by paid staffers ten days after the war began. On O'ahu there were over seventeen divisions and subdivisions organized to serve informational, medical, and protective needs. For example, the organization of air raid wardens, transportation, demolition and repair, communication, evacuation, and emergency medical services were under the jurisdiction of the OCD. [1] On the neighbor islands, the OCD had fewer divisions but greater responsibilities as the OCD was the major administrative agency of the military governor and other O'ahu bureaus. As a result, there appears to have been some overlap in the directives and responsibilities of the military governor and according to scholar Gwenfread Allen, "the OCD complained that it was unable to find out from the Army where authority began and ended." [2] By February 1942, 3,013 individuals were working for the OCD supported by nearly 14,000 volunteers due to the fear of an invasion. Nine months later when no invasion had occurred, drastic cuts were made to personnel and projects and volunteers replaced paid full-time employees. [3]

In March 1943 the relaxing of martial law resulted in the transfer of several sections from the Office of the Military Governor to the Office of Civilian Defense including materials and supplies control, food control, land transportation control, food production, and civilian medical and poison control. [4] By June 1944, only 381 persons were employed but with an expanded list of volunteers that had increased to 29,816 individuals. [5] Even before the war was concluded, divisions of the OCD were closed and assets liquidated by December 1945. Civilian authorities were given buildings on public lands and eighty-five buildings on private lands including warden headquarters, evacuation buildings, and fire truck sheds were sold to the general public.

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

For More Information

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


  1. Gwenfread Allen, Hawaii's War Years (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1950), 168.
  2. Allen, Hawaii's War Years , 166.
  3. Allen, Hawaii's War Years , 171.
  4. "Five Public Departments Shift from Military to OCD Control," Honolulu Advertiser , March 9, 1943, 5.
  5. Allen, Hawaii's War Years , 175.

Last updated Jan. 22, 2014, 10:30 p.m..