Though the attack was focused on Pearl Harbor a Japanese fighter plane crashed on the island of Niihau. The Niihau Incident (or Battle of Niihau) occurred on December 7, 1941, when a Japanese pilot, Shigenori Nishikaichi, crash-landed on the island of Niihau after participating in the attack on Pearl Harbor. He crashed 19 feet from where Hawila Kaleohano, a native, was standing. Unaware of the current attack on Pearl Harbor but knowing the US had bad blood with Japan, Kaleohano seized the opportunity of taking the pilots papers and pistol while the pilot was still incapacitated.
In Hawaiian tradition, Nishikaichi was later treated with the upmost respect. Since his English was limited the Hawaiian natives could not understand him so they sent a Japanese born man who only exchanged a few words with Nishikaichi, seemingly disturbed the first interpreter walked away. The second interpreter, Yoshio Harada, undisturbed listened to what the pilot had to say and decided to take up arms with him. Some days later on Saturday, December 13, Harada and Nishikaichi captured “Ben” Kanahele and his wife, “Ella” Kanahele.
They ordered Kanahele to find Kaleohano, keeping Ella as a hostage. Kanahele knew that Kaleohano was rowing toward Kauai, but made a charade of looking for him. He soon became concerned about Ella and returned to her. Harada told Kanahele that the pilot would kill him and everyone in the village if Kaleohano was not found. Kanahele, noticing the fatigue and discouragement of his two captors, took advantage of the brief distraction as the pilot handed the shotgun to Harada. He and his wife leapt at the pilot. Nishikaichi pulled his pistol out of his boot.
Ella Kanahele grabbed his arm and brought it down. Harada pulled her off the pilot, who then shot Ben Kanahele three times: in the groin, stomach, and upper leg. Ben Kanahele then picked Nishikaichi up hurling him into a stone wall. Ella Kanahele then bashed him in the head with a rock, and Ben slit his throat with his hunting knife. Harada then turned the shotgun on himself, committing suicide. Ben Kanahele was taken to Waimea Hospital on Kaua? i to recuperate; he was awarded with the Medal for Merit and the Purple Heart, but his wife, Ella, did not receive any official recognition.
The news of the attacks did not travel fast to the other islands, as technology there was very limited especially on the smaller islands. Charles Owens, living on the island of Maui during the attacks, says “I didn’t hear of the attacks immediately, I only heard of them a while after, I didn’t really know what to think. How could something so big go without us hearing about it until days after, so that was kind of messed up. ” Back on Oahu, the two hour attack was straining on. Their first order of business to blow away all aircraft to eliminate the possibilities of a counter-attack.
They bombed all the plans that were sitting wingtip to wing tip also bombing mess halls and killing hundreds of unsuspecting people. Some US pilots were able to get their planes off the ground but once they reached the skies they realized how outnumbered they were, still they fought for their country and fired as best they could. Since the Japanese finished bombing their intended targets of aircraft carriers; they went to their next chief target, the battleships. The eight battleships were all hit, the USS Nevada, Tennessee, California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Maryland, West Virginia, and by far the worst loss the USS Arizona.
The battleship row was destroyed. The people on them were quick to react and fought hard, but the ruthless Japanese bombed the ships into oblivion. The Japanese were sending America a message, that they were the superiors and were ready to destroy America along with the rest of the world with its Axis power allies. The Japanese had also launched out five midget submarines, these could only hold a two man crew, but they were all sunk at the beginning of the battle by the US pacific fleet. At 9:45 a. m. he Japanese felt that their mission was complete. They returned back to their air craft carriers feeling pride in destroying copious amounts of people’s lives and completely taking away others. The total death count for them was 78, a death count which paled in comparison of the almost 4,000 US lives lost. The military people of Hawaii fought long and hard to save their home but little could be done since it was a surprise and they didn’t have any proper time to react. This day would mark a turn in history.
This day would be a day that was often thought of in war, a day that was a reminder of what the soldiers of America were fighting for. This was the day that pushed America into World War II with a fighting vengeance. A saying often used in newspapers was “Remember Pearl Harbor. Work. Fight. Sacrifice!! We’ll remember and by God, you WON’T forget! ”The day following the attack, President Roosevelt addressed the congress and asked for a declaration on war against Japan and he got it, marking the day the US officially became a part of World War II.
In Hawaii, on the 16th of December, Adm. Kimmel and Gen. Short were stripped of their commands and in 1942 they were found guilty of neglect of duty and held exclusively responsible for the catastrophe that was Pearl Harbor by the Roberts Commission. Later in October of 1944 Kimmel and Short were found not guilty due to a Naval Court thinking they acted appropriately to the situation with the knowledge they had received. This was later overruled by the Chief of Naval Operations, claiming if Kimmel had done aerial reconnaissance he may have found the Japanese fleet located a mere 250 miles off Hawaii.
In decmeber of 1955 a Defense Department investigation reveals others share responsibility with Kimmel and Short but does not divulge the information on whom these ‘others’ are. It was not until the year 2000 that an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act found Kimmel and Short performed to the best of their abilities in the situation that they were given and their ranking was restored. February 19, 142, executive order 9066 was signed; this was the order that called for the internment of all Japanese Americans living on the west coast during World War II.
Ironically no Japanese-Americans were taken from Hawaii. It was strange to most people in Hawaii, like Bernadine and Charles, that people uninvolved were being punished. Why America would be fighting for equality and against oppression when it was so willing to oppress their own brethren? It boggled the minds of the still young Bernadine and Charles who still could not fully comprehend what the attacks had done. The internment camps were horrible, the conditions were poor, the food was rationed and below nutritional.
The children in the internment camps went to school and the thought of patriotism was pushed deep into their minds. The adults could work for 5 dollars a day or were given the option of joining the army. The latter option was not popular as many no longer felt they wanted to die for their country. Internment camps were looked at as a wartime necessity. Many Americans were plagued with a fear of a second attack or the Japanese working from the inside out to destroy them. This was and would become a continual theme in American history of oppressing people because of the fear of a possibility.
It wasn’t until 1988 that congress tried to financially apologize to the Japanese-Americans that were affected by the internment camps by granting them each 20,000 dollars. Thought the camps never reached the atrocities preformed in Nazi death camps in World War II, they still left a scar on American history. In whole the attacks on Pearl Harbor caused the death of 3,500 American citizens, the destruction of 18 ships (including all 8 of the fleet), and 350 destroyed aircrafts. The only thing sparred that day were the air craft carriers.