Hawaii Under the Rising Sun

This book deals with what the Japanese general plans were for Hawaii, assuming that they would be able to take it over. For a long time there actually weren't any specific plans, and when plans were made up they were not always extremely specific. It was thought that the large population of persons of Japanese ancestry on the island might be a help to the Japanese, who hoped that those people would be giving their first loyalty to Japan and not to the US.

Plans for an invasion of Hawaii technically began on December 9, 1941, just a couple days after Pearl Harbor. One of the problems they did realize was that Hawaii would have been quite far away and difficult to supply and defend. The plans were devised by Yamamoto, and his idea for Hawaii was more as a forward defense against aircraft carrier attacks against Japanese forces in the Pacific. He also hoped that, by holding Hawaii, it would encourage the US to agree to peace talks.

There was a lot of public speculation about Hawaii in Japanese hands, and many felt that Hawaii was properly part of Japan anyhow. Ideas involved how to restructure the agriculture on the islands (make the islands more self-sufficient), disband the major US corporations on the islands, redistribute the land, re-establish the Hawaiian monarchy, and redo the educational system.

(Hawaii had been an independent monarchy until US corporations managed to basically take over the island by force, an early example of the “military/industrial complex.”)

About 40% of Hawaii were people of Japanese ancestry, and there was some question as to how they would react to an actual Japanese takeover of the islands. Would they remain loyal to Japan, or to the US? The book relates this to the Japanese-American internment camps and how people of Japanese ancestry were treated on the mainland (mainly the West Coast).

The book notes that some of the PJA (persons of Japanese ancestry) in Hawaii were very loyal to the US; others did not feel that sense of loyalty due to the levels of discrimination against them. There would also be differences between the issei, the first-generation PJAs, and the nisei, those actually born in Hawaii and not Japan. The book notes that some of the PJAs would have welcomed an actual Japanese takeover of the islands.

The book notes that it is unlikely that US defenses would have fought to the last person, and it is also unlikely that the takeover of Hawaii would have stirred national opinion in the same way a landing of Japanese forces in California would have.

Interestingly enough, the entire issue could have been a moot point if a visit had resulted in a different ending. The king of Hawaii, King Kalakua, visited Japan in 1881 and offered to help forge a bond between Hawaii and Japan, and that Japan could organize a federation of Asian nations to which Hawaii would belong. The proposal was turned down, though. If it hadn't been, there is a chance Hawaii would have become aligned with Japan and not with the US.

There was a fairly good level of support among the PJAs for the Japanese invasion of China. The Japanese did tend, though, to overestimate the level of loyalty of the PJAs in Hawaii, making the assumption that most of them would support Japan.

Doho is a term applied to PJAs that lived elsewhere than in Japan, and they were considered to be Japanese. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, though, PJAs on Hawaii tended to downplay their “Japan-ness” as much as possible. Some were taken for internment, as on the West Coast, but a much smaller proportion than on the mainland.

One of the things affecting PJAs in Hawaii was that integrating into the white community was seen as a ticket to a successful life; thus getting a good US-type education and getting into the US-dominated economy were considered to be very important, especially to the nisei.

Although various invasion scenarios were drawn up, the ones from Japan did not really take the PJAs as a major part, whereas people in the US tended to fear any takeover would be largely due to an uprising on the part of the PJAs in Hawaii. In other words, whites feared the PJAs, while the Japanese tended not to place a great deal of importance on them in their plans.

Yamamoto said in the fall of 1940 that Japan could not win a protracted war against the US. He understood just how powerful the US economy and war machine could become, and that Japan simply could not match that. He said he would probably be able to run riot for about a year; after that, the power of American production would begin to tilt the balance.

During the summer of 1941 there were some talks of an invasion of Hawaii with landings on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island to take place right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto did not think that wise, though, because he felt Japan did not have the resources necessary to do that plus continue to do everything else it was doing at the time (fighting China, attacking other countries in the Far East, etc.)

The book notes that Japan did not actively recruit PJAs in Hawaii. “No evidence is available that the navy successfully recruited Japanese-American agents in Hawaii..”

Japanese planners also understood that taking Hawaii was one thing, and holding it was another. Most of the Hawaii foodstuffs had to be imported, and those plus military items would have had to traverse a lot of ocean to get to Hawaii from Japan and other areas, and these ships would have been vulnerable to submarine attack. Defending the islands against an attempt by the US military to take them back would also have been difficult.

The book talks about the “Japanese spirit,” and how Japanese military people felt that such a thing would help to make up for the differences between the ability of Japan to produce war goods and the US ability to produce them.

(This type of thinking helped to lead to some of the stupidist attacks in the war, where Japanese troops on islands would attack emplaced US positions, using sort-of-healthy soldiers and wounded soldiers, both, and just charged the positions using their guns and bayonets. This was done on a number of occasions and was basically a suicidal charge that, from a military viewpoint, accomplished virtually nothing.)

Yamamoto thought that quick military action followed by negotiation would have prevented a war of attrition, and that Hawaii would have been used as a bargaining chip once taken over. The islands might have become a Japanese protectorate or might have even gone back to US control in peace talks.

Part of the problem on the Japanese side about deciding what to do with Hawaii stemmed from the rivalry between the Army and the Navy branches in Japan. The two competed with each other and didn't really get along well at all, another contributing factor to Japan's ultimate defeat in the war. The Army, for example, felt the war would be won in China and Asia, and that Hawaii was not really that important.

There was something called the “Yamaguchi plan” that called for an invasion of Ceylon and the destruction of the British fleet in May of 1942. In June and July landings would take place at various locations including New Zealand and northern Australia. In August and September the Aleutian islands would be taken over, followed by Midway. Hawaii was scheduled for December 1942 or January of 1943.

The island of Hawaii would be taken first and used to construct airfields to attack the other islands (much as the US planned to take over part of Kyushu and build airfields to attack other parts of Japan in Operation Olympic.) Carrier task forces and subs would attack shipping, take over the Panama canal, seize California oilfields, and also attack South America.

Not many supported the plan, though, and again there was a difference between reactions in the Army and the Navy.

There was an army plan developed in spring of 1942 for a takeover of Hawaii, cause largely by Doolittle's attack on Japan and the realization that carrier-based planes could attack the Japanese mainland, and that these carriers were stationed in Hawaii.

This plan was Dairikushi no. 1159, May 23, 1942. It was a pretty specific plan, using three divisions (which, though, were not trained for fighting on Hawaiian-type land. There was a limited invasion force, though, and the plan also assumed that the US would have control of the skies.

All the planning that took place, though, was rendered moot when the Japanese were defeated at Midway in June of 1942. That began the gradual roll-back of Japanese forces in the Pacific and ended all hopes for any takeover of Hawaii or any actual attack on the US mainland in force. (There were some instances of shelling by submarine, bombing of forests by sub-carried planes, and the balloon bombings, but none of these were of any major scale and they were never followed up with anything strong or coordinated.)

The book uses the term “victory disease” as a way to describe Japanese attitudes towards Americans. American soldiers were thought to be “soft.” Battle results were usually exaggerated. In relation to Pearl Harbor, for example, the press reported that 88% of the army and navy personnel there had been killed. Radio Tokyo announced the sinking of aircraft carriers even when they actually weren't sunk or even attacked. The media reported panic in the US over the attack. The shelling of Santa Barbara by a submarine was reported to have inflicted heavy damage even though it didn't. Some talk was held about how to divide up the US mainland once it was conquered.

The “Greater East-Asia Co-prosperity Sphere” is also discussed in relation to Hawaii. There was also planning for post-war reparations by the US for what was being done to PJAs on the West Coast (who did, indeed, suffer major economic losses by being relocated to the internment camps.)

The book states that Japan, despite these various plans, did not have any systematic, solid planning for what to do after the war, assuming that they won the war. One assumption was that Hawaii would be placed under military rule. The monarchy would be re-established. Sugar and pineapple production would be reduced in an attempt to make Hawaii more self-sufficient as far as food goes. The main five US corporations would be stripped of the land they controlled, and this land would be re-distributed.

The book talks about the pilot of one Zero during the attack on Pearl Harbor who crashed and landed on a small island northwest of Honolulu. The pilot was helped by a nisei male, but the pilot was killed six days later by a Hawaiian and the nisei committed suicide.

Late in 1944 a suicide strike against California was considered in which around 300 men would be landed by parachute near Santa Barbara. They were to attack the Douglas and Lockheed aircraft factories in Los Angeles and kill as many people as they could before being killed themselves.

Time changes things. The book notes that, in 1981, a poll was taken by a newspaper in Japan and 80% of Japanese men and women were unable to identify Pearl Harbor with December 7, 1941; they identified it mainly as a place for honeymoons.

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