10 November 2004

Collaboration Potential in Hawai‘i: Universal

Collaboration is a pejorative word. Often misused, it is inappropriate for those Japanese-Americans whose circumstances and inclinations led them to serve Japan during World War II. On the other hand in Hawaii, potential collaboration was by no means confined to Japanese-Americans. Any resident of the Islands in 1942, regardless of ethnicity, probably speculated on what life would be like in the event of a successful Japanese invasion. Any rational mind considering that contingency would most likely conclude that a degree of collaboration would be hard to avoid. Unlike the Philippines, Hawaii was physically too small for anyone to avoid contact with occupation authorities. A guerrilla movement would have been virtually suicidal. There is little evidence that either the military or civilians were prepared to fight to the last man should Hawaii have been assaulted. On the contrary, many probably shared the views of a State Department special agent who in a report written several weeks before 7 December 1941 acknowledged: "If the Japanese fleet arrived, doubtless great numbers of them [Hawaii Japanese] would then forget their American loyalties and shout a 'Banzai' from the shore. Under those circumstances, if this reporter were there he is not sure that he might not do it also to save his own skin, if not his face."

These words were not written by a coward. Dying to the last man, woman, and child (gyokusai as the Japanese called it in those desperate defenses of Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa) was neither a tenet of American military doctrine nor consonant with American historical experience, the Alamo notwithstanding....

Consequently, if the choice were to collaborate or face suicidal odds, there is little doubt but that Hawaii's residents would have opted, in the British phrase, to "carry on" with as much dignity as possible. The scale and degree of collaboration would probably have depended upon many obvious and subtle factors, among them individual character, the content and style of occupation policies, the conduct of occupation authorities and garrison troops, and the local assessment of Japan's prospects for winning the war or at least for repelling an American counterattack.
SOURCE: Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan's Plans for Conquest After Pearl Harbor, by John J. Stephan (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1984), pp. 8-9

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