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America’s Great Hawaiian Problem

The Western Mail 25th June 1935

Gareth Jones

There is a disease which attacks all journalists, and which is “the housemaid’s knee” of our profession – “problemitis”.  In each land we feel an urge to unearth the strangest “problems” which beset the population. 

During the first evening in Honolulu, as beneath the palms I listened to songs and. watched the graceful movements of the dancers who by one gesture of the hand indicate “the sea,” by another gesture describe “mountains,” and by others suggest “home” or “love” or “ storms or “canoe,” I was free from this illness.  Next morning.  However I felt one of its attacks and, just as old folk can foretell the coming of a storm by the pangs of their rheumatism, it was the precursor to the discovery of Hawaii’s great problem - the Japanese. 

The problem in a few words, is this: A few miles from the town lies the powerful United States naval base, Pearl Harbour, which is to America what Gibraltar and Singapore are to us.  At the present moment the eyes of America’s naval men are more and more fixed upon the Pacific, for they realise that war with Great Britain is pure fantasy and they have withdrawn their navy from the Atlantic. 

A Strategic Point 

What is the important strategic point in the Pacific for the defence of the United States?  Hawaii.  No enemy could land in California unless they first captured Hawaii.  Thus the Americans are pouring millions of dollars into this vital naval base in order to dominate more than ever that half of the Pacific which lies towards America. 

It is true that many naval and military men say, “If there is war in the Pacific Alaska and the Aleutian islands in the north will be more important to us than Hawaii, because we will be able to attack such places as Tokyo with our aeroplanes from air bases in those Islands, and we will also be able to have a base on Russian soil.”  Nevertheless, Hawaii remains for most Americans the guardian of the Eastern Pacific and the watch-dog of California. 

Hawaii contains more Japanese - the potential enemy - than any other nationality.  There are 140,000 Japanese nearly one half of the population.  Are they loyal to the Stars and Stripes, or do they still worship the Son of Heaven?  Have they among their number a percentage of spies who report the secret of America to Tokyo?  Will they be able to blow up parts of the naval base in a time of war?  Will they be able to ignite the petrol tanks? 

Those are the questions which trouble the navy men and which make the problem of Hawaii.  To me it is an academic problem, because I see no reason why Japan should ever fight America, and I regard prophecy of a United States versus Japan war as pure sensation mongering.  Nevertheless, for the military and naval mind this is a grave problem. 

Aerodrome Site 

It is a problem which is reaching great importance in this year 1935, because l935 marks the year when the Pacific has become air-conscious, and. Hawaii is becoming a great aviation base. 

During my stay in Hawaii I was motored along the seashore and a little beyond the former Royal Fishpond I saw a patch of land leading out to where great white breakers were dashing.  “That is Kaneohe Bay,” said my Hawaiian friend.  “That is the patch of land chosen, by the American Airways for their landing place on their route from America to China.  Lindbergh is coming soon to take a look at it.  Just imagine - aeroplanes will land here on their way to Canton!  It is like a dream. 

And those Hawaiian fishermen whom you saw wading with their spears on the hunt for devil-fish will hear the buzz of the engines over the Pacific, linking Asia to America!” 

Americans fear, however, the 140,000 Japanese, most of whom live within some miles of the Pacific aerodrome.  Will they try sabotage in the event of a conflict? 

Old and Young Japan 

“ You know the Japanese,” said one American to me.  “We can’t understand them.  We know that the older Japanese are thoroughly loyal to the Emperor.  But there is the puzzle of the younger generation.  Who would they fight for? 

“At home they are taught to revere Japan.  One of the young Japanese told me the other day in my family I get it dinned into my mind, that my only loyalty is to Japan and that the only true courage is the courage of the Japanese soldier.” 

Many of the Japanese in Hawaii are Shintoists, and Shintoism is a national religion which teaches the worship of the Japanese Emperor.  Hence the mistrust growing among the Americans. 

Two ways are proposed to deal with the Japanese.  The first is a typical product, of the military mind.  “We need defence against the enemies from within,” say the soldiers.  “Thus we must have a military dictatorship here.” 

If you treat the Japanese as alien enemies you will bungle the situation,” say the defenders of the second policy.  “You will antagonize the Japanese by a military dictatorship aimed at them.  We must treat the Japanese as good citizens, have faith in them, and work for better relations with Japan and while the militarists and the civilians argue the Japanese, the Chinese, the Americans, and the Hawaiians live on peacefully, laughingly together, giving scarce a thought the politics, for do not the palms sway all day in the sunshine and is not the sea deep blue and swarming with fish, and do not the waves invite the splashing of lithe brown bodies? 


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