Editor’s note: Every week, Fortune.com publishes a favorite story from our magazine archives. This weekend, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the attack of Pearl Harbor, we remember the 2,390 Americans who died in the attacks. Here’s an article from Fortune magazine, written about a year before the tragedy, about Hawaii and the U.S. government’s investments in the naval base.
In peacetime the Hawaiian Islands offer lovely vistas of sugar cane, pineapples, beach, mountains. But the $ 100,000,000 naval base at Pearl Harbor is our Singapore.
Last January FORTUNE discovered, through its Survey, that fewer people in the U.S. were willing to go to war to defend the Hawaiian Islands (which are our own) than Canada (which is Great Britain’s). The discovery caused a flurry of excitement at the tables of the Merchants Grill in Honolulu; the sugar men and pineapple men of the main island of Oahu, always fearful that a “discriminatory” U.S. Congress is about to forget their existence, remarked: “So the mainlanders voted that way. Don’t they know that we exist to defend them?”
The sugar and pineapple men, employers of 65 per cent of the labor in Hawaii, were obviously not thinking of their acres of tasseled cane or their miles of geometrically arranged cactus-gray pineapple fields when they spoke so feelingly of the prime justification for their existence. They were thinking of Hawaii the Fort-of the $70 million naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, a base that can hold, provision, repair, and refit the entire V.S. fleet if need be. They were thinking of the 23,000 soldiers quartered on Oahu–14,000 of whom are concentrated at Schofield Barracks with their motorized equipment. They were thinking, too, of the new Hickam airfield, where $10 million is being spent this year to house the latest Boeing bombers and Bell pursuit planes of the army air corps; and they very probably had in mind the eight-, twelve-, and sixteen-inch guns that defend the tortuous, coral-lined sea approach to Pearl Harbor. About these guns–and about the huge concentration of anti-aircraft guns, larger than any similar concentration on the U.S. mainland—there is a deal of hush-hush; but the 415,000 people of the Hawaiian Islands, including the 155,000 Japanese, are quite aware of their existence, even if not of their precise whereabouts.
Yet, although it may be ABC to a citizen of Hawaii that he lives in the shadow of a fort that is more heavily protected than Britain’s Singapore base, the average man on the U.S. mainland is not to be blamed for ignorance of Hawaii’s–or the single island of Oahu’s–main function. This average man has been fed for years on the folder literature of the Hawaii Tourist Bureau, whose copy is prepared by Bowman, Holst, MacFarlane, Richardson, Ltd., a Honolulu subsidiary of Bowman Deute Cummings of San Francisco. The folder literature rings all the changes on the “Paradise of the Pacific” theme: in Hawaii the rain is “liquid sunshine” (not even the Californians have claimed as much for their rain). Decades of advertising and movie iteration have convinced practically every stranger outside the islands that Hawaii is still a semi-civilized Eden where heavy-bodied, sleepy-eyed Polynesian girls go about in ti-leaf skirts and do the hula. Every year some 22,000 stopover tourists visit the Paradise of the Pacific, coming mostly by the Matson line (owned largely by Honolulu capital) and disembarking amid a whirl of sweet-scented leis (garlands of flowers grown by the Japanese) to the accompaniment of Aloha Oe by the Royal Hawaiian band.
The tourist will almost certainly be thrilled by surfboard riding, coming in on a single roller at terrific speed for about a mile. Once he gets away from the city of Honolulu he will not be let down by the physical aspects of Hawaii, for the islands are actually far lovelier than any perfervid folder prose ever manages to convey. But if the tourist is not looking for mere gregariousness he will be disappointed by Waikiki Beach, a good deal of which has been washed away by the sea. And he may very well find it a slight anticlimax to learn that the pure Hawaiian is practically extinct. Once there were 300,000 full-blooded Polynesians in the islands; today there are 21,000, and the old Kanaka savor is gone. If the tourist drives from Honolulu to the other side of Oahu he will find, besides beaches far more impressive than Waikiki, a single individual, David Kaapu, who dresses in a red loincloth and lives in a grass hut. But David sells curios, and finds the old Kanaka stage properties good for his business.
Working with David Kaapu to maintain at least a simulacrum of the ancient flavor of the islands is the Eastman Kodak Co. Once a week, the day after the Matson boat docks at Honolulu, Eastman sets up a portable grass hut against a backdrop of real coconut palms and sea. Six professional hula girls, the most beauteous of whom is named Toots, sing and dance in their satin blouses and grass skirts, and together with two pulchritudinous brown youths in red G strings they prepare and eat “poi,” a gluey tapioca-like native dish. Then the boys climb coconut trees to knock down a solitary coconut for tourist movie cameramen. “Hold it there, boys, that’s a good still shot,” the Eastman director cries as the tourists with Kodaks nervously edge in. Later the tourists are given a chance to snap themselves, arms around hula girls. And so, in photographs sent back to the States, the legend of ancient Polynesian life is perpetuated.
The kamaainas, as whites who have lived in Hawaii for a long time are called to set them apart from the recently arrived malahinis, have a schizophrenic attitude toward the hula stuff. They deem it necessary, for it brings cash into the tills of the Royal Hawaiian and Moana hotels, each of which is owned by the locally owned Matson line. From the tourists some $20 million is poured into the islands annually—money that the old-time residents are glad to get, even though they contemptuously stay away from the visitors’ reservation around Waikiki. At times the kamaainas are shocked by what tourism has done. Back in 1933 a Hawaiian legislative committee headed by Lawrence M. Judd deplored “misleading” advertising that “so emphasized the lure of Hawaii as a tropical resort as to give an entirely one-sided … picture of life in the islands.” But Honolulu was then in the throes of jitters inspired by the sordid and not-now-to-be-exhumed Massey murder case, which made the race question sizzle as it had never sizzled before in island history. Fearful that the U.S. Congress was about to substitute a commission form of government for local territorial democracy, the kamaainas were extremely anxious to prove their civilization and responsibility. They have worried less about their reputation since memories of the Massey case have faded out, and the hula come-on game still goes on.
When the kamaainas justify themselves as a class above the tourists, they do not think of themselves as part of any grand scheme of V.S. defense. They snoot the army and the navy almost as much as they snoot the visiting bathers at Waikiki. They may object when mainland Americans forget that Oahu is a 604-square-mile fort. But they do not like to see themselves as part of any great Pan-Pacific problem involving the whole U.S. economy. Malaysian rubber and tin mean much less to them than the V.S. quotas on sugar, or the price of pineapple juice. The Japanese may be pushing their defenses of Nanyo (as they call their South Sea possessions) deep into the Carolines and the Marshall Islands, which lie between Honolulu and the Philippines and all but surround U.S.-owned Guam. But to the citizens of Hawaii the gun emplacements on Diamond Head and the cruisers at Pearl Harbor and the airplanes dipping aloft mean defense of the U.S. Pacific coast, not offensive strategy involving maintenance of the open door in China, the freedom of the Philippines, and the supply line from Panama to Singapore and Batavia. The kamaainas are above all provincial; to them Hawaii is neither a tourists’ paradise nor the military man’s clenched fist, but just a darned good place to live, to make and invest money, and to hand on in all its wealth and loveliness to satisfied sons and daughters.
The attitude of the old-time residents is quite understandable, for the territory is an inheritance distinctly worth having. Physically, Hawaii consists of a group of eight handsome volcanic islands, with black mountains rising dramatically from the fields of green cane. The sea around the islands shades from amethyst to turquoise, depending on the depth of the water over the many jagged coral-reef formations. In total area the islands are a third larger than Connecticut. Oahu–the island of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Schofield Barracks, and Pearl Harbor—contains more than half the territory’s 415,000 people; Honolulu itself has a population of nearly 150,000, which makes it about comparable in size to Connecticut’s Hartford. The biggest island is Hawaii, whose principal port, Hilo, is 192 miles southeast of Honolulu. Like Oahu, Hawaii produces sugar; but it is also fine cattle-raising country. The island of Lanai is owned entirely by the Hawaiian Pineapple Co. (known locally as Hawaiian Pine). Molokai is famous for its leper colony, but it is also a land of homesteaders whose acres are cultivated by the big pineapple companies for a share of the crop. Maui grows sugar, pineapples, and cattle. Niihau, the little westernmost island, is owned by the strange Robinson family; no visitors are allowed on Niihau, and the native Hawaiian population (estimated at fifty-six) is told that if any of them leaves the island it must be forever. These marooned Hawaiians fashion curios, which the Robinsons sell to Honolulu’s tourists.
The Parker cattle ranch on the “Big Island” of Hawaii covers 500,000 acres, and is the second-largest cattle ranch on U.S. soil. Nevertheless, the total production of cattle in the islands is not sufficient for the beef requirements of the territory’s population. More than 60 per cent of the food needed by the eight islands comes from the U.S. mainland. Oahu, the island of the Big Fort, brings in no less than 85 per cent of its food. The basic food necessity of the islands is rice, 95 per cent of which comes from the Sacramento Valley of California, where rice growing has been developed specifically to supply Hawaii.
Rice is the basic food simply because the bulk of the islands’ 415,000 population is Oriental. Brought to the islands over a period of eighty years for cheap labor in the cane and pineapple fields, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, and Chinese make up nearly 60 per cent of the people. The Japanese alone account for more than a third of the population. In Hawaii the second-generation Japanese grow two inches taller than their fathers, and their heads become shorter and their shoulders wider. But many remain Japanese in thought and feeling in spite of their enhanced physiques and their U.S. citizenship. If they were born on U.S. soil before 1924, Japan still claims them as citizens. Besides, the Shinto religion implies fealty to the Japanese Emperor as a god; and the suspicion of double allegiance causes the U.S. Army and Navy to look upon Hawaii’s 155,000 Japanese with undisguised alarm. As for the native Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians, these remnants of the old Polynesian race make up a miserable 15 per cent of the population. The Caucasians, who include Portuguese from Madeira and the Azores and Puerto Ricans as well as Americans, number 26 per cent. The whites are always called haoles (pronounced “howlees”); the haoles are the undisputed masters of the land of sugar and pineapples. Filipinos, the latest immigrant group, are called goo-goos by sailors; they are lowest in the Hawaiian social scale. The Chinese, who were the earliest immigrants from the Far East, look upon themselves as superior to all later arrivals; a number of them have become prosperous shopkeepers, a faint beginning of a new Oriental middle class.
Officially, the Hawaiian Islands became part of the U.S. in 1898, when they were annexed by the government of William McKinley, which was then busy with the Spanish-American War and the subjugation of the Philippines. U.S. domination of the islands, however, goes back to the Congregational missionaries who came out on the good ship Thaddeus in 1820 and in many a ship thereafter. In addition to their Bibles, the missionaries brought with them New England culture; and to this day parts of the city of Honolulu have an unmistakably New England look. The missionaries also brought with them a good measure of Yankee pertinacity and ingenuity. Their sons went into planting, ranching, shipping, shopkeeping, factoring, and banking; and by tenacious illustration of the Parable of the Talents they soon controlled more of Hawaii than the natives themselves. In 1893, anxious to become part of the U.S. and thereby get the benefit of sugar bounties, the sons of the missionaries staged a revolution against Queen Liliuokalani with the help of a complaisant U.S. Minister and a detachment of U.S. marines. President Cleveland refused to accept a bid for annexation of this new island Texas; but the annexation came five years later. Even before the revolution of 1893 the U.S. had been forehanded enough to get unrestricted naval rights to the anchorage of Pearl Harbor.
To certain visitors from the U.S. mainland, the life of the missionaries’ sons may have a nostalgic quality. In the Hawaii of the kamaainas the dignities and restraints of the nineteenth century linger on. Much of the architecture is simple and good: sturdy, white churches set in lawns that look like Massachusetts town greens; superbly designed, airy public schools; firehouses of aluminum and glass. Back of Honolulu, on the hills, the rich haoles have built their low-lying, unpretentious homes. Billboards are not allowed on Oahu; and when Libby, McNeill & Libby once wrote its name in pineapple plants so that tourists riding along a ridge could see it, the ladies of the Outdoor Circle objected so strenuously that Libby had to quit.
The rich haoles stick close together, marry each other, give small parties, and avoid ostentation. The sons do not rebel; after four years at Yale or Princeton they come back home to enter their fathers’ businesses. New England ideas of right and wrong still haunt the air: the Sabbath is still carefully observed, and Honolulu shuts up tight at midnight. The rich haoles have something of the old-time New Englander’s stiff-necked self-righteousness; they resent innovation and dislike intruders. When the malahinis Jimmy and Doris Duke Cromwell wanted to take control of the sand near their new home of Shangri-la there was a terrific hue and cry about violation of riparian rights. Outside hobbies are de rigueur in this land of muscular Christians: the haoles hike over the mountains, study the geology of the islands, and actually sweat in their gardens. Around the house they like to go barefoot.
Outside interests own very little of Hawaii’s fields and businesses. The local haoles have practically created Hawaii out of slow accretions of their own earned surplus. Having put all their eggs into one basket they stay on the job to watch that basket. Hawaiian industry is largely controlled by the Big Five: Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, American Factors, C. Brewer & Co., and Theo H. Davies & Co. All save the last, an English outfit, are owned by Honolulu’s citizens. The Big Five are not investment trusts, nor an interlocking group of absentee owners in the “sixty families of the U.S.” or “two hundred families of France” sense of the term. They are simply the five sugar “agents” or “factors.” They own stock in the plantations and in most of the island enterprises. The rich haoles have their money invested both in the factor companies and in the companies controlled or operated by the factors; moreover, they themselves are either the factors or the managers employed by the factors. Of the seven plantations represented by Alexander & Baldwin, four are managed today by descendants of the original Alexander and Baldwin families. And the Alexanders and the Baldwins probably own important shares in the plantations they manage for Alexander & Baldwin, factors. The whole setup is an incredible swirl: the factors have a piece of virtually everything owned by the rich haoles; and the rich haoles have pieces of all the factors. But, simply because everyone works, the whole business makes for a tradition of responsibility not only to one’s past and present but also to one’s descendants, who will be doing the managing and the owning tomorrow.
The Big Five came into being for historical reasons that are more or less common to all plantation economies. They began by acting as selling agents for the sugar planters, replacing the old sailing-ship captains who had found markets on the mainland for the sugar crop even up to the time of the Civil War. Gradually the factors took over all the go-between functions: they financed the crop, imported the labor, arranged for the purchase of agricultural machinery on the mainland, and disposed of the final product. After the plantations had been reorganized as joint-stock companies in the eighties, the factors got financial control of many productive acres during the sugar depression of the Benjamin Harrison-Grover Cleveland period. This led to direct field management in many instances. With their mounting profits, the Big Five went into other businesses. They set up a large sugar refinery in California. To provide shipping facilities for sugar, they built up the Matson line, with its fleet of forty-three ships that get a lion’s share of the trade with the mainland. They developed interisland shipping. Through the Matson line they operated hotels. They put surplus capital into pineapples, cattle, banking, insurance, and public utility projects such as light and power, telephone and telegraph. They are the wholesaling business: more than 90 per cent of the small retail shops of the islands buy their goods through one or another of the factors. As Professor Andrew W. Lind of the University of Hawaii points out in his An Island Community: “Within a radius of 200 yards in Honolulu is concentrated the vested capital control upon which the major portion of Hawaii’s economic existence is regulated. The centralization of control through the agencies extends to virtually every important aspect of the economic life of the community.” And he adds: “A resident control of the Big Five permits of rapid, informed, and unified action.”
The efficiency of Hawaiian sugar methods is a function of this “rapid, informed, and unified action” of the Big Five, which act as trustees and managers of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (always known locally as H.S.P.A). In sugar yields Hawaii compares very favorably with Java and is way ahead of Cuba. Without the aid of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the H. S. P. A has done a remarkable job of controlling sugar-cane pests, spending $500,000 a year on research and importing queer parasites from all over the globe to kill destructive bugs. More money is spent on irrigation: each year the H. S. P. A members learn to use the water pumped up out of volcanic fissures more economically. Laborsaving methods in mill and field are shared by all members of the H. S. P. A; so, too, are the higher yielding cane varieties that the H. S. P. A. is constantly developing. The H. S. P. A maintains a Washington lobby to defend Hawaiian sugar against cheaper Cuban cane sugar; today it is putting its weight back of the statehood-for-Hawaii movement on the expressed theory that two Senators and a Representative in Congress could do more for Hawaiian sugar than a mere nonvoting territorial delegate.
If Hawaii recalls nineteenth-century New England, it also suggests the Old South. The rich haoles are of Yankee stock; but their system is a plantation system, and the labor required to operate that system is bound by unspoken rules of status. Legally there is no serfdom; practically speaking, however, a laborer who is fired by one Big Five employer “must eke out a living fishing or go as a suppliant to one of the other enterprises.” The iron beneath the glove, however, is seldom obtrusive; Hawaii may be a plantation, but it is probably the finest plantation in the world. It certainly challenges comparison with the Dutch plantations of the East Indies, which are generally regarded as model combinations of humaneness and efficiency.
The haoles, of course, have no sense of having grafted a modified pattern of Louisiana’s Melrose Plantation on the New England pattern. Like their nineteenth-century New England Congregational forebears, the haoles have piety, tenacity, and a highly developed property sense. And also, like their New England forebears, they have the conviction, too deep for argument, that labor unions are works of the devil. In 1937 the then President of the Hawaii Industrial Association was quoted by the Honolulu Star Bulletin as saying that he “paid as much attention to the Wagner Act as he did to the Desha bathing-suit law.” And in the same year Trial Examiner George O. Pratt of the National Labor Relations Board said: “The mores of the territory provide no place for a union of any of the employed inhabitants, and consequently activity in looking toward such union organization and moves made toward it which are commonplace on the mainland become endowed with portentous and revolutionary significance when seen through island eyes. It is not a healthy condition.”
Healthy or not, the condition goes much deeper than the question of unionization, however. For Hawaii’s labor problem is also a racial problem. Through generations the sugar planters have imported, in a series of waves, cheap laborers from China, Japan, Madeira, Korea, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. (The planters believed in “divide and rule.”) This imported labor has always been policed. But even if it were not policed it would hardly be susceptible of organization into the “one big union” of John L. Lewis’s dreams–the racial differences would effectively prevent that. If the preponderant Japanese could be organized into a union along race lines, an Oriental bundism might result–and the army would certainly be even more jittery than it now is. As a matter of fact, separate strike activity on the part of the various racial groups is not comprehended in the mores of Hawaii for reasons that considerably antedate present world troubles. Back in 1920, when Japanese sugar workers struck on one island, the strike was broken after six months at an enormous expense. This expense was borne, not by the affected plantations on the one island alone, but by every member of the H. S. P. A Shortly after the strike the minuscule Hawaiian legislature passed an antipicketing law. In effect this law forbids a man the privilege of lurking about anywhere with any intention of picketing in his mind. The law has been flouted a few times-for example, by stevedores, and by prostitutes who picketed the police.
Presumably the rich haole’s attitude toward labor was what caused Ray Stannard Baker to write: “I have rarely visited any place where there was so much Charity and so little Democracy as in Hawaii.” There is little democracy, certainly, in the way the haoles control the public opinion of and about Hawaii. Through the Pan-Pacific Press Bureau, a publicity outfit whose leading lights are Harold Lord Varney, onetime editor of the fascistic Awakener in New York, and Dr. Frederick B. Robinson of C. C. N. Y. fame, almost every word that goes out from Hawaii about Hawaii is subtly combed over. Visitations of mainland writers are “managed.” The two leading papers in Hawaii are the Star-Bulletin and Advertiser. Last year, when Lorrin Thurston, President and General Manager of the Advertiser, visited the beet-sugar areas of the U.S. mainland and the cane areas of Cuba on a tour of inspection for the Big Five, his dispatches to his own paper were edited by the Pan-Pacific Press.
If the rich haoles have an attitude toward labor problems that is out of line with the attitude recently cultivated on the U.S. mainland by the New Deal, they also have the nineteenth-century virtue of noblesse oblige, which is seldom cultivated anywhere in 1940. Of the charity noted by Ray Stannard Baker there is plenty; it takes its most characteristic form in plantation clubs to provide everything from baseball and cycling to weaving and carpentry. The average wage for fieldworkers is $2.17 per day in cash, plus rentfree housing (sometimes new, well-equipped homes, sometimes old and without plumbing). Workers also get allowances for fuel and light. Employment is year round. All of this compares very favorably indeed with the average mainland agricultural cash wage of $1.55 a day (without board).
Old-time New Englanders believed that an immigrant could be expected to work hard all his life provided his children had a chance to rise in the world. In Hawaii the plantation economy and the race barrier have prevented the descendants of the New England missionaries from practicing what their ancestors preached. True, the first generation of Chinese in Hawaii sweated in the fields, while their sons (or some of them) became shopkeepers. But, with land control what it is, there just isn’t room in Hawaii for the sons of the Japanese, the Portuguese, and the Filipinos to graduate from field work to small-scale ownership of agricultural land. Racial differences prevent their rise to important posts within the haole setup. In 1940 the haoles are up against a Fact that Americans of more spacious times and places never had to face: the Fact that there is an educated generation that is dissatisfied with farm labor yet unable to find white-collar work. Up until recently the realities of the situation were not very pressing. But, as Walter Dillingham has said: “Our troubles are ahead of us.”
The haoles fear, too, the inexorable fact that agricultural prices always sag furthest and fastest in periods of economic crisis. This fear causes them to overwork the word “discrimination.” In the islands you will hear that Hawaii has been “discriminated” against because it was not permitted to refine more than 3 per cent of its sugar output. The objection may be misleading: even before quota laws went into effect the islands never refined more than 3 per cent of their sugar, and had no facilities for so doing. Moreover, the islands themselves believe in the principle of market control of agricultural products. In 1932 the Hawaiian legislature–fifteen senators, thirty representatives–passed the “special co-operative association incorporation law.” This law makes it legal to set up “co-operatives” to “protect, control, and stabilize the marketing of agricultural products and their food products… prevent inefficient and wasteful methods of distribution … prevent surpluses in excess of requirements, and avoid undue and excessive fluctuations or depressions in prices therefor … ” The law clearly exempts any corporation organized under its provisions from trust or cartel penalization: such cooperatives “shall be deemed not to be a conspiracy nor a combination in restraint of trade nor illegal monopoly; nor an attempt to lessen competition or to fix prices arbitrarily or to create a combination or monopoly … ”
The prime reason for the 1932 law was pineapples. It takes two years to make a pineapple crop, from the first preparation of the soil to the final harvesting of the gray-green, gold-spiny fruit. Heavy plantings in 1929 and 1930 resulted in large carry-overs of canned fruit. World depression compounded the difficulties, and by 1932 the carry-over was about equal to that year’s demand. Prices had, of course, declined. And with the decline the Hawaiian Pineapple Co., the biggest canning company on the islands, was in straits.
To save the day, a Pineapple Producers Co-operative Association was set up under the new “special co-operative association incorporation law.” And ever since 1932 the Pineapple Producers Co-operative Association has decided in advance just what the annual pack of canned fruit shall be. Each member company is assigned its share of the whole. The curtailment, it may be noted, is limited to the pack of canned fruit; all members are free to grow and harvest as many pineapples as they please, and they are free to can as much as they like as juice. (In fact, sales of juice last year were over three-quarters as big as canned fruit sales.)
Unlike the Hawaiian sugar industry, the pineapple industry is not entirely a home controlled proposition. Two big mainland companies, Libby, McNeill & Libby and California Packing Corp., produce and can an estimated 49 per cent of Hawaii’s total crop. A couple of small companies identified with the factors Alexander & Baldwin, and another one under the control of American Factors, produce and can 14 per cent. The Hawaiian Pineapple Co., which was reorganized and revitalized by Castle & Cooke, which put its man Atherton Richards in charge, is allotted 37 per cent of the pack. Altogether, local Hawaiian capital is represented with 51 per cent of the pack, while 49 goes to the mainland companies. The six pineapple companies–three big, three little—supply over 70 per cent of the world’s canned pineapples. Their producers’ co-operative association has functions that are the reverse of the typical mainland farm marketing co-operative. The typical marketing co-operative is set up not to limit a supply but to market a total pooled product at the best possible price, whereas the Hawaiian co-operative first limits the pack, then permits the individual member to sell his allotment.
The ramifying controls that keep Hawaiian agriculture from collapsing in an over-competitive world have caused captious visitors to speak of a paternalistic semifeudalism. Under normal circumstances such a setup ought to be accepted as an advantage if war is contemplated. And, since Hawaii-or the island of Oahu-is first of all a fort, the U.S. military might logically be expected to approve the social structure of the haoles.
Certainly no army could ask for more effective machinery than already exists in Hawaii for mobilizing and disciplining the population in peacetime. Moreover, it is a lucky thing from the standpoint of American defense and Hawaii’s position as a front-line fort that sugar and pineapple labor is unorganized; as we have seen, organization of this labor might end in the creation of a Pacific equivalent of the Czechoslovak Sudeten problem. Nevertheless, Hawaii’s particular “corporate system” is not what a general or an admiral would prescribe if starting from scratch. Labor in Hawaii has proved tractable–but the army and navy would have vastly preferred a white laboring population to the 155,000 Japanese. The majority of these Japanese are apparently good citizens and able workmen not addicted to sabotage. But there is that matter of “dual” citizenship and Shinto devotion to the Japanese Emperor as a god; the younger Japanese may be U.S. citizens by right of birth on American soil, but their race, law, and religion presumably bind many of them to Hirohito. The civilian devices for regimenting the Japanese may be first rate, but the army and navy are not counting on them for M-Day. On that dread day the army will have concentration camps-and it keeps a “grab list” of suspicious citizens up to date.
Meanwhile both the army and the navy shiver when they think of the Japanese who man the fleet of sampans in Honolulu waters. Last year the navy arrested fourteen smallboat crews for violating the rules about approaching Pearl Harbor. And the army and navy may very well think that a benevolent feudalism supported at the base by potential spies and saboteurs is worse from a military standpoint than no feudalism at all.
If the underlying population is not precisely tops as garrison material, the haoles themselves only serve to confuse the issue of our Pacific defenses. The haoles have a deep and pervasive pride in Hawaii. Nevertheless, this pride is civic pride, not nationalist pride. As such, it justifies and glorifies Hawaii as a home, not as a fort. But the military strategist must not think of the Hawaiian Islands–particularly Oahu–as a home for workaday civilians. In peacetime the army maneuvers are not allowed to interfere with the growing of sugar cane, some of which creeps almost to the gates of Pearl Harbor. But, comes M-Day, the cane must and will be plowed under for food.
Looking at the unrolled map of the Pacific, a strategist must see Oahu as the supporting base for a naval blockade of Japan. This does not sound like “defense,” but once war has been declared there is no distinction between “defensive” and “offensive” naval warfare; you must attack and drive your enemy from the seas as a prelude to starving him out at home or else you can never win. The strategic justification for Oahu and Pearl Harbor is that it increases the westward reach of our navy by 2,400 miles. Pearl Harbor is much closer to Tokyo than the suspected outlying Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands are to San Francisco or Seattle. Wi th the anchorage of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians to the north, Pearl Harbor gives us a long jump on the Japanese when and if the great Pacific war of the future breaks out.
The overseas distances involved in a Pacific war are so tremendous that many prophets have predicted it will never come to pass. Nevertheless, war with Japan is the only war for which the U.S. is prepared. Nature has aided in the preparation: Oahu is fringed on all sides with coral reefs that extend far out to sea. These reefs are exceedingly dangerous; in most places, as a matter of fact, you can’t even swim ashore without bruising knees and torso. Honolulu Harbor and Pearl Harbor have openings that have been dredged and dynamited to permit the entrance of big ships. But these entrances are easily covered from the gun emplacements on Diamond Head (to the east of Honolulu) and from the forts that line the approaches to Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor reaches into the island of Oahu like an opened hand, the channel to its wide and safe anchorage being analogous to a long, thin wrist. Outside the headlands the channel is protected on the flanks by the jagged coral reefs. And the island of Oahu itself is protected by two saw-toothed mountain ranges. Between these ranges is a trough, where pineapples are grown. From the military standpoint the trough gives the defending forces on Oahu the advantages of interior lines: they can sit in the center and swing up to the crest of either mountain range in a hurry should invading ships be sighted.
Two public roads and one military road cross Oahu through mountain passes, and there is a railroad around a good part of the island. Mule pack trails go up and down the ridges. Besides all this there is a crisscross of roads through the big sugar plantations, built to move cane and sugar but adaptable to the passage of troops and guns. For harvesting the cane the planters frequently lay down light, portable narrow-gauge tracks; these might be turned in a pinch to military uses. And finally, should Honolulu’s main power plant be sabotaged, the plantation power plants could pump power into the lines for the army’s needs.
Oahu is small: within an hour troops and mobile guns can be moved from any place on the island to any other place. A force of at least 100,000 would have to be landed to crush the 23,000 defensive troops, most of whom are mechanized. Oahu is provided with plenty of 240-mm. howitzers, which can fire up and out over the mountains at targets spotted by army lookouts on the ridges. Thus, the missionaries’ descendants, rebelling so brazenly in 1893 against the helpless Queen Liliuokalani to make sure of their land and their business, handed the U.S. a really splendid fort. To attack Seattle or San Francisco the enemy must first take Pearl Harbor, which is obviously no cinch.
In Pearl Harbor and the area immediately around it, the U.S. has an investment of $70 million. As we have seen, the entire U.S. fleet could be accommodated inside the harbor–although the channel is not yet deep enough to receive a dreadnought whose Plimsoll mark is badly submerged because of flooded bulkheads. Before the April maneuvers there were sixty men-of-war in or near Pearl Harbor, including eighteen of the fifty-four new-type destroyers, and half our heavy cruisers. Fifteen per cent of the navy personnel was there and 200 navy planes, more than half of them long-range bombers. Some $30 million is being spent to dredge Pearl Harbor, to build two new dry docks, barracks, magazines, and to improve a power plant. A plane base is being constructed across the island from the navy’s anchorage. The marine force has been more than doubled in a year, and the total navy forces have more than trebled. Finally, plans are afoot to push our defensive-offensive power farther toward the Far East. The other islands in the Hawaiian group already have small landing fields, but a big military plane base is being built at Midway (first Pan American stop out of Honolulu toward Manila), and if plans go through we may soon have still another base for bombers at Wake (second Pan American plane stop out of Honolulu).
Experts have spoken of the value of longrange plane scouting over the seas. The U.S. is potentially well fixed for this, for 720 miles southwest of Honolulu is Palmyra, and 960 miles south is Johnston Island-where two new air bases are under construction. Congress may not earmark much money for these bases. Last year, when the navy demanded $5 million for further defenses at Guam, Congress turned it down; this year a request for $1 million was refused. Guam, nearly 4,000 miles from Hawaii, 6,000 miles from San Francisco, and 1,500 miles from Yokohama, has been called more “offensive” than “defensive.” But the main point about Guam is that it is a vulnerable salient, surrounded on almost every side by islands that Japan got from Germany at the end of World War 1. Further, to make Guam defensible would require much bigger outlays–estimated from $80 to $200 million.
The army is present in Hawaii to defend Pearl Harbor in case the fleet is needed in other waters. The 23,000 officers and men–a bigger concentration than exists anywhere else under the U.S. flag–means that one-tenth of our present army is on the island of Oahu. This includes the Hawaiian Division at Schofield Barracks, 14,000 strong, which makes Schofield one of the best-equipped army posts in the U.S. Save for the equipment at the Panama Canal Zone, Schofield has the best of our anti-aircraft guns, newest tanks, and powerful lighting and listening devices. Add to these the howitzers and the coast-artillery guns, including the four big sixteen-inch guns and some forty batteries of lesser guns. Finally, the army air force, on which $10 million is being spent this year for housing, hangars, and so on at Hickam Field, makes the price of capturing Oahu virtually prohibitive to any enemy. Within two years new aviators, new mechanics from the mainland, and new equipment will bring the Hickam plane force up from 100 to 300 bombers and the complement of manpower up to 5,000.
Presumably the army and the navy ought to be happy in their tight little Gibraltar. But they are not satisfied. The two major objections are, of course, the Japanese and the lack of food self-sufficiency deriving from two-crop agriculture. But there are many smaller blemishes from a soldier’s standpoint. Enlisted men say of Honolulu: “It’s the easiest town to get an inferiority complex in.” And even among the officers there are complaints about Honolulu. The navy rates socially a bit above the army, but neither has any real place in the life of the islands. One hears constant bitter complaints of officers who are forced to find their housing in Honolulu because the army and navy do not provide enough living quarters for their staffs. There is no extra allowance in the officers’ pay for Honolulu’s high tourist scale of rents. They complain that they must pay $80 for living quarters that they could get on the mainland for $45. If they are living far from an army-post exchange they must buy food at Honolulu prices. And in any case there are always some things that they must buy at the local stores.
The army men are enraged at the price of sugar. Most of the locally consumed sugar is milled and refined in Honolulu’s one refinery. Yet out of fifty-eight cities listed in a Department of Labor study, only Butte, Montana, had a higher sugar price than Honolulu. Food costs in Honolulu range something over 25 per cent above the mainland, electricity nearly 10 per cent and gas 15 per cent. (The plantation laborer, whose wage looks high, also must pay higher than on the mainland for almost everything except rice. Moreover, prices at the company stores on two plantations investigated by FORTUNE near Honolulu were uniformly higher than in the Honolulu stores.) So the none-too-well-paid army and navy officers complain persistently and uselessly about the Big Five, and gouging prices. Vegetables shipped from the big island of Hawaii are just as expensive as similar vegetables shipped from Los Angeles–for which the army and navy blame the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co., a Big Five property.
To judge by the works of the Pan-Pacific Press, the haoles are more worried by what New Dealism–in the guise of promoting labor unionization–might do to flaw traditional Hawaii than they are over the presence of the armed forces of the U.S. Nevertheless, it is the army that is the great potential enemy of the easy, delightful life that has been led for more than three decades by the richer haoles. We have already seen that the island of Oahu produces only 15 per cent of its food supply. Realizing what this might portend in case of war, the Hawaiian territorial government talks a great deal and accomplishes very little about developing a diversified agriculture. One sugar plantation grows enough potatoes to fill current demand on Oahu, but it ships them to the U.S. mainland where, as out-of-season new potatoes, they command high prices.
The army believes that there is enough food at any given moment on Oahu to last three months. So for M-Day it has matured careful plans for the quick conversion of sugar and pineapple acres to food crops. The army can tell you today just what crop this or that particular piece of ground will have to grow in case of war and the threat of siege from the Far East. True, the U.S. Congress has turned down the army request for a backlog of seeds for M-Day. But future U.S. Congresses are not likely to be so niggardly in view of the present state of the world. Comes M-Day, the unified, centralized control of Hawaiian agriculture will prove to be an advantage to the military; only a few men need be instructed to get the wheels turning immediately. But when and if M-Day–with its feared attack by the Japanese–ever arrives the haoles will not witness the conversion of their croplands with any pleasure. For the whole social structure of Hawaii rests on sugar and pineapples. Hawaiian sugar may be uneconomic from the standpoint of the mainland American, who could get his sugar more cheaply from Cuba if there were no tariff and quota system. But with a retreat from sugar and a change to diversified farming the Territory of Hawaii would not be able to buy an annual $90 million worth of goods from the U.S.–a figure that makes Hawaii our fifth biggest market for mainland goods. M-Day would obviously spell disaster for the Big Five.
The army would like to have Hawaii put under a commission government, with an army-navy-civilian control set up from Washington. But the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association today asks for statehood. Statehood would mean that Hawaii could never be arbitrarily regarded by the army as a mere advance base prior to M-Day. But the H. S. P. A. obviously cannot expect-or even want-to achieve statehood; it must fear that the Oriental voters in Hawaii might send a Japanese to Washington as Senator. The statehood claim is probably put forward to check the desires of the army for a commission government-and to block meddling with the current status of sugar. What the haoles really want to do is to keep Hawaii just the way it is–a territory governed by its own legislature and by a governor appointed by Washington from among its own citizens. The haoles like their island paradise and are praying that the great Pacific war is still a Sunday supplement’s bad dream .