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    Niihau Island (Niʻihau) Hawaii United States

Location
18 mile long, 6 mile wide, this island is the western most in the Hawaiian Islands, located to the west of Kauai. Also known as Niʻihau.

Prewar
Prewar, a privately owned by the Robinson family. In 1915, Robinson closed the island to most visitors. Even relatives of the inhabitants could visit only by special permission. As early as 1924, the US Navy maintained a small installation on the island.

General Mitchell predicted an aerial attack against Pearl Harbor, and that it might be staged from Niihau. Later Major Brant secretly contacted Aylmer Robinson and asked him to dig deep furrows across the island, to render it useless for aircraft to make landings.

Beginning in 1933, at his own expense, Aylmer began plowing checkerboard lines across the island, each square roughly 100' across using horses and later a Clatter tractor, completing plowing 5,000 linear miles, finishing during the summer of 1941.

Wartime History
The Japanese (incorrectly) believed the island was uninhabited, and told any aviators damaged during the attack on Oahu and Pearl Harbor to crash land on Niihau and an await pickup by an I-Class submarine.

Niihau Incident
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, A6M2 Zero 2266 Tail BII-120 piloted by Nishikaichi force landed on on Niihau Island. At the time, news of the attack had yet to reach residents on the island. Pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi was interrogated by a Japanese born immigrant living, Yoshio Harada, to whom he confessed about the state of war. Harada kept the news of the attack to himself and conspired with the pilot. Meanwhile, the Japanese pilot was treated to a luau. That night, when radio broadcast about the attack reached the island, he was again questioned.

Nishikaichi played on the Japanese-Americans loyalties, and won him over to assist him with a plan for death with honor. He convinced Harada to steal back his pistol and a shotgun. The two took control of the village where they took two prisoners before stripping the machine guns off the crashed zero and stowing them on a wagon. They tried to destroy the plane, but the fire did not spread past the cockpit. They two were "drunk" with power, firing their weapons and demanding residents to surrender.

They controlled the island until the night of December 12, 1942 when a Hawaiian named Kanahele cornered them. In the melee, Kanahele was wounded, Harada was shot by the pilot before taking his own life with the shotgun. When the Army rescue part arrived, Kanahele was awarded two Presidential Citations: the purple heart and Medal of Merit. The conduct of Harada helped to fuel the anti-Japanese sentiments that lead to the decision by FDR to have Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans detained in the United States.

References
Thanks to Syd Jones and David Aiken / Pearl Harbor History Associates for additional information.

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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