Homefront Hawai‘i: Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration

The December 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor on O‘ahu sent reverberations internationally and forged some of the greatest stories of tragedy and heroism we know today. Lesser known are the stories of the citizens and civilians of Hawai‘i who endured that fateful day and the years of aftermath that would follow. In honor of the 75th commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bishop Museum will bring these stories to the forefront in its original exhibit, Homefront Hawai‘i. The exhibit will open on Dec. 1, 2016 in conjunction with the official programming honoring the 75th Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and will remain on display through March 1, 2017 in the Portico Hall in the Hawaiian Hall Complex.

Brought to life with archival images and items from Bishop Museum and expert collectors, visitors will see how the war transformed the island home of Hawai‘i citizens. On display will be rarely-seen photos of explosion-damaged Honolulu streets, a fortified Waikīkī Beach armed with barbed wire, and a bomb shelter at ‘Iolani Palace among other historic photographs. Period artifacts will also be displayed, such as remnants of a shot-down Japanese plane.

Honolulu civilians watch what they think is a military practice on December 7, 1941, not realizing at first that this was an actual attack. (Private collection)

The attacks dealt more than 100 civilian casualties, and within a day, then Territorial Governor Joseph Poindexter agreed to place the island under martial law. During the next nearly three years constitutional rights in the territory were suspended and only reinstated after numerous court challenges. Hawai‘i citizens were subjected to strict curfews – stricter still for those of Japanese ancestry – as the United States military took over all territorial government functions.

Waikīkī Beach was lined with barbed wire and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was taken over by the US Navy for military R & R (rest and recreation) for the entire war. (Private collection)

“The Dec. 7 attack on O‘ahu was focused primarily on the military,” said Bishop Museum historian, DeSoto Brown. “But through this exhibit, we hope to give everyone a fuller sense of the totality of this event by showing how the attacks dramatically changed an entire way of life for the people of Hawai‘i.”

Homefront Hawai‘i will be on display at Bishop Museum in Portico Hall in the Hawaiian Hall Complex and is generously supported by the Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) and the O‘ahu Visitors Bureau (OVB).

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