Dec. 6, 1941:
The 56,000 residents of Maui had no idea how their lives would be changed the next day. The prospects of a war were topics of conversation only among those who followed world events.
Leaders of Hawaii's Japanese community, worried about the clouds of war forming on the horizon, had held a conference in the late 1930s. The goal was to come up with ways of proving their loyalty to the United States and to fight growing racial prejudice.
Saturday was the day to go to town. Plantation workers had a half day off. Some took the railroad running from Hamakuapoko to Wailuku. Others walked from their camp homes to Paia, Lahaina or nearby plantation stores. Some could have been looking for Christmas presents and maybe looking over a slim variety of Christmas tree ornaments, although trees in homes were rare.
Farsighted residents worried about getting presents ordered from catalogs in time. Mail from the Mainland took weeks on ships. In the camps, mothers sewed presents for their loved ones; children planned or worked at making presents for siblings and parents.
Harry Baldwin, manager of Maui Agricultural Co., could have been planning that year's community Christmas tree and the goodies he traditionally handed out to camp children.
Some camp residents looked forward to that night's movie. Nearly every camp enjoyed movies, largely from Japan or the Philippines, on a weekly basis. Young men took dates to the Iao Theater hoping they could get one of the cozy, two-person loge seats.
An East Maui contingent of Army soldiers thought about being far from home and what could be done in Hana. Maybe a movie. A portion of the squad had duty, watching the ocean off the coast, just as they had for six months.
Dec. 7, 1941:
Sunday was a day of rest. Stores were closed. It was a good day for Maui's workers to fish, tend their livestock and work in household gardens. Working mothers could catch up on their housework. There were church services to attend.
That all ended at 7:55 a.m. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu. The news came to Maui via Honolulu radio stations before they were shut down by the military fearful of another wave of Japanese planes homing in on the radio signals. News spread across the island via the coconut wireless.
Jazz Belknap hustled to the High Street offices of The Maui News. He called typesetters and pressmen into work. By day's end, Belknap and his crew turned out three editions of the paper, reporting the few known details of the attack.
Thoughts of Christmas and everything else were overwhelmed by one question. Would the Japanese attack or invade Maui? The first tendrils of fear grew among officials and ordinary citizens. Families with sons already in the service hoped they would be safe.
At Puunene, two Army planes ready for a training exercise were ordered into the air. The pilots searched the skies for more planes. Members of the Territorial National Guard reported for duty and were assigned to a variety of locations, including the airport.
When the search planes ran low on fuel, they returned to Puunene. Nervous National Guardsmen let go with their rifles. Those planes might be Japanese. The pilots made it down safely despite their planes being hit by numerous bullets. Another pilot flying a light observation plane set down near Lahaina.
In the plantation camps, Filipinos wondered about the fate of their homeland. At this point, they didn't know Dec. 7 also brought attacks on the U.S. forces stationed at Clark Field.
At first, there was no inordinate concern among Japanese plantation workers. They were all loyal to their new home, even though many had registered marriages and births with officials in Japan. Those notices were often written by Japanese language teachers.
The teachers would be the first to be rounded up, along with everyone who had regular contact with officials in Japan. Amateur radio operators were particularly suspect. In Makawao, a group of Portuguese would take title of a Japanese mission. The deal called for them to return the property when the fear of being confiscated was over.
Dec. 7, 1941, ended on Maui with residents literally and figuratively in the dark. Windows were covered and lights doused. That year, Christmas would be a quiet affair.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.