How to Hide an Island: The Architecture of World War II Martial Law in O‘ahu
World War II martial law in Hawai‘i was the longest institutionalization of martial law in US history. This emergency power gave the US military unfettered access immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 until October 27, 1944.1 Under martial law, O‘ahu’s landscape was dramatically altered. Following landscape architects and critical geographers, namely Sonja Dümpelmann,2 Trevor Paglen,3 Pierre Bélanger and Alexander Arroyo,4 and Shiloh Krupar,5 I study these distinct landscapes using a critical military and infrastructure studies perspective combined with an environmental history and legal geography mode of analysis. I show how World War II in Hawai‘i spurred a large-scale U.S. military modification of O‘ahu lands, waters, and coastal areas, that was part-and-parcel of much longer prior occupation and empire building project in the Pacific.
In particular, I consider the wartime transformation of Waikīkī’, Honolulu city center, and Honouliuli Prisoner of War Camp in three disparate areas of the island of O’ahu at surface and subsurface levels. I argue that both the urban and rural fabric of the islands were temporarily altered by the construction of temporary air shelters, trenches, batteries and military training areas. I show how barbed wire, camouf|age netting, paint, plantation landscapes and landform were tools used to disguise, conceal and fortify coastlines, major landmarks, military equipment, internment camps, and army simulation training areas. I reveal how civilian labour, African American military labour and prisoner-of-war labour were actively marshalled across the islands of O’ahu to secure priority areas. I use archival methods and employ photography as an embodied practice to reveal traces of these disguised and concealed spaces in present-day urban centers and plantation landscapes of O’ahu.
Keywords: World War II, Martial Law in Hawai’i, camouflaged landscapes, prisoner of war camp
1 During these years, the U.S. military’s Office of Military Governance (OMG) issued over 200 General Orders. Hawai’i’s citizens were subject to strict military rule, with tribunals substituting for courts, imposed mandatory curfews, censorship, and food and gasoline rationing. In addition, blackouts, freezing of wages, restrictions on travel, mass fingerprinting, and the temporary suspension, closing or even military takeover of schools. Identity badges were instituted for certain ethnic groups. Harry N. Scheiber and Jane L. Scheiber, Bayonets in Paradise: Martial Law in Hawai’I during World War II, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016) and Suzanne Falgout and Linda Nishigaya, Breaking the Silence: Lessons of Democracy and Social Justice from the World War II Honouliuli Internment and POW Camp in Hawai‘I, (Hawai‘i: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014).
2Sonja Dümpelmann, “The Art and Science of Invisible Landscapes: Camouf|age for War and Peace,” inGary Boyd and Denis Linehan editors, Ordnance: War + Architecture and Space, (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013).
3Trevor Paglen and Rebecca Solnitt, Invisible; Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes, (Aperture, 2010).
4 Pierre Bélanger and Alexander Arroyo, Ecologies of Power: Counter-mapping the Logistical Landscapes and Military Geographies of the U.S. Department of Defense, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016).
5 Shiloh Krupar, Hot Spotter’s Report: Military Fables of Toxic Waste, (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).
DESIRÉE VALADARES is a practicing landscape architect and interdisciplinary writer with a focus on critical ethnic studies, legal geography and environmental history. She is interested in preservation laws (US) and heritage conservation laws (Canada) as they converge with redress, reconciliation and recognition politics in the Hawaiian archipelago, in the Pribilof Islands chain and Southeast Alaska, and in interior British Columbia. Currently, Desirée is a sixth year PhD candidate at UC Berkeley in Architectural History.