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Hawaii Prepares For War

This exhibit commemorates the unsung military service of nearly 4,000 sakadas (Filipino plantation workers) in the Hawaii National Guard, Hawaii Naval Militia, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy from 1915-1919. Although World War I started in Europe on August 28, 1914, the United States and its territories began to mobilize for a Pacific war because warring European nations held territories and commercial interests throughout the Pacific. Territorial Governor Lucius Pinkham and Hawaii Sugar planters were also concerned the United States military would be unable to protect Hawaii, and they insisted on developing a strong militia to protect their interests.

Filipinos were recruited for service due to their “vague” legal status: while Filipinos did not automatically become American citizens when the United Stated acquired the Philippines from Spain in 1898, neither were they aliens. As inhabitants of an insular possession of the United States, they were "nationals" and owed their allegiance to the United States, even holding American passports when travelling to other countries.

By June 30, 1916, Filipinos represented only 8% of Hawaii's total population, yet they comprised 52% of the Hawaii National Guard. The disproportionate enlistment of Filipinos became an important issue in 1916 because of National Defense Law required all guardsmen to be or intend to become American citizens. To comply with the regulations, some Filipinos took out their first papers and were encouraged by U.S. District Court Judge Charles Frederick Clemon’s ruling on March 25, 1916, in the case of Marcos Solis, that there were no constitutional barriers to Filipinos becoming U.S. citizens.

On April 6, 1917, the United State declared war with Germany and the U.S. War Department ordered the Hawaii National Guard to recruit to war strength of 9,000 men within a year. Meeting the War Department requirement required the recruitment of Filipinos as the potential pool of 28,000 males between 18-45 years old included many Japanese aliens who were ineligible for enlistment.

Filipinos in the Hawaii National Guard

Filipinos Encounter Racism

Promises Made, Promises Broken

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