The Niihau Incident

Nishikaichi's Zero on Niihau, photo from Beekman
Hawaiian islands, from SOEST

A Japanese Zero from the the aircraft carrier Hiryu was hit by a Curtiss P-36A during the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, and crash landed on the remote island of Niihau 130 miles northwest of Honolulu. The pilot, Shigenori Nishikaichi, was helpd out of his plane by native Hawaiian Howard Kaleohano, one of the residents of the island owned by the Robinson family. He was taken to Yoshio Harada, an American citizen whose parents were Japanese, who sympathized with the pilot and decided to help him. They were also helped, although reluctantly, by Japanese-born Ishimatsu Shintani. They stole a shotgun from the village and took a pistol and the machine guns and ammo from the downed Zero, but Ben Kanahele, a native Hawaiian sheep rancher, ordered them to give up the weapons. The pilot shot Kanahele three times, but the large Hawaiian known for his strength, grabbed the pilot and threw him against a wall, then slit his throat with a knife. Kanahele recovered from his wounds and in 1945 was awarded the Medal of Merit and the Purple Heart. The fact that the Japanese residents of Niihau had aided the pilot was noted in a January 1942 Navy report as evidence of the "likelihood that Japanese residents previously believed loyal to the United States may aid Japan." This helped justify Executive Order 9066 that was signed by FDR Feb. 19 starting the internment of Japanese-Americans in the United States.




WWII Timeline start | America Responds | revised 3/12/07 by Steven Schoenherr