The Accidental WWII Land Battle In Hawaii

“Remain among the clumps of grass and do not elevate yourself.” —Hawaiian proverb

In A Nutshell

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, one Japanese pilot had plane trouble heading back to base. He had to make a crash landing on Niihau, an island in Hawaii inhabited mostly by natives. Enlisting help from a few other Japanese citizens on the island, a pitched battle took place on and off over a week before the pilot and his helpers were defeated, ending the first land battle of World War II for the Americans.

The Whole Bushel

Shortly after bombing Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Japanese planes turned back to the aircraft carriers in the Pacific. One pilot, Shigenori Nishikaichi, had engine trouble and was forced to make an emergency landing. Pilots were told by their commanders that should the situation arise, they should try to land on the Hawaiian island of Niihau (which they thought was abandoned) and later be rescued by a Japanese submarine. However, when he was landing, he saw a little mistake in his commander’s briefing: The island had people. They were unaware that the island was dedicated to preserving Hawaiian language and culture, and that almost all non-Hawaiians were not allowed to visit.

Nishikaichi crash landed in a field, coming to a stop six meters (20 ft) away from Hawaiian Ben Kaleohano. Although he didn’t know about the attack, he and all other islanders were aware of the tensions between the US and Japan, so he decided to take the unconscious pilot’s pistol and papers. However, the islanders took him in, even throwing a party for him later that night, communicating with him through two Japanese who were married to Hawaiians on the island. After they found out about the attack however, the mood changed. He confessed what he knew about the attack, and the residents guarded him from then on. When the island’s caretaker couldn’t make it to the island on his weekly visit due to the attacks, they started to grow nervous. The Japanese-Hawaiians even offered them $200 to let the pilot go.

After about five days, one of the Japanese men and his wife decided to get the pilot back. They beat and locked up the guard, freed the pilot, and took a shotgun and pistol to Kaleohano’s house for the papers. Kaleohano saw them coming and ran to alert the villagers. A huge bonfire was set to signal the military and the island’s caretaker, and a canoe was taken to nearby Kauai. The pilot went to his plane, but failed to make contact with anyone. Finally, the battle started when the pilot and the two conspirators burned down Kaleohano’s house and took a man and his wife hostage. When the pilot was distracted, the man and wife, Ben and Ella Kanehele, jumped on the pilot. The conspirator managed to shoot Ben Kanahele three times, including once in the family jewels (yes, really), but he simply shrugged it off, picked up the pilot and threw him down. His wife hit the pilot with a rock and good ol’ Ben slit his throat. The Japanese conspirator, not wanting to mess with the man who was apparently impervious to getting shot below the belt, committed suicide.

Later that day, the Hawaiians in the Canoe were joined by the caretaker and the military, who promptly arrested the remaining conspirators. Ben Kanahele was sent to a hospital and later received numerous awards for taking out the pilot and serving in the first land battle of World War II.

Show Me The Proof

The Battle of Niihau
Modern History of Hawaii
The Turncoats on Niihau Island

  • Brp Goyo

    and serving in the first land battle of World War II.
    ^
    ^
    ^
    IN AMERICA. First land battle of World War II IN AMERICA. Fuck self-centeredness and fuck poor journalism

    • inconspicuous detective

      whatever.

      • Jimmy

        Don’t be a prick, that is actually a major mistake. This ignores the German invasion of France, Norway and the Low countries, as well as their invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia. Oh yeah, it also ignores Operation Barbossa and the War in North Africa. This was a good article but that was an obvious mistake and you acting like a twat doesn’t make it better.

        • inconspicuous detective

          it’s not a major mistake, it’s implied meaning. the majority of the site’s readership is american, so it should be clear as to who this article is directed (despite all being the general audience, there is no denying an american/western bias present in what is published). point being, you can figure it out, and that’s all that matters.

          • Brp Goyo

            Are you trying to say that Americans should only read America-centric articles?

          • inconspicuous detective

            i’m trying to say you should expect american centric articles from a site that receives a majority of it’s readership from the states. more or less stating a common sense observation.

          • Brp Goyo

            The American Centric shizz is getting in the way of proper fact-stating. Shall I expect that still?

          • inconspicuous detective

            no it isn’t, since this was technically the first land battle for us. even you were able to figure that out from the article, which speaks volumes about whether or not it retains its ability to state facts. merely stating that something is the first in a vague way doesn’t make it wrong; it doesn’t tell you how close to the truth it is though and leaves it open to interpretation.

          • Jimmy

            Saying it was “the first land battle of World War II” isn’t vague. Only a fool could misunderstand that statement. It was wrong and you are majorly wrong. Stop talking shit and accept it you self-important fuck. You are always commenting bullshit statements that add nothing. You’re a joke and not a funny one.

          • inconspicuous detective

            no, it’s not wrong and yes, you’re correct that only a fool could misunderstand it. goyo figured it out, why couldn’t you? moron, it’s clear as day what the author meant but you’ll rant here online to someone who not only can’t fix it, but will thoroughly make your idiocy obvious (as if you needed assistance.).

          • Jimmy

            I think you need a lesson in English. You are clearly mistaking the implicit meaning of the phrase, which by the way could only be understood by someone who actually knew the true course of World War II, and the explicit meaning which is wrong. This was not the first land battle of World War II and no matter how much you to try to claim that that wasn’t what he meant, that is what he said and what he said was wrong. Besides, I wasn’t criticising the article, I was criticising you. It’s as clear as day that you’re the one I have problem with, or did I not make that obvious enough?

    • Over the River

      Not America, not the USA. Hawaii did not become part of the United States until it became a state on August 21, 1959. On December 7, 1941 Hawaii was an organized incorporated territory (from 1898) until 1959.

  • kyros kyros

    Good that Japan is now an ally of America… are they?

    • inconspicuous detective

      yes, due to heavy western influence. after WWII, the nations involved in the war (with the exception of the soviet union) were aided by the US in order to thwart communist influence in the places that needed to rebuild. japan was one of those places, and we have maintained a very friendly relationship with them since.

      • wunskroolooz

        Not really. Just because there’s US presence in Okinawa doesn’t mean Americans will instantly be on Japan’s side in a conflict with China, for example. You’ve seen how the US couldn’t/didn’t stop China from acquiring 2 big aircraft carriers while Japan (which still abides with a constitution that prohibits them from assuming a warlike stance and which, incidentally was drafted with input from Douglas MacArthur) can only have a crummy helicopter carrier! America has a large chunk of business interests in China, which effectively precludes them from being a true ally to Japan. Money will always outweigh friendships.

        • inconspicuous detective

          the nation of japan is much more self sufficient and in need of a watchdog now than it was just after WWII. at that time, communism was one of the big fears of the western world and so the US kept their allies close and aided several nations in rebuilding to avoid them aligning with the soviet union. we are still considered close friends as our cultures reflect in some ways, but there is indeed a much larger degree of difference than before as japan rebuilt itself.

          • wunskroolooz

            Since the Soviet Union is no more, the US has no more use for Japan as a buffer state. It will now require so much more than cultural affinity to prove this so-called “friendship” between the two countries. Even the United States-Japan Security Treaty cannot guarantee that, as it can be unilaterally rescinded by either party at a moment’s notice. Japan needs a watchdog? I thought you said they were self-sufficient?

          • inconspicuous detective

            wanna tell me in what way i said they were self – sufficient? because i don’t recall mentioning how/what they’re capable of. the one thing they aren’t capable of (still) is making a formidable army, and we’ve been intertwined with their culture since the war ended. we bridge the gap in may ways. and yes, you can guarantee the friendship is there. can you *disprove* it? because the link between cultures demonstrates it.

  • inconspicuous detective

    what an interesting story. good article.

  • Hillyard

    Interesting, I’d never heard of this before.

  • Scott

    I went fishing off the coast of Niihau a couple years ago. The Yellow Fin were biting like crazy, which made me a huge fan of what they’re doing. Keeping the place quiet and exclusive keeps all the stupid fucking “progressives” out, who want nothing but to open strip malls and welfare offices.