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'Iolani School Archives: WWII & 'Iolani

The ‘Iolani School Archives collects, organizes, preserves and provides access to historical records of ‘Iolani School.


Above steps by the National Archives

Teaching with Primary Sources

*Also see the Teaching and Primary Sources box in the Links tab of this guide.

Important Questions in the Study of Primary Sources infographic

(Click to enlarge.)

Thanks for reviewing a draft of
"Important Questions" go to
Dr. Melissa Perkins,
'Iolani School History Faculty
2021 Hawai'i History Teacher of the Year

(Click to enlarge.)

                Content disclaimer

WWII & 'Iolani

Upper School Faculty!

Like many institutions, ’Iolani School was heavily affected by the December 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent United States entry into the Second World War. This supplemental, interactive experience will share the experiences of 'Iolani students and faculty thereby humanizing this major historical event. Students will exercise primary source and visual literacy by closely examining historical images and documents. They will use critical thinking skills and knowledge of current events to complete writing assignments which can be modified by faculty to be formal or informal. Students will also be exposed to other U.S. historical collections. The scope of this in-Archives experience is limited to the 'Iolani community and the Japanese American experience.
The following is primarily intended to complement your existing teaching units.


Grade: 9-12


Location: 'Iolani School Archives.


Time allotment: 54 minutes

  • Station and reflection instructions = 5 min
  • Introduction to topic = 5 min
  • 10 min stations x 4 = 40 min
  • 1 min transitions x 4 = 4 min



Each student must bring:

  • iPad (school issued)




  • The Archivist will give a summary of WWII materials held by the 'Iolani School Archives.
  • Students will be divided into four (4) groups.
  • Student groups will rotate through four (4) stations displaying the archival resources. Ten (10) minutes per station.
    NOTE: The stations may be experienced in any order (they are numbered below only for the purpose of ease of reference).
  • Students will individually complete a short writing reflection per station.



Introduction to WWII & 'Iolani:

Summary -
Like many institutions, ’Iolani School was heavily affected by the December 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent United States entry into the Second World War. The school, then located at Nu’uanu Avenue and Judd Street, was closed, military nurses took over space on campus, trenches were dug around the school, and parts of the campus were transformed into air raid shelters. In February 1942 when the school reopened it was without the high school department and about half the staff. Many of the staff and older students devoted themselves to the war effort or in support of their families. The rest of the high school students had to find other schools in which to finish their education; only a group of seniors remained to be tutored by a faculty member, Charles L. Riggin, and earn their diplomas. They held a graduation ceremony punctuated with patriotic symbolism and songs, but there were no more graduations for the duration of the war. The Fall Semester of 1942 saw the addition of ninth grade, and one grade each year thereafter until the high school department was restored.

The Henry Saaga Story (video, 00:02:41) -



Station 1 - Henry's Story:
Station includes images of Henry Saaga in the 'Iolani School yearbook.
Scan the QR code to read the rest of Henry's story:

---> Writing assignment - prompt:
Did you know that boys Henry's age, so close to your age, fought in WWII?
What was your immediate reaction to Henry's story; how did it make you feel?



Station 2 - Impact to Daily Student Life:
Station includes war-time student publications. The impact of war is seen through student voices:

The events of December 7, 1941 had a profound effect on the 'Iolani School community.
Video: 47 seconds
The narration is a reading of student work appearing in the 1942 yearbook, Ka Moolelo O Iolani.
Created by the 'Iolani School Archives using collection material.

"We attained manhood on December seventh, and have put away childish things."
"Do you know your air raid and gas alarm instructions?"
"Bring your gas mask to school every day."

---> Writing assignment - prompt:

  • What was the last thing you grabbed, or had to go back into your home for, this morning before leaving for school? Is that item of vital importance?
  • Reflect upon the degree to which you are aware of world current events, and if you think they impact you.



Station 3 - War-time Patriotism:
Station includes the school's faculty lists both from before and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; a list of students in the Hawaii Territorial Guard; comments from the Headmaster who has been pulled away to military service ("We're in the Army Now"); and, the 1942 Graduation program.

---> Writing assignment - prompt:
In 1942 Hawai'i is a U.S. Territory (becomes a state in 1959).
Comment on the use of patriotic songs as reflected by the 1942 Graduation program.


Station 4 - Japanese American War-time Experience:

The tragedy of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan lead to more tragedy in the form of explicit racism. Residents of Japanese ancestry who were experiencing the same shock, horror and loss as everyone else on the islands were also subjected to racist American government policies.

According to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, "... as Japan increasingly became a military threat, suspicions toward people of Japanese ancestry began to escalate in the United States... The Hawaiian Islands were long regarded as a key military outpost... the government has secretly drafted preemptive lists to allow authorities to make quick arrests of hundreds of local Japanese in the event of war with Japan" (

Station includes National Parks Service maps as they appear on the JCCH site Internment Camps in Hawai'i (‘i).


---> Writing assignment - prompt:

  • Before today/this course, did you know there existed internment camps in Hawai'i? How does this make you reflect upon Hawai'i as a safe space?
  • Does this instance of cause (bombing) and effect (explicit racism) remind you of any modern/current events? How?
  • Review Executive Order 9066; are there any excerpts in particular that stand-out to you? Why?

World War II on DocsTeach & National Archives Catalog

WWII 'Iolani Archives Holdings & Subject Guide

Related Historical Resources