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'Iolani School Archives: WWII

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

WWII Subject Guide

World War II in ’Iolani School Archives


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 following are resources found in the ’Iolani School Archives related to life in the school during the WWII era.



  • Imua ’Iolani
    The student newspaper is an important record of the student voice and information about daily life in the school. Related articles range from 1940 through 1945 and 1952 through 1969. The Archives holds one edition for the 1941/42 school year, the year of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the October 17, 1941 edition. An article title example from 1942 is, "Do You Know Your Air Raid and Gas Alarm Instructions?"
  • Ka Moolelo O ’Iolani
    The school annual (yearbook) is a summary of each school year through the voice of the students themselves. Effects of war abroad can be seen in the 1939 edition with the addition of faculty position "Acting Headmaster" and in articles in the 1940 through 1947 editions. Nearly every page of the 1942 edition, the annual pertaining to the school year during which occurred the attack on Pearl Harbor, contains narratives, photos, and art work related to war effects. According to archival sources, permission was granted from the military Governor for the publication of this annual.
  • Scrapbooks Collection
    Adding to the richness of archival holdings are scrapbooks created by faculty members during their tenure at ’Iolani School. One scrapbook kept from 1937 to 1950 includes a photograph of a faculty member at a desk wearing a gas mask; this image was used in the 1942 Ka Moolelo O ’Iolani. Another kept from 1945 to 1946 includes a Matson wartime passenger notice.
  • Father Bray Collection
    A World War I veteran, Father Kenneth A. Bray, director of Athletics, also lent his clerical services locally during World War II. The archival holdings include Bray's military identification tag (dog tag), two portraits in uniform, circa 1941 to 1945, and his commemorative address given at Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1942.
  • ’Iolani School Bulletin
    Started in 1960, the magazine publishes news, accomplishments, and other stories about the school some of which have touched upon the topic of World War II. Of note is, "A Long-Awaited Graduation," the story of a special ceremony held in 1986 for those alumni whose education was interrupted by the war.



Other resources in the ’Iolani School Archives

  • Faculty/Staff/Administration Lists
    These staff lists show the profound effect of the attack on Pearl Harbor and efforts to recover during the following years. Relevant lists are school year 1941/42 through 1945/46; including a split list for "1941-42 (September to December 11, 1941)" and "1941-42 (January to June)."
  • Villers, Ernest G. A History of Iolani School, Section II: March 1940 to June 1959
    Faculty member Mr. Villers wrote a history of the beginnings of ’Iolani School as a master's thesis and, upon returning to the faculty after an absence, was asked by the Headmaster to continue his work. The result is a volume containing five relevant chapters, three through seven, covering the time period of 1941 through 1946.
  • Blueprint. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. War Emergency Construction, Hawaiian Department.
    Blueprint depicting the Ala Wai Campus grounds as it was utilized by the military during World War II, while leasing from ’Iolani School.



Related Online Collections

  • "Private Henry William Saaga," Understanding Sacrifice, American Battle Monuments Commission / Silent Heroes, National History Day
    The story of a brave 'Iolani student's war contribution. Also explore the rest of the site for other stories.
  • Hawaiian Church Chronicle
    Digitized through eVols at UH Manoa. See issues published during the war years and the September 1946 issue that includes an image of the first graduating class from ’Iolani School since U.S. involvement in World War II.
  • 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Education Center
    Photograph collections, letters, and more documenting the experience of the Japanese American battalion as they encountered war and prejudice. 
  • Digital Archives of Hawai'i [beta mode] | Hawai'i State Archives
    Search for:
    • MILITARY: U.S. Army -- Japanese & Americans -- WWII (call no. PP-55-3)
    • PEARL HARBOR: December 1941 (call no. PP-66-7)
    • HISTORICAL EVENTS: Restoration of Civilian Government- March 10, 1943 (call no. PP-36-12)
  • Densho: Preserving Stories of the Past for Generations of Tomorrow
    Oral histories and primary source documents regarding the Japanese American experience including the World War II mass incarceration.
  • National WWII Museum
    "The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn."
  • Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies
    "The Fortunoff Archive currently holds more than 4,400 testimonies, which are comprised of over 12,000 recorded hours of videotape. Testimonies were produced in cooperation with thirty-six affiliated projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Israel. The Fortunoff Archive and its affiliates recorded the testimonies of willing individuals with first-hand experience of the Nazi persecutions, including those who were in hiding, survivors, bystanders, resistants, and liberators. Testimonies were recorded in whatever language the witness preferred, and range in length from 30 minutes to over 40 hours (recorded over several sessions)."
  • Japanese American Internment Camp Collection
    "The internment of Japanese American's during World War II continues to be a painful memory for many of our citizens, but now the stories available in this collection make vivid the daily life of this exiled community and their extraordinary patriotism and sacrifice. This collaboration between the ASU Library Arizona Collection and the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records started in 2005 and we thank them for their assistance in compiling and digitizing over 5,000 pages of bi-lingual camp newsletters, which are now text searchable in monthly cumulations. The collection includes bilingual internment camp newsletters and photographs of the Rivers camps in Arizona."



Related Archival Collections Beyond ’Iolani




. . .

Subject guide compiled by Georgina Tom, Archivist, 2017; updated 2020.

National WWII Museum

video: 56:11

D-Day Resources (non-'Iolani)

Note: Materials contain graphic information and images.

World War II - Student Experience

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.

From WWII era student publications...

"Do you know your air raid and gas alarm instructions?"

"Bring your gas mask to school every day."


"We attained manhood on December seventh,
and have put away childish things."

'Iolani Alumni A WWII Fallen Hero

Henry Saaga (1926-1944) was one of many 'Iolani students who felt the call to service. The above video was recorded where his name now appears on the Tablets of the Missing, Normandy American Cemetery.
Video: 2 minutes 41 seconds

See more of Henry's story:

War-time Graduation Program


Martial Law in Hawai'i

Presented by the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

Internment a.k.a Relocation / Evacuation = Incarceration (non-'Iolani)

Hawai'i Internment - JCCH

Other, Internment

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - Virtual Exhibition

Visible Target Documentary (non-'Iolani)

Visible Target from Cristopher Anderson on Vimeo.
video: 27:56

The Holocaust (non-'Iolani)

Screen capture from Americans and the Holocaust.

More resources:

Teacher Resources

Making History Accessible

The American Soldier in World War II

A digital project launched in May 2018 commemorating Victory-in-Europe (V-E) Day with the goal of making a large collection of WWII records widely available.
Records include uncensored soldier commentaries about military service and wartime experiences which were collected by the US Army Research Branch during the war.

Joint venture:
Virginia Tech | National Archives | Social Science Research Council | University of Virginia.
Funded in part by: National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Project includes, Series:
Opinion Surveys Relating to the Morale of U.S. Army Personnel, 8/19/1947 - 10/15/1947
from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Record Group 165:
Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, 1860 - 1952

- - -

Update from the National Archives Catalog Newsletter- May 14, 2020:

“Over 65,000 pages of reflections on war and military service written by World War II soldiers in their own hands have been transcribed and annotated...

“Look for the next phase of the project in 2021, as they launch an open-access website with all these intimate, now-readable wartime documents. Learn more at:

For More Information

For more information, schedule an appointment to conduct your research. Please note the Archives' open hours.

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