Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Georgia and Japan.
While Judd mused on the local reaction to the trial, his island was about to be assaulted from another direction. A manic Adm. Stirling was firing off an incendiary report to Washington.
“Hawai‘i is not safe for white women. Hundreds of rapes remain unsolved by an inept police force. Recommend you cancel Pacific Fleet’s annual visit to Hawai‘i.”
If that wasn’t enough of an attention-grabber, he concluded, “The civilian government is incapable of providing the basics of public safety. The police are corrupt. The governor is weak. In a few years, the non-whites will have a majority and vote in their own kind, resulting in a complete breakdown of civilized society. Hawai‘i must be placed under Navy rule until such time as public order and political maturity can be assured.”
Although Stirling labeled the report “SECRET,” he made sure someone on his staff leaked his invective to a New York Times reporter.
* * *
Judd hated the rat-a-tat-tat staccato of the teleprinter. Even with his door closed, the machine adjacent to his secretary’s desk clacked away with incoming messages at 60 noisy words a minute. Most communications were mercifully short reports from Hawai‘i’s territorial delegate in Washington. But today, the day after the trial, the clacking was insistent. While the machine continued to bang away, his secretary ran in with the first page off the machine. “You’d better read this,” she said, her face ashen. “It’s from the New York Times.”
This is war, thought Judd halfway down the page. His mind swirled as he finished reading the admiral’s hatchet job on his governance. It’s not enough that Stirling’s blind belief in Massie’s story is fracturing the harmony of our island, but now he is determined to discredit us before the world. His Southern heritage, nurtured by those who take the law into their own hands when a colored is accused of violating a white woman, has led his raging temper to dream up a complete fabrication of civil breakdown and label it a report that demands, in so many words, that only his appointment as military ruler can save Hawai‘i from savagery. The nerve! This cannot stand, Judd told himself. Stirling! He says I’m weak. Well, let’s see how I can correct that bigot’s impression. Let’s see how he handles the truth.
The Times reporter said he had 30 minutes to offer a rebuttal. “Call this reporter,” Judd told his secretary. Judd’s calm-under-fire intuition told him that a direct attack on the admiral’s character and mental fitness would only incite a war of words that would sell more newspapers. So, in a reasoned voice belying his outrage at the admiral, Judd assured the reporter that a hung jury merely meant that “American justice was running its course and the Islands were as safe as ever. When have you ever heard of crime in Hawai‘i before this single alleged incident?”
When he put the phone down, he looked at yesterday’s newspaper extras and today’s editions strewn across his desk. He reached for the Hawaii Hochi four-page edition and once again studied Taka’s column.
* * *
Andy Pafko loved the teleprinter. It meant hot news. An hour after Judd talked to the Times reporter, Pafko was standing at the Advertiser’s teleprinter reading the front page New York Times story. “Hawai‘i Unsafe. Outrage Boils Over. A sweet society girl has been ravaged. Worse, Hawai‘i, an AMERICAN territory, refused to convict the perpetrators.” The Times printed the so-called “secret report” in its entirety.
“Has the man gone mad?” Pafko mumbled to himself as he read the Stirling report a second time. Military rule. Breakdown of civil order. He strolled over to the coffee pot, poured the thick dregs into his mug and added two heaping teaspoons of sugar. He imagined reporters from every major newspaper in America gathering around their teleprinter right now. He saw the many versions of “Hawai‘i unsafe” screaming across mastheads in the ensuing hours. A twinge of guilt wormed its way up his gut as he realized half of the report could have been lifted from his own articles. But he had not meant to instigate the collapse of Hawai‘i’s tourist trade or a military takeover of the Islands.
What remained of Pafko’s conscience demanded that he defend Hawai‘i and lambast the Navy. But if he did, it would kill his favored position with the Navy brass. But not to respond . . . He let the thought simmer. Pafko hated making either/or choices. He sipped his coffee and glanced around the Advertiser’s city room. With an inner flash of insight, he meandered over to his desk and stuck a fresh sheet of paper into his typewriter. Someday Stirling would be replaced, but Dillingham and the Big Five would continue in power.
Pafko hedged his bets. His feature article referred to the expected stateside hysteria over exaggerated reports of the breakdown of Hawai‘i’s civil order and then warned of Navy designs on Hawai‘i. He closed with, “Now is the time to show the world that Hawai‘i is a territory of laws. We did not ask for America’s spotlight. But it shines brightly on us. We have only one sure course to move ahead: A quick and speedy trial and a conviction of these brutal assailants to prove we can govern ourselves.”
* * *
As soon as he entered the Hochi office that evening, Taka saw Makino waving him over. The editor handed him an envelope. “This came for you . . . from the governor’s office.”
Taka curiously opened the envelope. His face registered another surprise as he pulled out a neatly cut out page of the Hochi. It was his last column topped with a handwritten note. “Well presented. Keep up the good work. Lawrence Judd.” Taka showed it to Makino.
“Our governor is fed up with Navy interference,” Makino said.
“Can I use this somehow?” asked Taka.
Makino shook his head. “No, but keep it. Years from now, if you write a book on this mess, that would be the time.” Makino paused, smiling like the Cheshire cat. “There’s more. The governor’s aide called. He would be happy to see that you got access to all police records regarding rape since Hawai‘i’s independence.”
It took a few seconds for Taka to register the offer. “Why me?” was the first thought that came to his mind. What came out of his mouth instead was “When?”
Makino tapped his watch and handed him a scrap of paper with a telephone number.
“Right,” said Taka. “Now.”
Taka returned to the Hochi office at midnight, waving a sheaf of notes. “You won’t believe this.”
“You have an hour to write a column that Hawai‘i and America will believe. We are holding the presses.”
At 11 minutes past 1 a.m., Taka delivered his “Truth and Fabrication” column to Makino. He read it, scribbled a few red edits and then called in his typesetter.
* * *
The next morning, Judd knew he had made the right decision when he read Taka’s column.
In Hawai‘i’s thirty-five years of self-governance, until Thalia Massie, no white woman has ever reported a rape by a man of another race. In fact, just the opposite is the stunning truth: Almost all reported interracial rapes were perpetrated by naval personnel on “native women.” Having fabricated a nonexistent threat against white women and claiming civil disorder, Admiral Stirling proposes a preposterous solution: Make himself the administrator of our territory. While he recommends only that the president put the military in charge, the implication is clear. The last thing Hawai‘i needs is a racist ruling our multi-racial community.
Then Taka proceeded to summarize his findings, reviewing decades of police sexual assault records that discredited Stirling’s allegations. He finished his column like a lawyer concluding his admonition to a jury.
“The number of rapes cited by the admiral was a fabrication.”
To be continued . . .