Hawaii’s GI Janes

Author: Dorothea Buckingham
Hawaii Reporter, 03/16/2009
Puka Puka Parades, May 2009, 4/2009

When we think of our “local boys” going off to World War II, the first instinct is to think of the 442nd Infantry, 100th Battalion, although many local men served in different units. However, the fact that local women served in the military is rarely acknowledged. But there were many who did. Women living in Hawaii were not recruited into the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) until 1944. If any local woman wanted to join the military, she first had to go to the mainland.

On October 3, 1944, the first day of recruiting, the Honolulu Advertiser published an article covering the enthusiastic response of local women. It began: “More than 50 Island girls with ambitions to trade the hibiscus in their hair for khaki-colored WAC hats kept a staff of male recruiters busy at the Armory yesterday as the Women’s Army Corps opened its first enlistment campaign in the Territory.”

Most of the women who volunteered were in their early twenties, but there were a few in their late thirties. (At the time the age limit to join the WAC was 40.) In fact the recruiting officials hoped more older women would enlist. It was their assumption that these women (all single) would have business or technical skills that could be well-used in the army.

The first group to be inducted took their oath in the Office of Internal Security at Iolani Palace. Lt Gen R.C. Richardson, Jr., Commanding Officer of the US Army Forces in the Pacific administered the oath. There were six women—representing five different racial groups. The women were: Marian H. Rapoza, Haruko Elaine Oda, Unoyo Kojima, Frances Alsebrook, (also listed as Alsobrook) Bernalda N. Pargosos, and Hannah Mokihana Kawaihau.

The women were ordered to report to the Commanding Officer Casual WAC Detachment, Territorial Guard Armory, South Hotel and Miller Sts., Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii by 1100, 27 December 1944.