Inclusion: How Hawai‘i Protected Japanese Americans from Mass Internment, Transformed Itself, and Changed America

Hardback: $80.00
ISBN-13: 9780824888541
Published: October 2021
Paperback: $24.99
ISBN-13: 9780824888558
Published: October 2021

Additional Information

384 pages | 22 b&w illustrations


  • Winner of the Kenneth W. Baldridge Prize (best history book by Hawaii resident), 2023
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  • About the Book
  • Following December 7, 1941, the United States government interned 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry evicted from scattered settlements throughout the West Coast states, yet why was a much larger number concentrated in the Hawaiian Islands war zone not similarly incarcerated?

    At the root of the story is an inclusive community that worked from the ground up to protect an embattled segment of its population. While the onset of World War II surprised the American public, war with Japan arrived in Hawai‘i in slow motion. Responding to numerous signs of impending conflict, the Council for Interracial Unity mapped two goals: minimize internment and maximize inclusion in the war effort. The council’s aspirational work was expressed in a widely repeated saying: “How we get along during the war will determine how we get along when the war is over.” The Army Command of Hawai‘i, reassured by firsthand acquaintances, came to believe that “trust breeds trust.”

    Where most histories have shielded President Franklin D. Roosevelt from direct responsibility for the U.S. mainland internment, his relentless demands for a mass removal from Hawai‘i—ultimately thwarted—reveal him as author and actor. In making sense of the disparity between Island and mainland, Inclusion unravels the deep history of the U.S. “sabotage psychosis,” dissecting why many continental Americans still believe Japan succeeded at Pearl Harbor because of the unseen hand of Japanese saboteurs. Contrary to the explanation of hysteria as the cause of the internment, Inclusion documents how a high-level plan of mass removal actually was pitched to Hawai‘i prior to December 7, only to be rejected.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Tom Coffman, Author

      Tom Coffman is a political reporter and author of six books, including Nation Within and Catch a Wave. His widely aired documentaries include First Battle, Arirang, and Ninoy Aquino and the Rise of People Power. He is a three-time recipient of the Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association’s award for nonfiction, and for his cumulative work he received the Hawai‘i Award for Literature.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Inclusion is of singular worldwide public and academic importance. It lifts up Hawai‘i’s interethnic history to show how small groups with a common goal and working cooperatively can result in wondrous social change.
      —Tetsuden Kashima, author of Judgment without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II and Buddhism in America: The Social Organization of an Ethnic Religious Institution
    • Tom Coffman has broken new ground on the tragic history of Japanese American internment. Now we know the Hawai‘i chapter is a crucial part of the story—and Coffman tells it with authority and verve.
      —Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, CUNY Graduate Center
    • Tom Coffman has produced a definitive account of Americans of Japanese ancestry in Hawai‘i during World War II. His book shows how local Japanese figures such as Shigeo Yoshida joined forces with a diverse group of allies, both inside and outside official circles, to mobilize Japanese communities in support of the war and the public in support of Japanese communities. They averted the tragedy of mass confinement, such as that on the US mainland, and their success made Hawai‘i a model for inclusion of ethnic Japanese in mainstream society. Packed with fascinating details, Tom Coffman’s work enlarges our understanding of this key era in American history.
      —Greg Robinson, Université du Québec à Montréal
    • Brilliant and meticulous, Tom Coffman reveals the people and forces that spared territorial Hawai‘i’s Japanese populace from mass removal after Pearl Harbor and enabled its sons to serve America gallantly in World War II. The heroes of this true story—Ching, Yoshida, Burns, Shivers, and many more—were inspired by an idealism and aloha that the world can learn from today. Based on groundbreaking research, Coffman’s compelling account gives them recognition that they richly deserve.
      —Mark Matsunaga, Hawai‘i journalist and World War II historian
    • Inclusion will reframe our understanding of World War II in significant ways. It is unlikely that a work of this breadth and magnitude will come around again anytime soon, especially as many of the historical actors interviewed by the author have already passed away. I know of no other that attempts to treat as many separate threads of historiography in a single account. This is not strictly military or cultural history, but a careful blend of a multitude of viewpoints—including a chapter on contemporaneous sociological accounts.
      —Corey M. Johnson, research associate, Stanford University and affiliate faculty, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
    • [Inclusion] is a fascinating study of the Council for Interracial Unity, a now largely forgotten race relations group located in the then-Territory of Hawai‘i in the years surrounding World War II, and especially two of its outstanding members, the Chinese American social worker Hung Wai Ching and the Japanese American school principal Shigeo Yoshida. . . . Coffman is a dedicated researcher and skilled narrator who mixes biography and larger analysis gracefully. . . . The book has a real contribution to make to our knowledge of (Japanese) American history and the special set of forces in Hawai‘i that preserved its interracial harmony through the depths of war.
      —Greg Robinson, Nichi Bei Weekly
    • Tom Coffman, a political journalist and leading historian of modern Hawaii, shines new light on this crucial period [before and during WWII] in his engaging book. . . . Coffman focuses heavily on three men — social activist Hung Wai Ching, schoolteacher Shigeo Yoshida and attorney Charles Hemenway — who saw by the late 1930s that war with Japan was inevitable. . . . The details of this period are so little known that Coffman [is] able to deftly create suspense in the storytelling even though the outcome is known.
      —David Shapiro, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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