The Ni’ihau Incident
Image: Wikimedia Commons

You don’t hear much about the smallest Hawaiian island, Ni’ihau — it’s been privately owned since 1864, and it’s inhabited almost entirely by native Hawaiians.

So everyone was largely unprepared when a Japanese fighter plane crashed on the island on Dec. 7, 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

What followed would make a gripping screenplay. The natives took the pilot’s pistol and papers, and then endured a week’s terror as he roamed the island trying to retrieve them. Ni’ihau had no electricity or telephones, so the desperate natives tried signalling Kauai with lanterns and a bonfire and finally sent a party to row the laborious 10 hours for help. By the time they returned, their friends had killed the pilot in a climactic battle.

The pilot’s Japanese hometown has erected a stone column in his honor. It claims that he died in battle, and says “his meritorious deed will live forever.”