Devastating Tsunami, 1946.

Kai Hoee

When the tsunami [kai hoee] hit, it reached all the large islands of this archipelago. It hit Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and Hawaii. But the island of Hawaii received the heaviest damages. The tsunami caused damages and took lives on the other islands, but the most severe was on Hawaii Island.

But from the death reports, of all the ethnicities, the Japanese made up most of deaths. On Hawaii Island, there were maybe four of five Hawaiians that died. On Kauai Island, there were many Hawaiians that died, and so too on Oahu and Maui.

A report from West Hawaii said the tsunami reached there as well. Hookena was reached by the tsunami but it probably lives nor houses were damaged. From what witnesses say, the ocean reached the level of the pier of Hookena, but it did not damage buildings.

That morning, the fishing fleets left in the dim light and did not know about the tsunami. The tsunami hit at perhaps 7 o’clock, according to some people. When the fishing boats were returning, the water was somewhat receding [omikimiki]. But they reached the shore safely.

Some thought at first that this was a tsunami like the ones before, that is was just a lowering of the tide, but not at all; the ocean was like what the people of old called “no mulch remains, and there are no leaves to plant” [pau pulu aohe lau kanu]. This is perhaps like the story in the Great Book, that is the Great Flood [Ke Kai o Kahinalii].

A little while ago with the war, we on Hawaii Island did not see nor carry the burden of the bombings like Oahu. We were happy for being saved. But with this, with no warning, from the heavens or the earth, many houses toppled and many lives were loss.



After the tsunami rose here in Hilo Bay, and the steamship Humuula entered with its load, the captain did not consider the depth of the harbor he was entering, and he soon realized that the harbor was shallow. According to him, before the depth was thirty or more feet but at this time it was 20 or more feet.

It seems as if the large rocks of the Breakwater were taken and strewn in a heap near the path that the ships take to enter. According to the report given, about 85 percent of the breakwater was damaged by the tsunami. The wharf houses of Hilo were toppled over and from what was reported, the damages are estimated at about a million.

The people sent to access the damage said that the damaged areas need to be taken care of soon. The big question in the future perhaps will be that of laborers. We currently are faced with a lack of laborers and that combined with the tremendous devastation is the problem.



It was not just Hilo Town that was damaged by the tsunami, but it extended way out and reached Kohala. One of the places swept away by the tsunami was the mill of Hakalau. That mill is under the cliff of Hakalau and very near the sea. There is nothing of the mill that remains. The damages reach around $375.000.

One of the places devastated was Pololu. The home of a Hawaiian was damaged. Being that the place is only sand, the sand was taken all the way the valley. Places in Kohala were hit, like Keokea. It was swept away by the sea. Punaluu and Honuapo also were hit by the kai hoee.

According to what was reported, about 71 people have died. Those are the people whose bodies have been found; all the bodies have not been found. The cleanup continues, and the remaining people are being searched for. With the thought that some might be trapped under house that was toppled over or taken by the ocean and taken into the forests. From here forth, everything will be reported once more.



One of those killed in the kai hoee was Fred Naylor, one of the local haole of Hilo nei who was 86 years old. He died proudly for saving a young girl.

From what was told about him, when the first wave was rising, he was sitting in the train depot in here in Hilo. He left there and ran to where Hilo Drug stood. When he approached the drug store, he saw a young girl and he pulled her and shoved her into the drug store.

When that girl was in the drugstore, the door was shut, and that was when the wave rose again and Fred Naylor was smashed into the wall and lost his life.

He sacrificed his own life for the young girl. He died however with honor, for he saved the life of one of his fellow men.



The black sand of Kaimu was swept away by the tsunami and was taken elsewhere. A witness reported the tsunami wave rose and pounded the sand dunes of Kaimu and spread out the dunes and the sand was taken away.

The small ponds near Kalapana Park were filled. Some houses standing at the beach of Kalapana were swept away, and the foundations where they stood are not seen. The few groups of houses that stand to the inland side of the government road at Kalapana were not taken by the sea.

There were no lives lost there, but the people there are looking for a new place to build their homes.

The home of Shipman [Kipimana] at Keaau was not damaged. However, four residences of four of his workers were taken by the sea, but there were no injuries. These are not just small difficulties, but very great ones.

[Do you and your friends and family have a plan when this happens next? Make a plan even if your don’t live in a tsunami zone. How will you know each other are safe? Who is your family’s contact person outside of your island? Who is your family’s contact person outside of Hawaii?]

(Hoku o Hawaii, 4/10/1946, p. 1)


Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Volume XL, Number 44, Aoao 1. Aperila 10, 1946.

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