From its initial outbreak in Europe during 1914, World War I raged across the globe until 1918. The U.S. entered “The Great War” in 1917, with the U.S. Territory of Hawaii contributing more than 9,800 volunteers for service.

The Hawaii World War One Centennial Task Force ( has been organized to honor this first global conflict and Hawaii’s contributions.

While special events have taken place throughout 2018, Hawaii’s most significant will be held on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, at the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial ( Opening on the shore west of Kapiolani Park in 1927, the memorial was dedicated to “the men and women who served during the great war.”

This historic landmark is the only monument in Hawaii selected by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission as one of 100 memorials nationwide to be designated as a “WWI Centennial Memorial.” To that honor, Arthur Tulak, chairman of Hawaii’s World War I Centennial Task Force, notes, “We’re very pleased to be among the first sites selected by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission as part of the 100 Cities/100 Memorials program.”

Here is the retired colonel’s account on Hawaii’s Naval contribution to the war effort.

Centennial of the Hawaii Naval Militia
by COL, Ret. Arthur N. Tulak
Chairman, Hawaii World War One Centennial Task Force

As the United States continues to commemorate the Centennial of World War One, we look back a century ago to a moment in history when the United States was a declared neutral as war waged in the European and Pacific Theaters. Although neutral, the U.S. prudently improved its defense capabilities. Along with the rest of the nation, the Territory of Hawaii took steps to ensure preparedness for war, if it came. During this time, Hawaii stood up its own Naval force, the Hawaii Naval Militia, under the Command of the Territorial Adjutant General as a Territorial military force alongside the National Guard of Hawaii.

The Act to provide a Naval Militia for the Territory of Hawaii was approved by Governor Lucius E. Pinkman on April 23, 1915, and recruiting commenced in November of that same year. The Hawaii Naval Militia made its first public appearance on Memorial Day, May 30, 1916. At that time, it numbered 100 enlisted and eight officers. Its initial headquarters was in the Queen’s Bungalow on the Palace grounds, with hopes for relocating the Militia to Naval Station at Pearl Harbor. Rear Admiral Clifford J. Boush, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, had expressed his support for the move. In September 1916, Hawaii’s Naval Militia was preparing for its first practice cruise aboard the Navy’s first class cruiser, USS Saint Louis (C-20).

The U.S. Navy provided assistance in training the Naval Militia to achieve proficiency for serving as a reserve for the Navy in time of need. The U.S. Navy appointed Lieutenant Commander Victor S. Houston, a line officer and one of Hawaii’s Annapolis graduates, to serve as Inspector-Instructor of the Hawaii Naval Militia. LCDR Houston, who in later years would be Hawaii’s delegate to the U.S. Congress, was then the Commanding Officer of the USS St. Louis. He was seconded by the Navy to the Militia. In this capacity, LCDR Houston was authorized to detail officers already under his command on the USS St. Louis to assist him in this task.
September 14, 1916 saw the first cruise of the Hawaii Territorial Naval Militia. Under the Command of Ensign W. H. Stroud Hawaii Naval Militia, 7 Officers and 76 Sailors of the Naval Militia embarked on the USS St. Louis that day to train under the instruction of its Captain, LCDR Houston.

The concept for the cruise was to consider the Naval Militiamen as an addition to the ship’s complement, and to train them in emergency and battle drills. In fact, the Hawaii Naval Militiamen’s training included Fire Drills, Battery Drills, Infantry Drills, Collision Drills, Abandon Ship Drills, General Quarters, Fire and Rescue Parties, Man Overboard and inspection. The cruise included port calls at Waimea on Kauai, Lahaina on Maui, and Kealakekua Bay and Hilo on Hawaii Island. After sailing 886 nautical miles, the USS St. Louis returned to Honolulu on September 26, 1916.

Brigadier General Samuel I. Johnson, who served simultaneously as Commanding General of the 1st Hawaiian Brigade, and Hawaii Adjutant General, accompanied the “citizen sailors” on the cruise. Of their performance, he wrote:

“The men did their work with a will and showed great adaptability under conditions that were totally new to them. The officers and petty officer took hold splendidly, and in a remarkably short time, the Naval Militiamen had fitted into their allotted places…I see a great future in store for the Naval Militia of Hawaii.”

In his official report to the Department of the Navy, USS St. Louis’ Executive Officer, Lieut. R. L. Stover commended the detachment for its progress in training and recommended 12 Naval Militiamen for promotion.

The growing importance of State and Territorial Naval Militias was front page news in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on February 14, 1917, which reported on the plans for the Hawaii Naval Militia to undertake a combined cruise with the Naval Militias of California, Oregon and Washington.

When the United States declared war on the Central Powers, the Hawaii Naval Militia was almost immediately called into service. Nearly half (7 officers and 43 enlisted) were brought into the Navy on active duty. These men were assigned to serve aboard the USS St. Louis, which departed Honolulu just 72 hours after the Congressional Declaration of War. The Hawaii Naval Militia Officers and Sailors served on the St. Louis for the duration of the War, except for LCDR S. W. Tay, who was given command of his own ship in the Mediterranean.

The story of the Hawaii Naval Militia is exemplary of the lost military history of Hawaii during the Great War. To ensure the preservation of Hawaii’s military history, and to honor the 9,800 who served, Governor David Ige stood up the Hawaii World War One Centennial Task Force (HI WWI CTF) to plan the commemoration of Hawaii’s experience during WWI. The mission of the HI WWI CTF is to “Honor and remember Hawaii’s military veterans who served during the Great War, to educate Hawaii on our local contributions to the War effort and to help facilitate grass-roots Centennial commemorations.”

There are many intriguing stories of service, sacrifice, patriotism and duty that must be uncovered and preserved for future generations–an activity we can all support.
For more information on Hawaii’s World War One Centennial Commemoration and how you can participate, visit
Hawaii World War One Centennial Task Force

Although more Americans gave their lives during “The Great War” than during the Korea and Vietnam conflicts combined, World War I remains America’s forgotten war. “
The Hawaii World War One Centennial Task Force is composed entirely of volunteers from Hawaii’s military veteran, academic, professional and civic organizations–including the Hawaii National Guard, Veterans Affairs and four veteran organizations.

The task force seeks to partner with the local community in planning and conducting grassroots commemorations for the remainder of the official commemoration period which ends on June 28, 2019, marking the Treaty of Versailles, which secured the peace. Over the course of the commemoration the task force has worked with many communities, to include: The U.S. Armed Forces, Hawaii’s professional and trade communities, Universities and Schools, Civic and Relief Organizations and City Governments.

Commemoration partners are the key to bringing Hawaii’s World War One Commemoration to the people at the grass-roots level. If your organization wishes to commemorate the centennial of a WWI event of importance to Hawaii, contact the Hawaii World War One Centennial Task Force via