The Hilo Massacre of 1938

Gabriel Manning is no longer with us… however, his son Darrel is posting memories of Gabriel and I will be  posting some of his words on my blog  this week and beyond:

gabriel manning

The Hilo Massacre of August 1, 1938

By Gabriel Manning (no longer with us today)

The Hilo Massacre of August 1st, 1938 is another history in my life that I cannot forget.

On August 1st, 1938, I was working for Ruddle Sale & Service Co. It was a company that sold all Ford cars and trucks. They also was [were] selling Kelenva [Kelvinator] refrigerators. I just join[ed] the Garage Association Union. I was a member for only three days before the massacre at Pier #2.

In the morning of August 1st, 1938, we were told by our president George Cabral, that all the unions in Hilo was [were] going down to Pier #2 to support the Boatsman Union who was [were] on strike in Honolulu. We were told to take all our tools and pocket knives out of our pockets. Be sure we have nothing in our pockets except our keys and coins. This was to be a peaceful demonstration.

We were to all park our cars at Reed’s Bay and we were to walk on the railroad tracks at Reed’s Bay to go to the wharf. We were all to meet at the store on the corner of Kalanianaole and Silva St. We all did what we were told. We lined up with all of the officers of all the unions. The officers were up front. We all started to walk to the dock peacefully, with the Hilo Longshore Union up front. When we was just passing the fertilizer co. office, Peter Pakele, Sheriff Charley Martin came forward and Sheriff Martin called out to the line: “Stop in the name of the law!”

During that time the police was controlled by big business and the Chamber of Commerce. Harry Kamoku and his longshoreman were at the head of the line. They just ignored Charley Martin and kept on marching. The fire department sprayed us with water and the police threw tear gas at us. We kept on marching towards Pier 2. I was walking with Hollis Lyman who worked for HT&T Co. As we [were] walking, a police officer, Kuroyama, threw a tear gas canister towards us, Hollis caught the canister and threw it back to the police officer. He did not catch it, he just took off. It was so funny to see the police officer run.

The whole line walked towards Pier 2. The leaders told us to all line up facing the front of Pier 2.

I was happy the fire department sprayed us with salt water. We gathered water from the road and washed our faces. The tear gas was choking us.

Most of the longshoremen were at the beginning of the line – they were close to where the oil tanker use[d to] unload their oil. In fact, they still do. They were all sitting down on the pavement. The whole line was sitting or standing. I was close to the SS Hualalai. Hollis Lyman and myself and two more guys were sitting on the fire engine main hose that was in the harbor to spray us. In case the firemen were going to spray us, we would pull the main hose out of the bay so they would not have any water. There were about 3 police officer[s] close to us. One of them was Walter Victor. Walter Victor had a Tommy gun and he held it ready to be used. I knew Walter Victor very well. He was the head of the Eagles A.C. (Athletic Club) I used to play basketball, softball, and I used to box for the Eagles A.C. I was talking to Walter Victor. All of a sudden we heard loud talking where the longshoremen were sitting. I saw Charlie Warren jab “Red” Kul[p?]oko with the bayonet that he held on his rifle. Then he jabbed Kai Uratani on his side above the hip. Then Charlie Warren started shooting at the crowd. Just then I saw Bert Nakano come from Pier 2 side and run towards where all the commotion was. Just before [he] got there, I saw him tumble in the air. Then all hell broke loose. I saw people falling. Some of them were White Star Laundry girls running past us and jump into the bay. Some of them got shot in their back side. Some longshoremen got shot on their legs, “Snowball” Nagao got shot in his head. He told me the doctor would not take out the pellet in his head because it was close to his brain. It stayed in there until he died. Another friend of mine from the garage union was “Take” Aona. He was shot just above his hip as he turne to run past a hedge towards the fertilizer plant. As I was crouching & walking towards Pier 1, the bullets was whizzing over my head & hitting the Navy ship that was docked at Pier 1. I saw the sailors bring out a machine gun & set it on deck & was loading. It was a good thing they didn’t shoot back at the police because many of us would be caught in the crossfire.

As I was walking to Pier 1, there was a Filipino longshoreman was crawling to get out of the way of the firing. I asked him “what was wrong.”  He answered me and said, “no can walk.” He was about 25 yards from me. I then walked over to him and saw both of his legs was full of buck shots & he was bleeding so I picked him up and put him on my shoulders and carried him to the Sampan buses that was parked at Pier 1 and laid him on the seat so they could take him to the hospital. While carrying this Filipino man and taking him to the bus, I was not afraid I was cool as ever and all bullets whizzing over our heads. But when I got up to the corner where we started from, my legs sure trembled. It was sure a massacre and they did not indict the police. But if it was today, the police could be in jail.

2 Responses

  1. My mother and Shupie Warren were public health nurses at some of the Hamakua plantations before Shupie married Charlie Warren. When we met them in the early 40’s, Charlie was unemployed and almost in hiding. They would come over for dinner at night sometimes. They had adopted a Hawaiian boy whose name I cannot remember. Things were very different back then – unions were thought to be Communist. My father like all the Hawaiians in government was Republican. The 442 had just gotten back from the war and were starting to reorganize the Democrats. I remember being scared to walk by the ILWU building on Kilauea because they had gone on strike in 1946 just after the tidal wave, and we had no supplies. We went to a temporary warehouse mauka Kilauea to pick up toilet paper, rice, other staples. I thought it was terrible that they would strike when Hilo was so wiped out by the tidal wave, with so many dead people, mostly children, all of front street wiped out – no markets left. The train roundhouse was gone, train tracks destroyed. The whole fishing fleet was gone, no Suisun, no electricity except from the SS Dearborn, anchored just outside of Reed’s Bay. That was the back half of a ship that was towed in to generate power. And the ILWU went on strike! Auwe!

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